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Why Facebook Is Like a Disease and What You Should Do About It

Per a new study, Facebook's user base may soon decline like a dying infectious disease. Perhaps now's a good time to diversify.
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Just when you thought you'd nailed Facebook advertising, new research suggests reexamining your social media strategy may be a matter of survival.

A new study by Princeton University researchers, called "Epidemiological modeling of online social network dynamics," uses diseases to model the life and death of social media networks. In it, the researchers conclude that Facebook will lose 80 percent of its users sometime between 2015 and 2017--signaling a warning sign for businesses too attached to any single social network.

The study, released this past Friday, details how the former golden child of the social networking world, MySpace, followed a trajectory similar to that of a pathogen. After peaking in 2008, its usage plummeted, as did Google search queries for the word “MySpace.” Interestingly, the study showed, that it did so in a pattern that can be traced closely with epidemiological models. In other words, MySpace and flu viruses follow the same life arch.

Further, as Google data for the word “Facebook” shows, the blue giant may have started toward a similar downfall beginning in 2012.

Does this mean you should avoid advertising on Facebook altogether? Not quite. Facebook’s mobile base is still growing, and its mobile ad revenue surpassed expectations in the third quarter. And while teenagers have demonstrated some disinterest in the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social network in favor of Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat and other platforms, its middle-aged demographic is spending more time on the site.

Facebook has also been incorporating features prominent on sites like Twitter and Google--showing the site's ability to evolve with changing times and competitors.

So while the social network may be showing signs of wear, it's hardly time to call it quits on buying targeted ads, posting statuses and racking up "likes." Just keep in mind the value of diversifying your business’ social media presence.

After all, even if your potential customers recover from their Facebook infections, that doesn’t mean they’ll be immune to future social networking bugs.

Last updated: Jan 22, 2014

LYDIA BELANGER | Staff Writer

Lydia Belanger is an editorial intern for Inc. magazine. Previously, she interned with AARP The Magazine and Circle of Blue.




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