Snapshot: Facebook membership trends across the Caribbean

A new instalment of our Snapshot series discussing Facebook membership trends across the Caribbean

In recent years, much has been made of the astronomical rise of Facebook, the behemoth social networking website, which as at April 2011 reportedly had 901 million users worldwide. The website is on target to hit one billion users before year end, but even at current levels, it would be the third largest country in the world, behind China and India.

Figure 1: Infographic on how we use Facebook (Source: CNN)

To varying degrees, large emerging economies, such as Colombia, Brazil and Egypt, where approximately 8.3 million new users joined the site as at January 2011, has been fuelling Facebook’s continued growth (Source: Socialbakers). However, another trend is becoming increasingly evident: members are leaving Facebook.  While some attrition is to be expected, the numbers are becoming significant and are reflecting a net loss of members in some countries.

Surprisingly, this trend has also been recorded in some Caribbean countries. Using available data, this post highlights Facebook member numbers in the Caribbean and suggests reasons why there might be a growing tendency to leave the site.

Caribbean findings

Over the last 6 months, there have been approximately 88,740 new members added to Facebook across 26 Caribbean countries, resulting in over 6.625 million members in total. At the same time, within in the last three months, approximately 38,980 persons left Facebook. Figure 2 shows a breakdown per country of the 3-month and 6-month change is Facebook members in the region. These figures were obtained from Socialbakers, which provides daily updated Facebook statistics for more than 200 countries. The data used is current as at yesterday, 12 June 2012.

Figure 2: Percentage change in Facebook membership over the last 3 months and 6 months in select countries (Source: Socialbakers)

Over the last 6 months, over 90,400 new users were added from the Dominican Republic, which represented the largest increase over the period under review. This was followed by Haiti, which added 78,920, and Guadeloupe at 40,800. However, the greatest percentage changes was reportedly in the US Virgin Islands, membership grew by over 240%, from 3,720 as at December 2011, to approximately 12,680 at present.

On the other hand, in the same six-month period, 13 out of the 26 countries reflected a reduction in Facebook members. In Aruba, as few as 280 users reportedly left the site, but the greatest loss in members was recorded in Puerto Rico, where 136,400 left the site. The next highest losses were recorded in Jamaica and Saint Lucia, where around 19,300 and 4,960 people respectively, left Facebook.

In the last three months however, more persons reportedly left Facebook than joined it. Sixteen out of the 26 countries were reported as experiencing a net loss in members, and across the entire group of countries, the net change in membership was –38,980! The smallest loss was reported in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, at 40, whilst the greatest reduction again occurred in Puerto Rico, where approximately 57,800 left Facebook, in a 3-month period.

In contrast, growth in Facebook membership numbers over the last three months was led by Jamaica, where 23,560 persons reportedly joined the site. This was followed by Haiti and Guadeloupe, where 18,140 and 17,500 new members, respectively, were added.

Possible reasons for growing departure

When persons close their Facebook account, the site usually asks for reasons why they are doing so, but to date Facebook has shared limited information on why members might be leaving.  Having said this, however, a number of reasons might be attributed to the loss of members: a few are suggested below.

  • Although persons might have been eager to join Facebook because it was the “in” thing to do, unless they are active participants, it can become boring. Moreover, if these members have not developed a vested interest in interacting with their friends and followers, it means they can more easily leave the site as they see fit.
  • Privacy and security fears. Without a doubt, people are still concerned about privacy on Facebook, particularly how the site may use your data, as specified in their regularly amended Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Furthermore. the site is currently being subject to a USD 15 billion class action lawsuit in the United States, in which it is being alleged that Facebook followed its users’ online activity after they had logged out, which violates their privacy and is in breach of a number of statutes. These concerns, among others, might be fostering a longstanding hesitation among current members regarding Facebook’s integrity, which in turn could be hindering brand loyalty, and people participating more fully on the platform.
  • Diluted concept. To varying degrees, Facebook may wish to be all things to all people. As a general social networking site, where everyone can be your “friend”, the entire concept might now be too diluted to promote meaningful relationships or interaction. Hence you might find that although you might have 1,500 friends, for example, they comprise relatives, friends, colleagues, associates, and possibly a few strangers. With such a mix, there might be a tendency to interact with only a few persons on your friends list, and ultimately the full possible value of this social networking site to its members might not be realised.
  • Need for distance from past. Teens and young adults are generally the fastest growing demographic for membership on Facebook. However, as they grow into adulthood, and become career-oriented, many might wish to distance themselves from image and discourse they had conducted on the site in their younger years. Such behaviour might be fuelled by the increasing trend among employers to investigate prospective employees on Facebook and other social networking websites.
  • Novelty has worn off. To varying degrees, Facebook might be the first point of entry for many who are not familiar with online social networking and social media. However, with the emergence of a variety of other social media platforms, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, among others, some of the challenges and limitations of Facebook might be becoming increasingly apparent. Moreover, these new sites might better reflect the interest of some of Facebook’s current members, which would motivate them to leave the site once and for all.

Did we miss any reasons you think are important? Please share in the Comments box below.

Image credit: Idea go, FreeDigitalPhotos


1 Comment

  • This is more an expansion of “Privacy and security fears” than an additional reason. Recently Facebook are reported to be considering lowering the minimum eligibility age to 10 years. While the realities in the business marketplace may make it inevitable for such and any changes, this instability instils fear in many. One is not sure what’s coming next.

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