Facebook Revenue and Usage Statistics (2020)

Mansoor Iqbal

Updated: January 21, 2020

Facebook probably needs no introduction; nonetheless, we won’t take chances (scroll ahead a little to the contents if you want to skip straight to the stats).

The world’s biggest and most-famous social network was launched by Mark Zuckerberg while he was a student at Harvard University, in early 2004. TheFacebook, as it was then known, was originally intended to serve a digitised version of the ‘face books’ held by Harvard’s various colleges – paper directories containing images and personal information about students.

Initially limited to Harvard, it expanded to include students at other elite US universities, before being opened to all universities and high schools in the US and Canada. In 2006, it was finally decided to open the site up to the general public – the rest, as they say, is history.

Today mobile apps for Facebook, launched in 2008 on iOS and 2010 on Android, can be found on users’ phones across the globe. The app counts 2.45 billion users, as of Q3 2019.

If you happen to have been living under a rock for most of the 21st century, the primary function of Facebook is to allow users to connect with friends and acquaintances. The ‘action’ takes place along a feed known as the timeline, on which you can read updates posted by your friends.

Over the years this functionality has expanded to include multimedia content, and ‘sharing’ – the re-posting of content initially posted by others on Facebook or elsewhere. All stuff that seems rudimentary to us now, but at the time were pioneering innovations from Facebook and other members of that first post-MySpace wave of social networks.

Private message functionality eventually became standalone app, Facebook Messenger, though is still part of the desktop site. Users can also upload pictures, and tag those that appear on them – with pictures of any given individual filed under their profile. Here you’ll also be able to find a catalogue of pages and groups (maybe common interest or political, maybe related to a business, often simply communities built around a humorous concept) which have been ‘liked’ by users.

It is around these purported interests that Facebook segments its audiences for its core revenue generator: advertising. The sheer number of Facebook users around the world means that the app offers one of the most comprehensive and diverse advertising audiences of the digital age.

So, that’s just about what Facebook does in a nutshell. Ready to dive into some serious Facebook stats? To skip ahead to a specific section of Facebook stats, here’s the table of contents. If you want to read more about the Facebook story, the introductory section continues below…

Table of Contents

Facebook User Statistics

Facebook Usage Statistics

Facebook Controversies

Facebook Marketing Statistics and Facebook Advertising Statistics

Facebook Revenue Statistics

Above we mentioned the ‘like’ – this seems a good place to segue to some of Facebook controversies that have dogged the site throughout its history. Originally a novel concept introduced (in 2009) to allow users to show they approved of something that has been posted, the concept is thought to have had a negative effect on the mental health of users. So much so that the engineer who pioneered the concept has deleted the Facebook app from his phone. Facebook (and Instagram – which is owned by Facebook, as well as WhatsApp) have even began to test removing the feature in light of this.

This is certainly not the only Facebook controversy. Indeed, it was troubled from the very start, when fellow Harvard-goers who had worked with Zuckerberg in the early stages of developing the website brought a lawsuit against Facebook in 2004, claiming that the founder had stolen their ideas. The case was settled for $65 million in 2008 – mostly in the form of stock, which of course soared in value following Facebook’s IPO in 2012. This became the subject for much-lauded film The Social Network in 2010.

That, of course, is a rarefied case of relatively little concern to the ordinary punter. On the other hand, they might be more concerned with the platform’s complicity in the spread of fake news, which is thought to have influenced the result of the US presidential election of 2016 and (allegedly) the UK’s EU referendum in the same year.

The former was also tied to the Cambridge Analytica scandal – during which the data of 87 million people was made available to consultancy firms working in the political sphere. Zuckerberg was required to face a Senate hearing over this Facebook controversy.

The issue of data privacy goes further back – as does a seeming unwillingness to resolve it. Failure to comply with US FTC edict related to data privacy issued in 2012 saw Facebook fined $5 billion in 2019.

For many organisations this would by the kiss of death. Not Facebook, which continues apace, counting a user base that adds up to around a third of the world’s population. This is perhaps even more impressive when we take into account that the app is banned in the world’s biggest and most-populous app market, China.

Not so in the world’s second-most populous nation, India, where 269 million Facebook users (over 10%) can be found – making it by far the world’s biggest Facebook market.

Facebook’s huge reach has helped it become one of the world’s leading marketing and advertising platforms. No more so than in its domestic market; Facebook claimed no less than 40% of US digital ad revenue in 2018. The money, therefore, keeps rolling on in, with 2018 Facebook revenue of $55.84 billion likely to be outdone by the 2019 figure, which may be with us by the time you’re reading this.

Of that $55.84 billion, a tidy $21.11 billion was profit (by way of comparison, Iceland’s 2019 GDP was $24 billion according to the IMF).

