Despite back-to-back scandals that ultimately saw Mark Zuckerberg appear before Congress in mid-2018, Facebook still maintains its position as the biggest social media company in the world.
As many as 2.7 billion people (source – Statista, pg. 22) throughout the world rely on Facebook’s network, not only to connect with family, friends and colleagues, but also to meet new people. At the same time, up to 80 million businesses (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/#business) use the network’s vast audience as a platform to promote their products.
There’s a flipside though. While the company’s commercial and user statistics speak of apparent success, there are whispers that Facebook isn’t the future. And Mark Zuckerberg’s letter on 6th of March, 2019 didn’t help much in suppressing the speculation.
In a rather candid fashion, Zuckerberg stated that “frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services” (source – https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/7/18253547/facebook-zuckerberg-future-blog-post-redefining-reputation). It’s hard to imagine the statement going down well among Facebook users. Might it be the final straw that gets people to delete their accounts?
That’s hard to tell with certainty, but it will be interesting to watch how things play out in the months and years to come. For the sake of future reference and comparison, here are 13 current Facebook user stats:
1. The American consumer base has mixed feelings about tech companies
The growth of social media has been tremendous in the last one and a half decades. With its huge number of users, it would be accurate to say that Facebook has been the biggest beneficiary. Of the many things fueling the growth, technological improvements and easy access to the internet have to be the top two.
It should come as no surprise that tech and internet companies are doing so well. As a matter of fact, 42 tech companies made the 2018 Fortune 500 rankings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Fortune_500_computer_software_and_information_companies)*; with two of them, namely Apple and AT&T, making the top 10. 14 internet and tech companies climbed a combined 203 spots (https://www.crn.com/slide-shows/managed-services/300104671/the-25-biggest-it-companies-on-the-2018-fortune-500.htm). Facebook is ranked 57th overall (source – http://fortune.com/fortune500/list/filtered?searchByName=facebook) and comes in 6th on Fortune’s 100 fastest growing companies (source – http://fortune.com/100-fastest-growing-companies/facebook/).
While most Americans acknowledge that Facebook and other tech companies have become an integral part of the modern society, a good number remain skeptical. In a Statista report, 55% of American respondents agreed that internet and tech companies have become an integral part of life. 37% said that the companies simplify life and 21% responded that tech and internet companies use their position to improve the society (source – Statista, pg. 21).
On the other hand, 43% of the respondents feel that they need more protection against these companies, at least as far as their personal information and privacy go. Only 23% of Americans are confident that internet and tech companies handle user data in a trustworthy manner. Another 22% are of the opinion that people are forced to hand over their personal information to the companies (source – Statista, pg. 21).
Needless to say, virtually every social media company and platform has had its fair share of privacy issues (source – https://choosetoencrypt.com/news/privacy-issues-with-the-internets-most-popular-websites/), but none more than Facebook. The very first major issue of concern for Facebook users came in 2006 when the company – which was 2 years old at the time – introduced the News Feed feature. Many people felt that it was becoming too intrusive.
Almost a year later, in 2007, Facebook debuted what it called “Beacon”. This feature allowed sellers (and companies) to track purchases made by Facebook users and then notify their Facebook friends about those purchases, without consent. Many Facebookers were furious!
In 2011, the FTC conducted a Facebook privacy audit and discovered the social networking site was allowing third party apps to access user data without consent or warning. Two years later, a Facebook bug exposed the email addresses and phone numbers of over 6 million Facebook users (source – https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/timeline-facebook-s-privacy-issues-its-responses-n859651). Come 2017 and information surfaces that Facebook allowed third parties to access user data (again). At the center of the saga was Cambridge Analytica, a company that allegedly used the data to (among many other things) influence the outcome of elections in the US and UK (source – https://www.techrepublic.com/article/facebook-data-privacy-scandal-a-cheat-sheet/).
Unsurprisingly, Facebook users’ confidence in the company’s ability to protect their privacy plummeted in 2018. A staggering 66% of Facebookers stated that they had lost trust in the company. Only 28% believed that Facebook was committed to privacy, down from 79% the previous year (source – https://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/trust-facebook-has-dropped-51-percent-cambridge-analytica-scandal-n867011).
