In December of 2013, we conducted a survey of 325 users to learn about the ways they were using Facebook. We wanted to see if we would get the same results, so we repeated the survey to see what kind of changes in awareness of various aspects world’s largest social network have occurred. We conducted the same survey (with three new questions) and had a pool of 325 respondents.
We know that this does not represent the entire population, and it’s a small sample size. It also certainly does not represent the largest user profiles on Facebook or any business pages. This is intended as a random sampling of users, so don’t draw major conclusion from this without considering other sources of information. We asked 23 questions, and grouped them into these 7 sections:
- Baseline information on the participants
- Trends in general usage patterns
- General information on how they use Facebook
- Graph Search awareness and usage
- Facebook privacy concerns
- Facebook advertising – annoying or not?
- Their best and worst experiences
Compared to our sampling last year, fewer people want to publicly interact and more people are getting frustrated with Facebook’s privacy policies and commercialization. In general, we saw a small decline in overall satisfaction with the experience that is Facebook. There seems to be very little branded recognition of some of the major features that Facebook has implemented over the years, namely their video option for chat and Graph Search. We’ve drawn our conclusions, so now it’s time for you to do the same. Do you use Facebook? If so do you use it as much or as enthusiastically? Let us know in the comments section.
Section 1: Baseline Data
With these questions, we were just setting up a baseline on the people who took part in the survey.
1) How many Facebook friends do you have?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: We purposefully matched this year’s friend count with last year’s for the best comparative data, so the results would have the best chance of being meaningful.
2) How many Facebook Groups are you a member of?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: Group membership counts are very close to last year.
3) How many hours per week do you spend on Facebook?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: Heavy usage of Facebook is down. Only about 1/3 as many people live on Facebook, and the 11 to 20 hour usage level is down as well. [Tweet This!]
4) How often do you post status updates on Facebook?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: Heavy usage levels are down here as well, but not quite as much as we saw in the “hours per week on Facebook” question. These two questions taken together might suggest some decline, but it’s hard to state this as a firm conclusion based on the sample size.
5) Are your Facebook statuses public or private?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: This data shows a significant movement towards private posts on a year over year basis. [Tweet This!]
Section 2: Usage Trends
These questions focus on Facebook usage levels over time.
6) Are you currently using Facebook more or less than you did six months ago?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: Slightly more than half of the people still indicate that they are using Facebook more than they did 6 months ago. This would indicate that growth has leveled off. [Tweet This!]
7) Do you think you will be using Facebook more or less than you do currently 6 months from now?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: This is interesting because it suggests that a majority of people are beginning to consider using Facebook less than they do now. [Tweet This!]
Section 3: How They Use Facebook
In general, overall usage of different Facebook features is down compared to last year.
8) Do you ever ask your friends questions on Facebook?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: No major changes from last year to this year.
9) Do you use the video chat option for Facebook messaging?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: Year over year usage of video chat is way down, with 75% of respondents not even being aware of the feature. [Tweet This!]
10) Do you use hashtags on Facebook?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: Hashtag usage from this year’s sampling of people is down significantly from last year. [Tweet This!]
The following three questions were new to this year’s survey, which is why you don’t see any comparative data from 2013.
11) Have you ever “un-friended” someone on Facebook?
12) Do you use Facebook at work?
13) Is your company on Facebook?
Section 4: Graph Search
When we did our 2013 survey, it was very shortly after Graph Search had made its debut. Only 27% of people knew about it then, and even fewer, 15%, know about it today. However, it may be that people use it roughly the same amount, but they just don’t know its formal name.
14) Do you know what Graph Search is?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: The general public does not know the name of Facebook’s search tool! [Tweet This!]
15) If you do know what Graph Search is, have you used it?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: Of the people who say they know what Graph Search is, only 8.6% say they use it. Definitely not a stellar stat! [Tweet This!]
Section 5: Privacy
While people are having more issues with Facebook’s privacy policies than they did last year, we did not see any huge changes.
16) Are you friends with your boss on Facebook?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: This did not change significantly from 2013 to 2014.
17) Are you friends with your parents on Facebook?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: No major changes from last year to this year.
18) How do you feel about Facebook’s privacy policies?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: This looks like a clear trend that concern with Facebook’s privacy policies is increasing. However, this has not risen to the level of a crisis, as most of the movement is from “No Problem” to “Some Concern”. [Tweet This]
Section 6: Facebook Ads
There was a pretty strong consensus that fewer people are happy with the commercialization of Facebook.
19) How often do you click on Facebook ads?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: We see strong growth among those who say they “Never” click on Facebook ads, and a strong reduction among those that say they click on them “Often” or “Sometimes.” [Tweet This!]