Facebook is, at the time of writing (early January) worth over $607 billion (Switzerland’s 2019 GDP is $715 billion) – just about exceeding its previous high point of $606 billion in July 2018. Because no matter how much trouble Facebook seems to get in for corrupting our politics, or how much we hear about users flocking away from it through boredom, the first great titan of the social media age has looked something close to impervious. And unless politicians carry out their threats to break up Facebook from WhatsApp and Instagram, it may well stay that way…

That just about sets the scene. If you’re ready to see our collection of Facebook stats, read on. After a run down of key Facebook stats, we’ll be covering Facebook users (including user demographics), Facebook usage (why people use Facebook and how much, plus some Facebook content statistics), Facebook controversies (from fake news to problem users), Facebook marketing and advertising (covering CPC, CPM, CPA, etc.), and finally Facebook revenue (also covering profit/loss)…

Key Facebook Statistics

  • 2.45 billion monthly active Facebook users registered as of Q3 2019 – making it the world’s biggest social media platform
  • 1.62 billion daily active users at the same point – 66% of MAU
  • 41% of MAU are based in Asia, 16% in Europe, 10% in the US and Canada, and 33% in the rest of the world
  • India is the single biggest Facebook market, with 269 million users (Q2 2019), followed by the US (183 million), and Indonesia (123 million)
  • Facebook global advertising audience is 43% female, and 57% male
  • 32% of Facebook advertising audience is aged 25-34, 25% is aged 18-24, and a further 25% is aged 35-54
  • 69% of US adults have used Facebook
  • This falls to 51% among teenagers, only 10% of whom say Facebook is their preferred platform; other estimates set the former stat at 41%
  • US Facebook users are relatively evenly split along political lines (34% liberal, 35% conservative, 29% ‘moderate’) – though a proportion of each bracket does not feel it has been fairly categorised
  • In India, the gender split in Facebook users is particularly pronounced: Facebook users are 78% male to 22% female
  • Most-liked pages on Facebook are Facebook (215 million), Samsung (160 million), and Cristiano Ronaldo (122 million)
  • Average number of Facebook friends in the US was 338 in 2014 (no more recent stat available)
  • A 2016 UK study found an average of 155 Facebook friends
  • The average Facebook user is 3.57 degrees of separation from any other
  • 1.4 billion Facebook users use groups every month; over 10 million groups exist
  • The average US user uses Facebook for 37 minutes per day
  • 96% of Facebook users access the app via a mobile device, with 25% using a computer
  • Most common reasons to use Facebook are to view photos (65% of users), to share content with users’ networks (57%), and to watch videos (46%)
  • 15% of Facebook users use the app to shop, with 800 million monthly users of Facebook Marketplace
  • Average Facebook user likes 13 posts, makes five comments, shares one article, and clicks 12 adverts per month
  • Average Facebook post engagement rate is 3.42%
  • Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video content on Facebook per day
  • 52% of US adults use Facebook as a news source (a lower estimate gives us 38%)
  • In May 2019, 120 million fake active Facebook accounts were identified
  • Between April and September 2019, 3.2 billion fake Facebook accounts were removed before becoming active
  • 1.76 billion spam posts were removed by Facebook in Q1 2019
  • 50 prominent fake news stories were shared, commented, and reacted to 22 million times on Facebook in 2018
  • 50% of Indians were exposed to fake news on Facebook or WhatsApp in the run-up to the 2019 general election
  • 3.1% of US Facebook users identify themselves as problem users (i.e. Facebook affects their lives negatively, and they could not control their usage levels)
  • There are 90 million business pages on Facebook; 140 million businesses use Facebook every month
  • 85% of US businesses have used Facebook as a marketing platform since 2016
  • 80.4% of social referrals to ecommerce sites come through Facebook
  • There are 7 million active advertisers on Facebook
  • Over 50% of US Facebook users have at least 10 interests listed on Facebook
  • Average Facebook ad CTR estimates range from 0.14% to 1.45% (dependent on ad placement as well as data source)
  • Average Facebook ad CPC estimates range from $0.22 to $1.68
  • Average Facebook ad CVR estimates stand at 9.11%
  • Average Facebook CPA estimates stand at $19.68 (for commercial goals; app installs be as low as $0.60)
  • Median Facebook ad CPM estimates range from $2.08 for right-hand column ads to $8.19 for newsfeed ads
  • Facebook revenue for Q3 2019 stood at $17.65 billion
  • Advertising accounts for 99.9% of Facebook revenue, with mobile advertising accounting for 94%
  • Facebook won 40% of US digital ad revenue in 2018
  • 48% of Facebook revenue comes from the US & Canada, 23% from Europe, 19% from Asia, and 10% from the rest of the world
  • Facebook ARPU was $7.26 in Q3 2019
  • Facebook annual revenue stood at $55.84 billion in 2018
  • Facebook made $6.09 billion profit in Q3 2019, and $21.11 billion in 2018
  • Facebook’s market cap stood at $607 billion in early January 2020 – making it the fifth-most valuable company in the world behind Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon

Facebook User Statistics

As of the third quarter of 2019, total monthly active Facebook users numbered 2.45 billion, making it comfortably the world’s largest social media platform. To give this a bit of perspective, this is 1 billion more people than currently live in China. (Facebook notes that its official figures do not include WhatsApp or Instagram users who don’t use Facebook; they do not mention Facebook Messenger, so this figure may well include Messenger users who do not use actively use Facebook proper).