It is because of such privacy issues that 43% of Americans feel they need more protection for personal information from tech and internet companies. In the same survey (source – Statista, pg. 21), 31% of US citizens claim that internet and tech companies have too much influence in the society. An additional 21% believe that the companies are taking advantage of their monopoly position. 10% are of the opinion that tech and internet companies are detrimental to the country’s economy and 6% think that the companies flout copyrights and fair trade.
One has to wonder just how much of the skepticism towards internet and tech companies is a direct result of Facebook’s bad reputation in protecting user data.
2. Facebook is the third most popular tech company
Notwithstanding the above, Facebook is a dominant force in the technology world. It’s the third most popular tech company among US consumers, with Google and Amazon coming in first and second respectively (source – Statista, pg. 20).
When asked the tech and internet companies and brands that they know, at least by name, 93% of American consumers responded that they know Facebook. 96% know Google while 94% know Amazon. Well, that shouldn’t be a surprise considering their sheer size and influence in the American economy. The three companies boast a combined market value of 2.06 trillion dollars (783 billion, 739 billion and 538 billion for Amazon, Google and Facebook respectively) (source – https://www.statista.com/statistics/277483/market-value-of-the-largest-internet-companies-worldwide/).
Facebook is particularly the largest social networking company, carving out an impressive 85% of all internet users who have social media accounts (excluding China). YouTube comes in second with 79%. It’s noteworthy that although Facebook takes the top spot in the number of users who have accounts, YouTube gets more site visits (86%) than Facebook (79%) (source – https://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2019/01/most-popular-global-social-networks-apps-infographic.html). Meaning some people who visit YouTube either don’t log into their accounts or have no user accounts.
3. 2.7 billion people use Facebook products each month
The simplistic definition of a Facebook user is someone who uses facebook.com, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and/or WhatsApp. Those are the most popular Facebook products anyway. The truth is the company has well over 40 products and services that most people probably don’t know about. Some people know about their existence but have never used them.
In any case their combined usage is a whopping 2.7 billion people worldwide (source – Statista, pg. 22). Let’s list the products for information’s sakes, shall we? We have the top 10 explained and the rest simply named.
- Facebook (facebook.com): this is Facebook’s premier product. It currently has over 1.7 billion active users (source – https://www.minterest.com/list-of-all-facebook-products-and-services/).
- Facebook Lite: an Android version of Facebook, Facebook Lite uses less data than facebook.com. It has roughly 200 million active users (source – https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/facebook-statistics/).
- WhatsApp: it’s the most popular messaging app with over 1.6 billion users (source – Statista, pg. 30)
- Facebook Messenger: yet another messaging platform, Facebook’s Messenger has 1.3 billion users (source – Statista, pg. 30)
- Instagram: a photo sharing app for mobile. Currently has over 500 million users (source – https://www.minterest.com/list-of-all-facebook-products-and-services/)
- Facebook Live: a platform for live streaming
- Facebook Ads: allows companies to advertise their products on Facebook
- Instagram Business: gives sellers a platform to advertise and sell products via Instagram
- Facebook Marketplace: for sellers who want to buy and sell products in their localities
- Moments: an app for creating, sending and receiving photos
- Facebook Payments
- Facebook Media
- Facebook Messenger Kids
- Facebook Instant Articles
- Facebook Watch
- Facebook Youth Portal
- Facebook Creators
- Facebook Creator Studio
- Facebook Audience Insights
- Facebook Audience Network
- Facebook Gaming
- Facebook Gaming Creators
- Facebook Local
- Facebook Business
- Facebook Business Manager
- Facebook Blueprint
- Facebook IQ
- Facebook Poke
- Facebook Paper
- Facebook Slingshot
It’s quite a rich product catalogue, and it explains how Facebook manages to amass 2.7 billion users.
4. Facebook is the most used Facebook product
Facebook, as most people know it, has the highest number of users. Here we are talking about Facebook.com, Facebook Lite, Facebook mobile app and in-app/in-site features like Facebook ads, Facebook Live etc. Combined, they have 2.375 billion monthly active users (source – Statista, pg. 23), which represents 88% of all the people who use Facebook products.