20) How do you feel about Facebook’s Promoted Posts?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: As with the ads, we see very strong movement toward disliking these posts on a year over year basis. [Tweet This!]
21) How do you feel about Facebook becoming more commercialized?
QUICK TAKEAWAY: The results to this question should be no surprise given the response to the previous two questions. This illustrates the problem with offering something free and then commercializing it after the fact. Some percentage of people are going to become unhappy. [Tweet This!]
Summary of Sections 1 Through 6
Given the small sample size we need to be careful about drawing any conclusions about any decline in Facebook usage. Other market data out there makes it clear that Facebook remains alive and well. Still, a few things do stand out in the year over year comparison:
- Graph Search recognition, and usage by those who know what it is was much lower.
- Concerns with Privacy policies of Facebook has increased significantly.
- The distaste for commercialization of Facebook is way up.
To some degree, this largely confirms what we have already seen anecdotally with people complaining about these things on the web. My interpretation of this data, and other information available, can be summarized as follows:
- Facebook will continue to find ways to increase their revenue. As a public company, they have to do that.
- Graph search is a non-event at this point in time. Facebook may be investing more in this direction, but as for the notion of their threatening Google with it, I’d say not in the next 5 years, at least.
- Ultimately, they are alive and very well. If there is any real threat to their business, it comes more from the emergence of new social platforms, rather than their own actions. However, even those types of threats will be hard-pressed to do more than chip small pieces away from Facebook.
Section 7: Best and Worst Facebook Experiences
22) What was the best thing that’s happened to you as a result of Facebook use?
This was a free form text question where the survey participant was allowed to enter in whatever they wanted. The table below shows these mapped into broad general categories. We then follow that with some of the more interesting responses.
|Reconnecting and staying connected||142|
|Met new people/made new friends||45|
|General social use/sharing||23|
|Staying up on current events and news||20|
Notable Individual Responses
- “I met my present wife!!”
- “Being able to message with deployed troops!!!”
- “I am able to share my mission experiences in Haiti”
- “I entered and won a Chef Boyardee recipe contest that was being conducted via Facebook”
- “Found a few friends that I hadn’t talked to in 20+ years.”
23) What was the worst thing that’s happened to you as a result of Facebook use?
As with the prior question, this was also a free form text question. The table below shows these mapped into broad general categories, and below we show some of the more interesting specific responses.
|Rude people and embarrassing posts||37|
|“Ex’s” and break-ups||14|
|Being found by people you don’t want finding you||18|
Notable Individual Responses
- “My boyfriend hacked my Facebook and changed my relationship status to single as a means of breaking up with me.”
- “Everyone freaking out and bombarding me when they saw that me and my boyfriend broke up- but they’ve fixed that since then!”
- “All of the uneducated opinions and arguments that get created.”
- “Account got hijacked and erroneous information was posted.”
- “A friend of a friend (someone I have never personally met) copied my statuses and posted them as her own for almost a year.”
- “Got bullied into a fight with a friend of my husband’s family and none of his family backed me up. Subsequently got into a fight with my sister in law over the bullying. Unfriended my husband ‘s family. The feud continues, 5 years later.”
- “I don’t see all of my friends posts. Facebook seems to select a few amongst many, and only show those 5-6 people constantly. I don’t feel I have any control over who is on my newsfeed, my husband isn’t even on my newsfeed. That’s a sad state of affairs. Also, they’ve changed the photo galleries so much that they’re really awful to use. I had a terrible time reordering pictures around, uploading a video is tedious, editing anything is like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
- “Jealousy when other girls would post things on my high school/college boyfriend’s wall.”
- “My mom saw me smoking a cigarette in a picture. (I WAS friends with her on Facebook back in the day, when she was on it.)”
- “Primary source of communication, don’t know how to interact without it sometimes.”
What did you think about the above results? Are there questions you want us to ask next time? Let us know in the comments!
We surveyed 450 people via Survey Monkey and Mechanical Turk. Before you scoff at the use of MT, take a moment and read about the demographics of Mechanical Turk here. While the average income levels are a bit lower than the US population, we don’t see that as significantly biasing the results of the test.
We then randomly selected 325 people from the 450 surveyed so their friend levels would match up with the December 2013 survey friend levels. This was done so that different friend levels would not bias the answers to questions that would scale with usage (for example, how many posts they do per day, how many groups do they belong too, etc.)
All 450 participants were required to go to a survey page where they needed to be logged in to Facebook to participate in the survey. All participants were also required to be US residents. The filtering described above was done on people after they had completed full surveys.
Each respondent was paid a small fee for their response. Incomplete responses and those that were filled with obvious errors were discarded.
Eric Enge leads the Digital Marketing practice for Perficient Digital. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO. Learn More About Eric Enge