State of Social 2Q14: Facebook reaches half the connected human race

Facebook recently released its second quarter 2014 report detailing the state of the world’s largest social network, which never seems to stop growing.

How are things in the nation of Facebook? For one, Facebook is not only the second largest country in the world, it’s now just below China’s population. By the end of 2014, Facebook should be the largest country on the planet.

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China is at 1.366 billion people, while Facebook grew to 1.317 billion people. Let’s look at some of the raw numbers in our ongoing State of Facebook series.

  • 1.317 billion people use Facebook at least once a month
  • 829 million people use Facebook at least once a day
  • 1.070 billion people use Facebook at least once a month from a mobile device
  • 399 million people use Facebook only from a mobile device at least once a month – more people than the population of the United States of America. Facebook’s mobile-only users are the third largest country in the world
  • 654 million people use Facebook at least once a day from a mobile device in addition to a desktop
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In terms of actual growth rates, Facebook’s rate of growth has leveled out to about 3% quarter over quarter. When you consider that the net population growth of humanity is about 0.6% (via Worldometer), Facebook is still growing faster than the human race, by about 5x. Additionally, according to the ITU, the number of human beings with Internet access of any kind reached 2.784 billion in 2014. That means that Facebook reaches just under half, 47.3%, of the Internet-accessible human beings on the planet.

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One of the most important parts for marketers is the penetration of mobile devices in the Facebook economy. 4 out of 5 of Facebook users access the service at least once from a mobile device per month, and 30.3% of users access Facebook exclusively from a mobile device, no desktop or laptop computer involved, up 17% from the previous quarter.

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Think about all of the ads you’re probably running on Facebook, all the content you’re posting, all the lead generation efforts you’ve got going. If your conversion efforts are not mobile-friendly, you are effectively throwing away up to 30% of your Facebook marketing dollars completely, and making it unpleasant for up to 4 out of 5 potential customers. Think about the landing page people are arriving at from your Facebook posts and ads – is it mobile-friendly? If not, it’s well past time to build this point of view into your strategy and approach.

Facebook’s mobile-only users comprise a larger population than the United States of America. Would you willingly stop advertising and marketing to a country the size of the USA? That’s what you’re doing when you don’t optimize for mobile in everything you do.

Speaking of advertising, let’s see the numbers there:

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After a traditionally soft first quarter, Facebook has rebounded in the second quarter with aggressive new growth in advertising dollars, up 18%. To make it easier to see, consider the rate of change for Facebook’s ad revenues:

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It’s noteworthy that the 2Q14 rebound wasn’t as strong as the 2Q13 rebound, though still stronger than the 2Q12 rebound. Is Facebook’s ad engine losing steam? Not necessarily. Facebook is now so large that it’s effectively representative of the macro economy that it’s a part of. Leading economic indicators have suggested a softness to 2014 in comparison to 2013, and Facebook may simply be a part of that rise and fall. We’ll know more when the third quarter numbers come out.

Let’s turn our attention to regions. While Facebook got a bump in regional growth in the Middle East and Asia in Q1, it appears to have reverted to earlier stalled:

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This could potentially herald a sign of new acquisitions, if Facebook wants to jump start growth in those regions again.

The other potential reason Facebook might have taken its foot off the gas pedal in other regions? Revenue. ME/A and APAC revenue have been on a steady decline:

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Facebook made no secret of its increased focus on revenue as it disclosed that the average price per ad increased 123% year over year, while ad impressions declined 25%.

What does this mean for you, PR and marketing communications professionals?

Facebook continues to make more and more money off marketers. Ad costs have gone up. Ad reach in terms of impressions have gone down. Organic reach is essentially zero. Take a look at your own News Feed on your personal Facebook account. What you see is a mix of content from friends (and even then, News Feed prominently features those friends you engage with most), much more video than there used to be (again, typically from friends), and very, very little brand content except from top tier publishers. The only place you’ll see branded Page content consistently is in sponsored content unless your brand content is absolutely top quality and highly distributed by many people.

With these latest updates, we can safely offer this guidance universally to all marketers and PR professionals engaging in social media:

  • Should you have a Facebook content strategy? Yes, but you will pay to play. If you want your branded content from your Page to be seen consistently, you should consider sponsoring posts as a part of a broader strategy.
  • Should you have a mobile strategy? Yes, and you should be thinking about a mobile app that integrates with Facebook. Facebook’s new Audience Network means that you can serve the same ads inside of native mobile apps that you can serve on Facebook, making re-using your ad inventory a little more efficient.
  • Should you be targeting different ads for mobile? Yes and no. All of your ads should be mobile-first.

The bottom line: Facebook is becoming paid media. If you want to reach half of the Internet-connected human race, you’d better be ready to pay, and pay bigger. Use our free Facebook Page Cost Calculator to find out how much you’ll need to budget for the rest of 2014.

What’s next?

First, video ads will become more and more a part of Facebook. You’ve no doubt already seen that video content itself is showing up more and more in your News Feeds. With Facebook’s acquisition of LiveRail, expect those organic video shares to slowly get bumped by sponsored content, just as you’ve seen text and image organic shares get bumped by sponsored content. If Facebook wants to continue to grow advertising revenues, this seems a likely and logical path for them to follow.

One other comment by CEO Mark Zuckerberg is worth noting:

“As of last month, on average more than one billion search queries are made every day on Facebook. This is a great milestone, and it shows we’re in a unique position to answer a lot of questions for people. But this is just the start, and over the next few years as we make progress on building out search and our broader efforts in artificial intelligence, I expect us to deliver even greater utility for people.”

In this quote, he positions Facebook as a search engine down the road. Pay close attention to the Facebook Developer Blog as they roll out features, APIs, and developments that could herald this offering. If Facebook develops credible search engine capability, it may give Google a run for its money and significantly impact your business. For now, ensure that your Facebook Page is following as many best practices as possible, and that your business profile is as complete as possible.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Posted on July 29, 2014 in Advertising, Facebook, Marketing

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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