The big question here is: what makes Facebook so popular? The simplest answer is that it was started in the right way, i.e. with controlled growth. When it was launched back in 2004, social networking was growing at a fast rate, faster than every networking site could keep up with. MySpace already had over one million users and was the dominant force in social media. By 2005 MySpace had 25 million users, which quickly turned to 100 million in 2006.
Unfortunately that was its peak. The company stalled, and shortly afterwards, started to decline. Why? Because it was a static platform with a dynamic and diverse user base. Besides the less-than-impressive design, it didn’t evolve enough to provide users with a simple, standardized network that they could use to connect with friends and family.
Facebook learned from that mistake and expanded in bits. At first it was a Harvard-only network, then it expanded to other universities, high schools, corporates, and eventually anyone could have an account. Every step involved adding features that could support the growing number of users.
Ultimately, Zuckerberg and his team created a robust and reliable social networking infrastructure that was (and is still) capable of serving millions and billions of users. That, combined with good PR, is what propelled Facebook to its current status as the top company in social media (source – https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2018/04/08/why-facebook-triumphed-over-all-other-social-networks/#28facbd76e91).
5. 65.8% of Facebook’s monthly users use it daily
Of the 2.375 billion monthly users, 1.562 billion visit Facebook each day (source – Statista, pg. 25). That represents 65.8% of all Facebook users. In America alone, 74% of Facebook users visit on a daily basis (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/).
Here’s where it gets more interesting, especially for marketers: the average American Facebooker spends 58 minutes per day on the site, which is more than the time spent on Instagram (53 minutes). That amount of time is divided into several visits of 10 to 12 minutes each (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/).
Users presumably spend most of the time scrolling through the news feed. So if you are a marketer or seller you may want to figure a way of grabbing their attention as fast as possible.
6. The number of Facebook users will continue to rise through 2020
If Statista reports from 2016 are anything to go buy, Facebook will continue to grow in the short run. A survey conducted in Indonesia concluded that the number of Facebook users would grow from 1.34 billion in 2016 to 1.69 billion in 2020 (source – Statista, pg. 26).
All indications point to the fact that the 1.6 billion was an underestimation. The current number of users stands at 2.375 billion, and its only 2019! Since Facebook keeps attracting more users, despite its scandals, there’s every possibility that it will have in excess of 2.47 billion users by the end of 2020.
That is if it grows at the same rate that Statista estimated from 2019 to 2020; i.e. (1.69 – 1.62)/1.62 x 100% to get a growth rate of 4.32% from 2019 to 2020. Increasing the current number of users (2.375 billion) by 4.32% gives roughly 2.47 billion Facebook users. The point is that Facebook is here to stay.
7. WhatsApp leads Facebook Messenger in messaging apps
At the time of its acquisition in 2014, WhatsApp had 700 million active monthly users across the world. The number has since grown to 1.6 billion (as of April 2019), making it the most used messaging app world over (source – Statista, pg. 23). That’s a growth of 126.8%.
Interestingly, WhatsApp is not the most downloaded messaging app. The leading mobile app by number of downloads is Facebook Messenger, which in turn boasts 1.3 billion active monthly users and 8 billion messages every month (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/).
This goes to show how much people want to communicate directly without the newsfeed noise that is typical of Facebook (facebook.com and Facebook app). And businesses are taking advantage of this situation with an estimated 300,000 chatbots getting in on the action (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/).
8. The number of people using Facebook Messenger doubled between 2015 and 2017
It’s not just Facebook users who are growing in number, Messenger users are too. In March 2015 there were an estimated 600 million people using Facebook Messenger. By September 2017 the number was 1.3 billion; a twofold increment (source – Statista, pg. 31).
One reason behind the growth is an increase in the number of people who use mobile devices. There are currently 2.71 billion smartphones in use, and 1.56 billion of them were bought in 2018 (source – https://techjury.net/stats-about/smartphone-usage/). It’s safe to say that a large majority of these phones have Facebook Messenger installed in them.
