Facebook User Growth Rate Slows In April, But Does It Matter?

By David Cohen 

According to the latest figures from comScore, Facebook’s user growth figures for April were down dramatically, with the social network up just 5 percent in unique visitors versus April 2011, following growth rates of 24 percent last year and 89 percent in April 2010.

And users spent more than six hours per month on the social network in April, up 16 percent compared with the prior-year month, but following increases of 23 percent and 57 percent in 2011 and 2010, respectively.

But should these numbers really be cause for concern?

As The Wall Street Journal pointed out, of the 221 million Internet users in the U.S., 71 percent are already on Facebook, and that figure of more than six hours per month spent on the social network is still the most time spent on any site.

And there are plenty of opportunities for growth besides Facebook’s user total in the U.S., including the potential of cracking the market in China, as well as Japan, Russia, and South Korea.

Even more important, mobile has been targeted as a key growth area by Facebook, with more time spent accessing the social network via mobile devices than via desktop PCs.

And in terms of engagement, Facebook has been introducing new features and improvements at a feverish pace, aimed at enhancing its users’ experience and keeping them on the social network longer, as well as giving marketers more options to target that user base.

comScore Analyst Andrew Lipsman told the Journal, “Declining growth rates are a natural part of the growth cycle,” and Morningstar Analyst Rick Summer added:

Google had the advantage of increases in ad pricing, increases in the number of Internet users, and stealing market share from other Web properties. Facebook is already a dominant Web platform, and it has significant Internet penetration today. Ad pricing is clearly going to be where its growth is going to come from.

And Sarah Hofstetter, president of digital ad agency 360i, a unit of Dentsu, chimed in:

The story line is less about the users themselves. It’s more about how they monetize their user base.

Readers: Should Facebook be concerned about its slowing user growth rate?

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