Facebook is still recording record growth across the world, ready to top out at nearly 700 million users. But in the US and Canada, Facebook is actually starting to lose users. The loss of 6 million members in May 2011 coincides notably with global growth on other social networks, like Twitter and LinkedIn (according to analysis by TechCrunch).
So why is Facebook still growing across the globe yet quickly losing members in North America? Many users of Facebook in North America have been members of Facebook for several years; those who adopted Facebook as part of their college network have graduated college and are now professionals, turning to networks like LinkedIn to network and maintain professional relationships. This may also mean that Facebook is too personal for the college graduate; sharing pictures of body shots and antics from beer runs doesn’t bode well for professional reputations. Once a Facebook profile is on that kind of lock-down, the “fun” of sharing personal details also disappears. Additionally, many people at this point in life are starting to “grow up” in other ways. I remember joking via Twitter several months ago that I thought I missed a memo of a new meme when several of my Facebook friends changed their photos to baby pictures. In reality, many of my friends were just starting to have babies. I don’t care about diapers or play-dates, and realized there just wasn’t much of a shared interest among my 500 Facebook friends anymore. As a result, I personally stopped using Facebook as much.
Regardless of place in life, Facebook users also seem to be flocking to other social networks, like Twitter and LinkedIn, because of the reach these networks provide. One Twitter user explained he uses Twitter more because of its “endless, asymmetric reach.” Facebook does have the potential for virality, but Twitter is designed for unlimited reach via the retweet function. For better or worse, Facebook’s privacy settings inherently limit this type of reach. Additionally, Twitter and LinkedIn are better for finding the latest breaking and trending news. Facebook is great for viral videos, but hot gossip spreads like wildfire on Twitter — as we saw with #Weinergate.
Some users still like specific features of Facebook; Facebook is still the only network that has an integrated chat where you know all of your friends will be, and as I mentioned, it is still easiest to share a viral video on Facebook. For now, people seem to be using both, as features of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are segmented. But will the few features that Facebook offers be enough to keep users in the face of a better Twitter and the uber-professional LinkedIn — especially as Facebook users grow up? Let us know what you think in the comments.