Young people may not be as fond of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) as they once were, and many are moving away from the service. That is one of the conclusions reached in a new new report from Raymond James Research. The report centered on the results of a survey to establish the commitment users felt to the social networking site, and their future engagement with it.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has been struggling with monetization problems ever since it decided to go public in 2011. The company’s attempts to increase revenue per user have often clashed with the wishes of those users, and resulted in resentment. If that resentment leads to an exodus of users from the site, investors will very quickly begin to question the future of the company.
According to the report, young people, in the 18-29 age group, responded in much greater numbers than others that they expected to see their use of the world’s most popular social network decrease in the next twelve months. 31% of the group saw their usage of the site decreasing.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has stepped on user’s toes many times in recent yeas, and continues to do so. The company recently announced the testing of “Sponsored Posts” in the United States, while at the same time beginning a large advertising campaign that made user’s data the company’s central selling point.
25% of the 30-44 age group projected themselves using the service less in the next twelve months. For the 45-60 and 60+ groups those numbers were 30% and 18% respectively. There is a clear trend that suggests young people may be quicker to leave the site.
The survey also measured the proportion of people from each age group that saw themselves using the service more in the next twelve months. In order from 18-29, 30-44, 45-60, and 60+, the proportions came in at 19%, 22%, 26%, and 38%.
There are a couple of clear problems with this type of measurement. The first, and most obvious, is the lack of any respondents aged under 18. Not only are younger users some of the most active and engaged in the social network, they also help describe the way the company might look in the future. Their exclusion makes the survey much less useful than it might have been.
The second is a problem common to all surveys that use questions in the future tense. Respondents are likely to give an aspirational, rather than a realistic answer. In this survey, young people wishing they spent more time on school or work might answer that they will spend less time on the site. Older users, seeing site usage as a mark of technological literacy might answer that they will use it more often.
The answers to the next question “how has your Facebook usage changed in the last six months?,” makes more obvious this flaw in the survey’s methods. All age groups surveyed answered with higher proportions in the increase category.
The other major findings of the report include that desktop usage is decreasing in favor of use on mobile devices. This data was ascertained with another forward looking question “How do you expect your usage of Facebook to change in the next twelve months?”.
The most interesting, and perhaps valuable, part of this report centers on the question “What are the reasons that would cause you to decrease your usage of Facebook?”
Respondents answered, in order of increasing magnitude, Using other social networking sites more (5%), Spending more time on other mobile websites or mobile apps (5%), Playing less games (5%), Other (7%), Tired of postings from same people (17%), Too time consuming (17%), Getting tired of Facebook (21%), and Privacy concerns (29%).
Despite almost always appearing at the top of lists like these, it is getting more and more difficult to figure out what “Privacy Concerns” means exactly. The concept seems simple on the surface, but it does not answer exactly what would make users depart the social network.
Facebook Inc (NADAQ:FB) will release its own earnings report this month. That document is likely to be full of statistics from the company itself, and, although they will be filtered by the firm, they will be more reliable than any from surveys such as these.
This report does not reveal much to any investor about the future of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB). The firm’s shares closed yesterday at 21.83, but are up around 1.5% in premarket trading.