The amazing thing is that this figure continues to rise. A year prior, in Q3 2018, the figure stood at 2.27 billion, and 2.07 billion a year before. According to Hootsuite/We Are Social, Facebook was the number one search term globally as of October 2019. People, it seems, are clearly still interested in finding their way onto Facebook.

After WhatsApp, it was the most-used mobile app in this same period, according to the same source. And after another stablemate, Facebook Messenger, it was the most-downloaded app.

We hardly need to discuss the rapidity of Facebook user growth in the early days, though it is no less of an extraordinary phenomenon for being much-discussed.

We saw 100 million Facebook users in Q3 2018 nearly double within six months (197 million in Q1 2019). By Q3 2010, two years after this initial point, we were up to 550 million Facebook users, which had duly doubled to 1 billion by Q3 2012. By the end of 2014, if it were a country, Facebook would have become the world’s most populous, logging 1.39 billion active users in Q4 of that year, versus China’s (then) population of 1.37 billion.

Total Facebook users, Q3 2008 – Q2 2019

Total Facebook users, Q3 2008 - Q2 2019

Source: Statista

As we can see below, it is 450 million ahead of YouTube, which is the only thing that comes anywhere near it in terms of active user base (the below stats refer to Facebook’s Q2 user base). We might also note that in third and fourth place we find WhatsApp (1.6 billion users) and Facebook Messenger (1.3 billion). Ostensibly rivals for the accolade of biggest messenger apps, both are ultimately part of the same Facebook stable. The fourth member, Instagram, is in sixth position (1 billion).

If you needed quantification of Facebook’s somewhat terrifying hold over the way we communicate in the 21st century, there you have it.

Facebook MAU vs. other social media, October 2019                                       

Facebook MAU vs. other social media, October 2019                                       

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

Facebook reveals daily active user figures in its quarterly statements. In Q3 2019, this figure came to 1.62 billion, up from 1.50 billion a year prior, and from 1.59 billion the quarter before. In percentage terms, this means that a rather stunning 66% of Facebook users around the world use the app every single day.

Below, we can see that DAU have been growing at what can fairly be described as an even rate since 2011.

Facebook Daily Active Users, Q1 2011 – Q3 2019

Facebook Daily Active Users, Q1 2011 - Q3 2019

Source: Statista

According to official Facebook stats, quoted by Hootsuite/We Are Social, the addressable advertising audience (people who can be reached by ads through Facebook) of Facebook is 1.9 billion (October 2019) – just a shade short of a third of all the adults that can be reached around the world.

Facebook’s mighty grip over the internet is further exemplified by the case of Facebook Stories. We’ve heard a lot about Instagram Stories, and how it left the likes of Snapchat for dead in terms of overall user numbers. W­ell, the far-less discussed, and less glamorous Facebook Stories (on a medium more associated with quotidian banality than jetsetting opulence), counts no fewer than 500 million daily users. This puts it on a level with its much more widely-discussed stablemate. We might note Facebook’s WhatsApp Stories.

Facebook Stories daily active users vs. other Stories apps

Facebook Stories daily active users

Source: Techcrunch

According to Sensor Tower data, Facebook was the fourth most-downloaded app globally (Q3 2019) taking both App Store and Google Play download stats into account. This chimes with the continued growth in Facebook users we discussed above. This positioning is being driven chiefly by Android downloads, with Facebook not factoring as highly in the iOS charts (albeit it’s still in seventh).

Facebook users by geography

Facebook’s status as a global app is evident in the spread of users across geographies. Over 100 languages are used on the platform. The largest concentration of users can be found in Asia, in which over 1 billion Facebook users are located. This is followed by the rest of the world (Latin America presumably accounting for the greatest share of Facebook users), at 802 million, with Europe (387 million) and the US & Canada (247 million), accounting for a relatively small share of Facebook users in comparison.

In percentage terms, that’s 10% in the US & Canada, 16% in Europe, 41% in Asia, and 33% in the rest of the world. And if you’re interested in how that plays out in terms of penetration, that’s equal to 70% of the population of the US & Canada, 52% of the population of Europe, 23% of the population of Asia, and 36% of the rest of the world (as edifying as that is for a grouping which includes countries as diverse as Mexico, Egypt, and Kenya).

