State of Social Q3 2016: Facebook Hits 1 Billion Mobile-Only Users

The largest social network in the world – and to some people, the entire Internet – released its Q3 2016 earnings. How is Facebook faring, given the lackluster performance of LinkedIn and the troubles at Twitter?

User Growth

Facebook’s overall growth advanced above 4% quarter-over-quarter in Q3, which is faster than it’s been since 2013. This acceleration of growth is surprising, given how saturated the market is, placing Facebook at 1.79 billion monthly active users:

Facebook’s growth engine is powered by the APAC and Middle Eastern markets, both of which saw significant growth this quarter:

Mobile Users

Facebook continues to be a mobile-first platform; almost 93% of Facebook’s monthly active users use a smartphone or other mobile device to access the service at least part of the time, shown by the orange bars:

At 93%, it’s fair to generalize that Facebook is the mobile Internet for a fair number of people. It’s fair to generalize that marketers who have a solid Facebook strategy by default also have a solid mobile strategy.

What’s stunning is the growth of the next number: 1 billion mobile users who only use a mobile device to access the service, shown by the red bars below. Just a few years ago, we were discussing how Facebook had a billion users, and now Facebook has a billion mobile-only users:

Consider the marketing implications of a billion mobile-ONLY users for a moment. Facebook is the premier mobile marketing platform for any industry, any sector, from government to healthcare to consumer goods. If you don’t have a mobile retargeting strategy, develop a Facebook retargeting strategy and by default, you have a mobile retargeting strategy.


Facebook continued its strong revenue growth in Q3; a precursor to its typically robust Q4:

On a quarter-over-quarter basis, this was a reasonably strong Q3 for Facebook:

What does this mean for you?

Ignore claims that a group or demographic has abandoned Facebook. Whether or not they think it’s “cool”, Facebook is the Internet’s front page for a significant portion of the planet. No matter your company or industry, at least some percentage of your audience is on Facebook – and probably on a mobile device.

Facebook must be part of every communications strategy, no matter how small, because Facebook is where all the people are. 1.788 billion monthly active users, 1 billion mobile-only users: your customers are on Facebook, no matter what business you’re in.

What should you do on Facebook?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the bold statement in the earnings call that Facebook continues to put video first across its family of apps. Video first is their current imperative, which means that any marketing efforts you do should have a video component to leverage Facebook’s current, transitory blessing of video content. Zuckerberg specifically cited Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and video in Messenger.

Zuckerberg remarked the following, which is vital to understand:

I think about our progress here in three phases. The first phase is building a great consumer experience and getting it to scale. The second phase is about enabling people to organically interact with businesses. And then the third is to give businesses tools to reach more people. That’s how we build our business.

He outlined that WhatsApp and Messenger are early second phase right now, and Instagram has reached third phase.

What does that mean?

Remember the early days of Facebook? People swarmed in. Then businesses swarmed in. Then Facebook dropped the hammer and made its core platform pay-to-play for businesses by throttling organic reach to nothing.

Zuckerberg essentially announced exactly the same thing for Instagram. Businesses should expect organic reach to begin declining as Facebook pushes them to Business accounts, then starts asking for more and more money.

Be ready for Instagram organic reach to wither. Gather your influencers close, plan for a significantly increased Instagram budget in 2017, and build your employee-led networks now, before your reach vanishes.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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