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Travel on alert as Facebook numbers forecast to implode

January 28, 2014 Headline News, Social Media 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59Travel companies that have invested much time and effort in managing their social media profiles may have to do some fast re-jigging if new predictions about Facebook come true. In a controversial new analysis, two US researchers say Facebook is about to spike in popularity and then implode, losing 80% of its users.

Facebook is increasingly involved in travel, having hired its first head of travel, Lee McCabe, just over a year ago.

Younger users started gravitating away from Facebook in 2013, US research suggests, and now, two doctoral candidates in mechanical and aerospace engineering at America’s prestigious Princeton University say Facebook, like an infectious disease, is undergoing a spike before a sudden major decline.facebook

The disease analogy is appropriate because the Princeton duo used a model adapted from epidemiology. Researchers John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler concluded: “Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.”

They say the massive fall will be along the lines of MySpace, which by late 2007 and into 2008 was considered the world’s leading social networking site, consistently beating Facebook in traffic. MySpace, owned for some years by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, plunged into swift decline. By February 2011, its traffic had fallen 44% from a year earlier to 37.7 million unique US visitors.

In their paper, Cannarella and Spechler write: “Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models.

“Again, this follows intuitively, as ideas are spread through communicative contact between different people who share ideas with each other. Idea manifesters ultimately lose interest with the idea and no longer manifest the idea, which can be thought of as the gain of ‘immunity’ to the idea.”

The two authors are not commenting on their manuscript until it competes its peer review process, before formal publication.

Facebook turns 10 years old next month and currently has more than 1.1 billion users worldwide.

Facebook says the Princeton research is plain wrong and actual engagement numbers show Facebook is still growing in the number of core users. It attacked the Princeton researchers’ methodology and says Princeton has more to worry about in terms of survival than does Facebook.

Facebook’s head of travel, Lee McCabe, says travel “sits perfectly with Facebook”.

“If you think about the five stages of travel: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and reflecting –  people are doing that more and more on Facebook, at every stage.”

At the 13th Global summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council in Abu Dhabi, McCabe said travellers were “more than ever deciding on hotels based on hotel reviews, based on friends and family recommendations that they are getting through Facebook. Facebook and travel really go hand in hand.”

A recent mobile application, Facebook Nearby, lets users to locate hotels, restaurants and other businesses their friends have reviewed and visited.

Whether or not the predictions of dire Facebook decline come true, the MySpace slump of a few years ago demonstrates the extreme volatility of social media fashions and the fast-changing face of online interaction.

Information on Facebook use, as of January 2014, published by digital agency iStrategyLabs, says Facebook’s Social Advertising platform shows 3 million fewer addressable 13-17 year olds today compared to 2011. In other words, teens aged 13-17 have declined by 25.3% over the past three years. Over the same period, Facebook use by people aged 55 and over has gone gangbusters, with 80.4% growth in the past three years. That’s worth considering if you want to reach an older audience but a disturbing demographic for anyone looking to the future.

Tastes in social media shift fast. Even the terminology has changed, with those working in the field now calling it just “social”, and dropping the word “media”. At last year’s World Travel Market in in London, Sarah Kennedy Ellis of Sabre Labs told delegates that Instagram users engage with brands 20 times more than Facebook users and 40 times more than Twitter users.

Just two decades ago, old-timers recall, there were 130 websites in the whole world and so-called “social” wasn’t even dreamed of.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Andrew says:

    The social media thing has always puzzled me. It is essentially diarising to the world. I could not summon the interest in keeping a diary, let alone going back and reading it.
    As to reading other people’s diary entries – yuk.
    The fascination with putting up photos of what you had for breakfast for the world to see, but having the ego to think
    the world would be interested in what you had for breakfast is beyond me.
    Social media is what used to be called “being a sticky beak” and although it is not a recognised mental illness,
    it was always regarded as a negative personality trait, just because it is now done online doesn’t change its
    nature.

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