Looking back over the past couple of years, we can see the most rapid growth has occurred in Asia, followed by the rest of the world, while the US & Canada and Europe have seen slower growth (albeit the user base is growing, despite a period of stagnation in 2018, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal). Bearing in mind the high levels of penetration we already see in these two regions, this is to be expected, as there will come a point when increasing user numbers is simply just not possible.

Facebook MAU by region, Q3 2019

Facebook MAU by region, Q3 2019

Source: Facebook

Looking at Facebook MAU doesn’t tell the whole story, however. If we cast our eyes to daily active users, we see that the regularity of usage is a little bit higher in more mature markets. 77% of North American Facebook users use the app on a daily basis, as do 74% of European Facebook users.

This compares to 62% of Asian Facebook users, and 65% from the rest of the world. Despite this relative disparity, it is once again clear that Facebook is a part of the daily lives of people all over the world.

Facebook DAU by region, Q3 2019

Facebook DAU by region, Q3 2019

Source: Facebook

The largest concentration of Facebook users can be found in the world’s second-most populous nation, India (predicted to be very much the most-populous in the not too distant future). It holds this position by some distance, with 86 million more users (in Q2 2019) than the US.

India manages this substantial lead despite the fact it has lowest Facebook user penetration in the top-10 (26%). In the wider top-20, only Bangladesh (26%), Pakistan (20%), and Nigeria (18%) have equal or lower user penetration. We can connect this to relatively low levels of connectivity in the nation; as this increases, perhaps we will see the number of Facebook users in India – and resultantly the world – continue to climb up. As of January 2019, Facebook was the fifth-most popular website in the country.

Facebook’s global ubiquity is reflected in the presence of many of the world’s most-populous nations in the top-10 nations by number of Facebook users. Aside from the obvious presence of the US in second place, we also see the likes of Indonesia, Brazil, and Mexico. China is the only glaring absence from this list, which is of course due to Facebook’s being blocked in the Northeast Asian giant.

Facebook’s global reach is also reflected in the fact that every continent is represented in the top-20, with the exception of Oceania. Though we might note that with a population of 24 million, Australia would only reach 19th place if every single person living in the country was a Facebook-using adult.

With the exception of India, we see penetration levels of above 50% throughout the top-10, peaking at a stunning 88% in the Philippines. In small advanced nations like Iceland, Malta, and the Qatar we see penetration levels of over 90%.

Facebook users by country, millions: Top-10, Q2 2019

Facebook users by country, millions: Top-10

Data source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

Facebook user demographics

The below statistics refer to the advertising audience rather than the total spread of monthly active Facebook users, but hopefully give us a fairly accurate representation on Facebook user demographics.

43% of the Facebook user base are female, according to Hootsuite/We Are Social.

In terms of age we find the highest proportion of Facebook users in the 18-24 and 25-34 brackets. This is pretty typical for social media – though certainly runs somewhat contrary to widely held sentiments that Facebook is primarily the preserve of older generations in the age of Instagram and Snapchat.

We might note, however, that the higher concentration is in the older of these two age demographics, with just under a third of Facebook users aged 25-34. A further quarter are aged 18-24. Both bands taken together account for comfortably over 50%

Beyond these two, there is a bit more of a spread than with some of the most youth-orientated apps. According to these Facebook user statistics, we see a further 25% of Facebook users falling into the two age brackets which cover those aged 35-54.

In every age demographic up to age 54 we see a greater preponderance of male to female users. This is generally the pattern we observe in apps which enjoy global reach, no doubt the consequence of deeply ingrained gender power imbalances across the world rather than any sort of innate cultural quality in the app itself.

Among the oldest demographics of Facebook users, we begin to see slightly more female than male users. From 55 years upwards

Facebook users: age and gender

Facebook users: age and gender

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

US Facebook user demographics

According to 2019 Pew Research Center Facebook stats, 69% of US adults said they have used Facebook. Only YouTube has a higher level of penetration, at 73%. The percentage has even increased very slightly since 2018, when it stood at 68%.

Demographic differences among US Facebook users are less pronounced, given its ubiquity. While other apps don’t tend to be used as much by rural users as by suburban or especially urban users, the range here goes from 66% (rural) to 73% (urban), for example.

Level of education sees a more pronounced difference, though 61% of those with high school diplomas or less use Facebook. This compares to three quarters of those with higher levels of educational attainment. The gap is far less pronounced than we see for other apps.

Interestingly we see a very small percentage more who report being Facebook users in the ‘some college’ bracket than in ‘college+’. The only other app for which this is the case is the youth-orientated Snapchat, where the prevalence of Facebook usage in this age bracket can probably be explained by its popularity among those who are currently at college.