The other reason for its popularity is that it makes communication easy and affordable. SMS and MMS texting can be costly, at times costing as much as $0.25. With Facebook Messenger you can send messages and exchange photos without incurring costs, provided you have an internet connection. It even allows users to make calls (source – https://brandongaille.com/12-facebook-messenger-pros-and-cons/).
9. Most Americans believe that their friends and family use Facebook
53% of Americans believe that most of their friends and family have a Facebook account. 8% think that all their friends and family are on Facebook (source – Statista, pg. 32). In other words it’s highly likely that out of all the people you know, 61% (53% + 8%) are using Facebook.
Only 13% of Americans think that half of their friends and family have Facebook accounts. 11% guess that some of them are on Facebook while 7% think that only a few are (source – Statista, pg. 32). Of course this opinion is largely influenced by Facebook’s popularity in the US.
10. America and Canada account for 10.2% of all Facebook users
Speaking of Facebook’s popularity in the US, there are currently 243 million Facebook users in America and Canada (source – Statista, pg. 24). That represents 10.2% of all Facebook users worldwide. It also represents 68% of the American population. That’s the second biggest audience for a social media platform in America, with YouTube taking the top spot (73%) (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/).
The numbers are more interesting when you break them down into demographics. For starters, only 50% of US teens use Facebook, a sharp drop from 3 years ago when the number was 71%. The vast majority of teens who currently use Facebook are from lower-income households (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/).
On the other hand, the number of Facebook users who are 65 years or older has doubled since 2012. Today, 41% of all American senior citizens are on Facebook, up from 20% 7 years ago (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/). Reason? First of all, as Facebook grows older so does its audience. Secondly, it’s not uncommon for older folks to be late to tech stuff. Those who had reservations years ago are changing their minds and embracing new technologies (source – https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/feb/12/is-facebook-for-old-people-over-55s-flock-in-as-the-young-leave); whether because of the need to communicate with family and friends or as a pastime activity. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for Facebook) newer platforms like Snapchat are not enticing to the older demographic. That leaves Facebook as the safe and probably familiar option.
11. The number of Americans using Facebook will not change in the short-run
Despite teenage Americans ditching Facebook, projections indicate that the total number of Americans using the social networking site will not drop, at least not in the short run. It currently stands at 221 million and will rise slightly to 223.2 million by 2023 (source – Statista, pg. 27).
That’s an insignificant increment by Facebook’s standards, but still an impressive feat considering that younger generations are leaving the networking site.
Keep in mind that 43% of US citizens get their news from Facebook. Another 78% have discovered retail items to buy on Facebook (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/). So while it might lose its mojo in connecting people on a social level, Facebook will still remain an important source of information for many.
12. There’s a downward trend in Facebook’s online reach in the US
More bad news for Facebook: the company’s usage penetration in the US has been on a decline and will continue so. In 2017, Facebook had an online reach of 67.8%. The value dropped to 67.5% in 2018 and is projected to drop to 66.5% in 2021 and 65.9% in 2023 (source – Statista, pg. 29).
This is another testament to the reducing number of young Facebook users and a surging number of the older ones.
13. 1.1 billion users have Facebook in English
Out of the top 10 countries with the most Facebook users, only two are native English speaking countries. The two are the US with 190 million Facebook users and the UK with 37 million. The remaining 8 countries have a combined population of 781 million Facebook users. India leads the pack with a whopping 260 million (source – Statista, pg. 28).
Combined, the total number of Facebook users who have it in English is 1.1 billion. That leaves roughly 1.27 billion people using more than 100 other languages (source – https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/).
If you are an advertiser or seller you obviously want your products and ads to reach a relevant audience. That’s where it becomes important to know the countries that speak a particular language.
What Does It All Mean?
Overall, Facebook is not quite the new trend that it was a few years ago. Younger generations are finding it hard to connect through the network. That, combined with the company’s controversies regarding the privacy of user data, casts some doubt its future success.
But one thing you can always bet on is that Facebook will find a way to survive the murkiest of situations. After all young users are already flocking on Instagram. In any case it is profitability and user retention that matter most. And as far as those go, the company is not doing so badly.
* The Wikipedia page did not include AT&T. It therefore listed 41 tech companies instead of 42.