I do. I feel obligated once I’m reminded that it’s a friend’s birthday. But on the receiving end, it’s not practical to thank each friend for the good wishes. Consequently, it’s become Facebook etiquette to thank all your birthday well-wishers in a single sincere post that says something like, “Thank you for all the birthday wishes. I feel truly blessed to have so many great friends.”
But the big birth anniversary passed quietly on Feb. 4: Facebook itself turned 10.
Did you send it a happy birthday message? Post to its timeline?
Don’t feel bad. As social media goes, Facebook is at least middle-aged, and it’s having a bit of a crisis. A Princeton University study citing Google Trends data concluded that Facebook peaked in 2012 and projected that the site’s popularity is on such a steep downward slope it would make an Olympic ski jumper nervous.
According to the study, Facebook will lose 80 percent of its users by 2017. Facebook, which celebrated its birthday by closing up more than 2 percent at $62.75 on the Nasdaq, contends that Princeton’s methodology was questionable.
And let’s concede that peaking is a relative term. Facebook has less activity than it did in 2012, but it still had 757 million users on an average day last month. The 2014 Super Bowl set a record as the most-watched television program of all time, disappointing though the lopsided contest may have been. A whopping 111.5 viewers tuned in, topping the audience for last year’s Ravens-49ers’ game by 3 million.
Perspective: If Facebook had an average day, its audience was 700 percent greater than the Super Bowl’s, and it has that audience every single day rather than one Sunday per year.
More perspective: 757 million is more than double the population of the United States. It is approximately the same as the population of all of Europe. Facebook has 50 percent more users than the entire planet had people in 1900, when the world’s population was 500 million. Add together the populations of Australia, Russia, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland and you still don’t have as many people as Facebook has users on an average day.
The Super Bowl audience enjoys the commercials, which have become part of the show. But when the audience is on Facebook, there’s no chance an ad is missed because the user went to get another beer out of the fridge.
The big surprise from Facebook, to the delight of investors, was that in the third quarter, which ended Dec. 31, Facebook got 53 percent of its $2.34 billion in ad revenue from mobile ads.
That ad revenue was up 76 percent from the previous year and helped the company post net income of $523 million, or 20 cents per share, which was a dazzling eightfold increase from the $64 million, or 3 cents a share, reported a year earlier when the company was spending heavily on its initial public offering.
Last week I was in a meeting that included a pair of very successful lobbyists. The discussion turned to the cost of political campaigns, and how many millions would be spent on the U.S. Senate race to replace U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma.
I was taken aback when they said that little of that money would go to television advertising. Their clients don’t buy TV ads anymore, they said. They spend the money on social media, where they can better target specific demographics.
If John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, prognosticators from Princeton’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, are right, the candidates are going to have to find yet another method before the 2018 elections.
In the meantime, it seems Facebook can have its birthday cake and eat it, too.
Ted Streuli is the editor of The Journal Record in Oklahoma City, published by The Dolan Company, which publishes the Idaho Business Review.