In terms of household income, again we see Facebook usage at lower income brackets at a level not far below the highest; 69%, compared to 74%. In no other app do we see a gap this small: both in absolute terms as well as proportional ones (Snapchat’s gap is the same, albeit reversed for the aforementioned reasons, and therefore an outlier).

The US runs counter to global trends in terms of the gender split, with more women than men using the app. It’s not the widest gap (that would be Pinterest, used by 42% of women and 15% of men). It is interesting, however, in that it is one of the most pronounced trends we see in this Facebook data; only educational attainment is a clearer indicator if an American is likely to be a Facebook user or not.

Well, that is discounting the 65+ age bracket, taking for granted they are not active app users. That said, at 46%, the percentage of US over-65s who use Facebook is significantly higher than any other app. YouTube runs it the closest, at 38% usage among this age demographic.

We don’t see much disparity between the brackets below, with Facebook usage levels exactly the same in the 18-29 and the 30-49 brackets. If we were to split the younger demographic into two, we might note that 25-29 year olds are keener users than 18-24 year olds.

We have not included it below, but Pew Research Center data also shows pretty identical Facebook usage between the different ethnic/racial groups it considers (a relatively limited list).

What percentage of each demographic uses Facebook in the US in 2019?

What percentage of each demographic uses Facebook in the US in 2019?

Data source: Pew Research Center

Shifting our focus to younger users, we can see that Facebook’s popularity is certainly not at its highest levels among teen users in the US. Among this demographic, only 51% say they use the platform, with only 10% saying that it is the platform they use the most.

This compares to 85% for most-used platform YouTube, and 35% who choose Snapchat as their most-used platform.

Most popular social media platforms among US teens in 2019?

Most popular social media platforms among US teens in 2019?

Data source: Pew Research Center

eMarketer Facebook stats from later in 2019 give even lower figures for Facebook users in this demographic, finding that 41% of US teens used Facebook. It predicts the figure will get even lower, dropping to 37% by 2022.

On the opposite end of the age scale, however, we will see growth, with eMarketer forecasting 7% growth in the 65+ bracket. This is due in part to this demographic affording the greatest scope for growth, due to saturation in other younger brackets.

51% of US Facebook users are given a political label, based on what they have listed as their interests. Nearly three quarters of these users believe that the political label they have been given is accurate. The remaining 27%, however, do not feel they are accurately labelled politically by Facebook; 9% claiming the label is not the least bit accurate.

US users’ political labels Facebook

US users’ political labels Facebook

Source: Pew Research Center

According to these same Pew Research Center Facebook stats, of the 51% of Facebook users given a political assignation by the platform, 34% are labelled liberal, 35% conservative, and 29% ‘moderate’. 20% of liberals, 25% of conservatives, and 36% of moderates do not feel they have been correctly placed on this scale.

A deal struck by Facebook and Washington State Attorney General in 2018 determined that advertisers could not exclude users according to race, religion, sexual orientation or any other protected class.

Facebook users can be given affinity designations, however – around 21% of users are. Of these, 43% are deemed to be interested in African American culture, a further 43% in Hispanic culture, and around 10% in Asian American culture. These are the only such affinities available on Facebook.

Of those labelled as having such an affinity by Facebook, 60% say they have a strong affinity with their assigned group, with 37% saying they do not. 57% of those assigned to any given group consider themselves to be members of said group, while 39% say they are not members of the group.

Facebook demographics: rest of the world

In India, home of the world’s largest population of Facebook users, demographics skew strongly (shockingly) male. Over three quarters of the Facebook user base in the country are men, according to Facebook stats published on NapoleonCat. We can most likely ascribe this to the relatively slow pace of the move towards gender equality in the nation, rather than anything more behaviourally profound.

This ratio holds more or less across every one of the age groups included in this set of Facebook stats. In terms of age groups, we see a reflection of the global picture. Users are concentrated in the 18-24 and the 25-34 age brackets (with a slight weighting towards the latter).

The data seems to be split into the same age brackets as the Hootsuite/We Are Social data we’ve used elsewhere. The original source is unclear, however, so this is the best clue we have.

Facebook India demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Facebook India demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Source: NapoleonCat

Moving to the third-biggest market, the world’s fourth most-populous nation Indonesia, we see a less pronounced split between the genders.

The gender split seems to be most-pronounced in the 25-34 year old bracket, which as in other nations is the largest, followed by 18-24. These two age categories account for around two thirds of Facebook users in the country. Facebook usage drops off rather sharply in older categories.

We might expect a correction of the gender split in the not-too-distant future, with female users outnumbering male among teenage Indonesian users. Notably teen users are equally prominent with 35-44 year olds, showing youth-orientation in this market relative to many others.

