Facebook, college and high school users have declined in absolute number by 20% and 15% respectively in a mere six months, according to estimates Facebook provides to advertisers that were archived for tracking by an outside firm. Facebook users aged 55 and over have skyrocketed from under 1 million to nearly six million in the same time period. There are more Facebook users over 55 years old today than there are high school students using the site.How fickle are kids these days? Just when all the grown ups started figuring out
Grandma and Grandpa showed up to have a conversation, but Billy and Sally were gone. Facebook cannot be excited about this.
The dramatic change in user demographics was picked up by iStrategyLabs today. Anyone can go through Facebook's self-serve advertising program and see the user demographics numbers the company estimates now; iStrategyLabs captured that data six months ago and saved it for comparison. The changes have been dramatic.
According to this data, from Facebook's own ad platform, there are actually fewer high school and college users on Facebook today than there were six months ago.
As you can see in the chart above, young people by age are up a small amount, but young people by school level are down. Users with undeclared education levels are way up, implying that many high school and college students may simply no longer be listing their schools at all on the site. That's a dramatic change too for a site that began as a network for college students. We wouldn't be surprised if Facebook stopped showing advertisers the number of high school and college students soon and relied only on the age distribution.
Who is the company that is presenting these historical numbers? A quick check around the web shows that iStrategyLabs is one of the top sponsors of the Apps for Democracy contest with the D.C. government and company CEO, Peter Corbett, as a judge for the Apps for America project with the Sunlight Foundation - those are some pretty good credentials when it comes to saving a set of numbers accurately for six months. The company's spreadsheet of Facebook data it's captured since October, 2007 is here.
Facebook's communication team told us in response to this comparison that those numbers are "rough, not actual" - but they are going to check on the historical numbers internally and get back to us. Given that the number of male users plus the number of female users adds up to a lower number than the number of users shown when no gender is selected in the advertising platform - we suspect that the numbers Facebook is showing its advertisers are very rough. Users cannot create an account without specifying one gender or another.
We can't help but wonder whether the kinds of privacy measures that Facebook is sticking its toe in the water with right now could have helped six months ago: letting messages be made visible only to limited groups of people instead of all messages going to all your Facebook connections no matter the context. Instead, Facebook seems determined to push everyone into making their content on the site more public, not less. That may not matter if the kids aren't around to be upset. Then the advertisers will be left pitching their products to senior citizen late adopters - and 35 to 54 year old users, now the biggest group on the site.
It's not a pretty picture, but we await further response from Facebook.