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The problem with Facebook growth

July 19, 2011

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

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It is insane to talk about Facebook‘s growth problem as they hurdle to their billionth member. I get that. I asked on Twitter what will happen first; one billion strong or the Facebook IPO?

That said, someone asked me this morning if teens were the fastest growing segment on Facebook, so I got thinking about Facebook in 10 years.

In this article, author David Martin writes about Facebook’s recent slowdown in the US:

“But in 2011 all of that has changed. The average age of a new Facebook user is approaching 40 years old. The two fastest growing groups of Facebook users are adults ages 55 to 64 and 65-plus. For a teenager trying to establish his or her identity and some level of personal independence and some level of privacy, Facebook simply doesn’t deliver on its original promise of exclusivity in today’s day and age.”

Makes sense to me. Three years ago, people at work would come to me and ask me to show them Facebook. These 40 and 50 somethings became experts at Facebook for one reasons: in order to understand what their kids were doing. They even used the term spying to describe their motivation. They were not motivated by connecting to their grade 9 locker partner. They are spying.

Kids turning 10, 11, 12 right now have no chance. Their folks are most-likely there, or know someone who can tell them about Facebook.

If spying on their kids was the motivation to go on Facebook, will they stay if their kids leave?  

Fast-forward 8 years, and I believe my daughter will want no part of Facebook.

Imagine a teen*. They’ve been looking forward to getting to the magical age of 13 (the minimum age Facebook requires to get on), and all of a sudden, they get a friend request from their mom, dad, their mom’s friends, their dad’s friends, their aunt, uncle, grandpa and grandma.

Not cool. David Martin hit on the head: connecting everyone, the mission at Facebook,  is not exactly the mission of a teen.

What do you think? If given the opportunity, will you buy stock in Facebook? Can they innovate out of what appears to be a long-term problem?

*I understand that many people not 13 join Facebook. They join as early as 7. But I don’t think they get the same out of it, it’s more that seeing it, and having their friends know they have a Facebook page is enough social currency. 

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