Facebook Indonesia demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Facebook Indonesia demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Source: NapoleonCat

Brazil is fourth-biggest Facebook market, and the biggest in Latin America. It joins the US in having slightly more female than male Facebook users. Women outnumber men in every age bracket here.

While as usual the 25-34 age bracket are the keenest Facebook users, here ages between age demographics are less pronounced. Indeed, there are nearly as many 35-44 Brazilian Facebook users as there are 18-24 year olds, with even the 45-54 age bracket accounting for 12.3% of Brazilian Facebook users.

On the other hand, a smaller proportion of Brazilian teenagers use the app than in other markets. Indeed, you’ll find a greater share of 55-64 year olds in the Brazilian Facebook user base. Might these younger users be turning to other apps rather than the long in the tooth Facebook?

Facebook Brazil demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Facebook Brazil demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Source: NapoleonCat

In Mexico (our fifth-biggest market) we see something approaching perfect gender parity, with women just about outnumbering men in the Mexican Facebook user base.

Facebook age demographics in Mexico follow a fairly typical pattern, though are inclined towards older users. Teenagers are outnumbered by 45-54 years olds, while 35-44 year old users, though squarely in third place here, are very well represented in North America’s and Latin America’s second-biggest Facebook market.

Facebook Mexico demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Facebook Mexico demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Source: NapoleonCat

Having dealt with the top-five biggest Facebook markets, we’ll skip down to Europe’s biggest market, the UK, number 11 overall.

The gender split is fairly even here, though we see slightly more female than male Facebook users here. The exception comes in the 25-34 year old bracket (which we can perhaps label ‘the Facebook Generation’).

Here we see a significant tilt towards older users; there are more Facebook users over the age of 65 than teenage Facebook users in the UK. Indeed, we find more users in the 35-44 and 45-44 year old brackets than we do in the 18-24 year old one. Clearly, this is a very different paradigm to that which we see in other major Facebook markets.

The share held by 25-34 year olds is somewhat smaller here than we’ve seen in Asian or Latin American markets. We see a similar picture in France and Italy, the other European top-20 markets.

Facebook UK demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Facebook UK demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Source: NapoleonCat

We’ll finish this section by looking at the biggest market of Facebook users in Africa, Egypt – the ninth-biggest Facebook market in the world in terms of overall users.

Here, as we might expect in the bridge between the Middle East and Africa, male users outnumber females by nearly two to one. The gender gap is least-pronounced in the youngest age brackets.

A little under two thirds of Facebook users in Egypt fit into the 18-24 or the 25-34 year old age brackets. Interestingly, both account for nearly the same proportion of Egyptian Facebook users. We could call this an inclination towards younger users, but that the teenage demographic is small here.

There are more female Facebook users in the 18-24 year old bracket than in the 25-34 year old one – perhaps reflective of societal factors

Facebook Egypt demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Facebook Egypt demographics: age and gender, December 2019

Source: NapoleonCat

Most-liked Facebook pages

What sort of things do people on Facebook like? Well, one way to judge is to look at the most-liked Facebook pages.

Some names here will perhaps be relatively familiar reading to those who have looked over our other most-liked lists for other apps. On the other hand, some are unique to the upper echelons of Facebook. Notably the global extent of Facebook will tip us towards those pages which possess the banality necessary for true global appeal.

While perhaps the presence of Facebook at the top of the chart is to be expected, Samsung in second place is perhaps the best illustration of this. Spain’s two most successful football teams feature, with the recently-crowned richest club in the world FC Barcelona edged out by Real Madrid CF in the social media stakes. Both are outdone by the one-man social media machine Cristiano Ronaldo, however, who is the most-liked individual on Facebook.

Coca-Cola, in fifth, reasserts in status as the world’s favourite beverage (McDonald’s also features in the top-20), while Buzzfeed’s Tasty page proves that food and drink are big business in the 21st century. Colombian singer Shakira and American cinematic muscleman Vin Diesel are the highest-ranking non-footballing celebrities. The top-10 is rounded out by the China Global TV – a state-owned Chinese news network. Facebook’s being banned in the country does not preclude its having a media presence on the platform…

Most-liked pages Facebook

Most-liked pages Facebook

Data source: Facebook

It feels we should also give an honourable mention for Mr Bean’s honourable effort in making the top-15.

Note that these metrics (accurate as of January 2020) refer to the most-liked pages, not the most-followed. The top-10 list would look more or less the same, with perhaps the most striking difference being the presence of Mark Zuckerberg in fourth position.

Facebook connections

The mean average number of Facebook friends was reported at 338 back in 2014, with the median a bit lower at 200. This is the usually reported number, based on Pew Research Center data – so therefore pertaining to US Facebook users. There have been no signs of a more up-to-date figure from this source – or from any other, barring one exception listed below.

Interestingly, it has been observed that – as in real life – people tend to maintain meaningful networks of a maximum size of 150 (the so-called “Dunbar number”).

In 2016, an Oxford University study (the geographical scope is not clear), conducted by the eponymous Professor Dunbar himself, found that the average number of Facebook friends was 155. The study was focused on the number of friends that users could turn to in a crisis – in this case no more than four.

Women tended to have more Facebook friends than men: 166 compared to 145, according to this latter survey.

In a riff on the concept of ‘six degrees of separation’, Facebook conducted a study in 2016 to gauge the average number of connections you would have to pass through to get from any given person to another. The results showed that six degrees were in fact generous: the average number of intermediaries between one Facebook user and another was a mere 3.57, 3.46 in the US. This number had become smaller since the last time a similar study was conducted in 2011, which set the figure at 3.74. No doubt the considerable increase in Facebook users between the earlier and later experiment will have contributed to this contraction.

According to Igloo’s 2019 State of the Global Digital Workplace report, 87% of people use Facebook to connect with their co-workers. Interestingly, this is over twice as many as use LinkedIn (42%).

On which social networks do co-workers connect?

On which social networks do co-workers connect?

Source: Igloo

A much-heralded redesign of the app in May 2019 saw groups being foregrounded. At the time, 400 million Facebook users were members of groups.

In October 2019 Facebook reported that 1.4 billion users used groups every month (it is unclear if usage is taken as the same thing as membership here). There were over 10 million groups in existence at this point.

Facebook Usage Statistics

According to eMarketer estimates, the average time on Facebook by US users will be 37 minutes per day in 2020 (on all devices). This is down on 38 minutes in 2019, which is it itself two minutes down on the previous estimate previously issued by eMarketer.

A 2017 study by Facebook found that sessions of between one and five minutes accounted for 36% of usage, sessions from five to 15 minutes for 37%, and those longer than that for the remaining 26%. This study was conducted based on desktop users; it is unclear to what extent usage among mobile users differs

Facebook devices

Facebook was the second most-used mobile app in the world over Q3 2019, according to Hootsuite/We Are Social data – and the second most downloaded.

As of the beginning of 2019, 96% of Facebook users accessed the app using a smartphone or tablet, making mobile devices overwhelming the most-utilised devices for accessing Facebook (more specifically we also see that 16% of active users use tablet devices). There is clearly a good deal of crossover however, with desktop/laptop users, with 25% of the user base accessing the app through one of these larger devices. Feature phones, lower cost options designed for developing markets, are used by 1.2% of Facebook users.

At the point to which this data refers, the Facebook user base numbered 2.27 billion.

Facebook devices

Facebook devices

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

Mobile usage is particularly pronounced in Africa, where 98% of Facebook users access the platform via mobile.

What do users use Facebook to do?

A Cowen and Company study, the results of which were published on eMarketer, asked the US users of various social media for what they used the apps to do. This gives us an idea of why people use Facebook, and how Facebook usage compares with other social networks.

So why do people use Facebook? In overall terms the most common elected reasons were to view photos (65% of users), to share content with everybody (57%), and to watch videos (46%). These align with the most popular reasons to use social media in general, according to this study.

Looking to how it fares relatively to other apps across individual usage categories, this study is a demonstration of Facebook’s status as an app which is used for a multiplicity of purposes. While it only ranks as the most-used app in two of the eight categories in question, it is second in five more, and a pretty close third in the last remaining.

More Facebook users use the app to share content with everybody and to network (33% – the often-forgotten original purpose of social networks) than users of any other app. The 57% of users who use to app to share content with everybody represent the largest percentage of users using any app for any purpose outside of viewing videos.

In terms of watching videos, Facebook ranks behind Instagram (51%) and Snapchat (50%), albeit on 46% it’s not too far behind. The gap between Facebook and first-place Snapchat (43% to 45%) when it comes to sharing content one-on-one is even slighter.

Only Twitter reports a higher percentage of users looking for news (56% to Facebook’s 38%, though other estimates are higher – see below), and only shopping-focused Pinterest logs a greater concentration of shoppers – though in this case 47% is well in excess of Facebook’s 15%.

We might note in either case, that the considerably larger Facebook user base means that though these percentages may be smaller, the absolute numbers will be larger. So, really, far more people use Facebook as a source of news or even as somewhere to shop than use Twitter or Pinterest respectively. The same goes for any other category.

What proportion of US users use Facebook for various activities, vs other apps

What proportion of US users use Facebook for various activities, vs other apps

Source: eMarketer

According to stats from AudienceProject, republished on eMarketer, 60% of US digital video viewers use Facebook to watch videos. Though YouTube is well out in front, on 90%, Facebook commands a considerable lead over the rest of the pack – with third place Instagram on a relatively paltry 35%.

Facebook content interaction

Hootsuite and We Are Social stats look at the average frequency of various behaviours by Facebook users.

They find that the average users will like one Facebook page over the course of their lifetime, which would suggest that this is not a feature with which many Facebook users have come to grips. On the other hand, Facebook’s ‘like’ functionality is popular, with the average user liking 13 posts over the course of a month. Female Facebook users tend to be a little more generous with the thumbs up, generating 15 likes to male users’ 12.

Facebook users make slightly fewer comments, however: an average of five per month (women making seven to men’s four). Perhaps unsurprisingly given the slightly higher level of effort required to make a comment as opposed to clicking the react button.

Sharing a post lies somewhere in the middle effort-wise, though in practice, users don’t tend to use this feature as much, averaging once per month (twice for women, once for men). Whether this is because the average user does not feel like they want to share the sentiments of others, or whether the slightly more technical nature (multiple clicks) of the functionality puts it beyond less-advanced users is a matter for speculation.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take much effort to click on an advert. And advertisers will not doubt be pleased that Facebook users are clicking on an average of 12 per month (14 for women, 10 for men).

Typical Facebook usage pattern

Typical Facebook usage pattern

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

Of course, norms and behaviour differ from country to country.

Looking to data from earlier in 2019, we can see how engagement levels differ between countries. Median monthly comments range from nine in loquacious Australia, Brazil, Denmark, and New Zealand, to as little as one in the reserved Japan, Russia, and South Korea.

These stats utilise different data provider methodology, meaning these Facebook stats are not directly comparable to the above. The global median reported according to this methodology was four.

Median monthly Facebook comments made, by country

Median monthly Facebook comments made, by country

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

In terms of average monthly ad clicks, the average of eight in early January again represents different data provider methodology – so we can’t directly compare it with the higher figure reported in October. We can, however, get an idea of relative differences between countries, and against the median.

Again we see high levels of engagement in Australia and Denmark, both of which reported 14 clicks per ad. Ireland also logged 14 clicks, but the most enthusiastic ad clickers at this point could be found in Malaysia, with an average 15 clicks.

On the other end of the scale, South Africans clicked on Facebook ads twice per month. Japan (three) again features towards the lower end of the scale for this sort of engagement, as does Russia (four), level with three African nations (Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria).

South Koreans, however, may not be big commenters, but they are happy to click on ads: an average of nine times per month – putting them above the global median. We should not assume, therefore, that users’ behaviour in one engagement metric will necessarily be reflected in others.

Average monthly Facebook ad clicks by country

Average monthly Facebook ad clicks by country

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

According to Hootsuite/We Are Social Facebook statistics, average post engagement for posts from Facebook pages stand at 3.42% (October 2019).

Engagement rates for videos, as you’ll know if you’ve been paying attention, are the highest, at 6.04%. For pages that don’t have the resources/capacity to make videos, simply adding a photo will see engagement rates of 4.36%. Simply posting a link (2.78%) or a status (1.66%) will see a lower rate of engagement.

In a typical pattern seen in other social media with large user bases, engagement/reach rates are higher in smaller communities. Pages with fewer than 10,000 fans enjoy organic post reach of 8.18%. compared to 2.59% for those with more than 100,000. Engagement rates for the former stand at 4.64%, compared to 2.44% for the latter.

Facebook page engagement benchmarks

Facebook page engagement benchmarks

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

Again, there are regional disparities. In early 2019, we saw a slightly higher overall average level of Facebook post engagement, at 3.8%. The lowest engagement levels, are perhaps surprisingly, to be found in Italy (3.1%) and Switzerland, and less surprisingly in South Korea (3.1%) and Kenya (3.1%).

The highest levels were to be found in Indonesia (4.3%), Brazil (4.2%), Austria (4.2%), and the Netherland (4.2%). As we can see, it’s somewhat tricky to plot any sort of pattern based on geography.

Average monthly Facebook page engagement by country

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

In terms of post reach, the organic reach of Facebook posts vs. overall likes stands at 5.34%. Average overall post reach stands at 7.11%.

In all, 26.7% of pages used paid media to increase their reach. Paid reach stands at 28% of total reach for these pages.

Facebook page reach

Facebook page reach

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

 

 

Switching to by country Facebook page reach stats (early 2019, average organic reach of 6%, with overall average reach of 8%), we see that in certain markets organic reach is much higher: in Thailand, as high as 7.9%, with France and Indonesia logging 7.8%. On the other end of the scale, we see organic reach as low as 4% in Taiwan, 4.1% in Nigeria, or 4.3% in Malaysia.

Facebook post reach by country

Average monthly Facebook post reach by country

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

Video on Facebook

As of May 2019, 75 million people used Facebook’s on-demand streaming service Facebook Watch for at least one minute per day. This service, however, has struggled to gain traction, with a study showing that 50% of US adults had not even head of Facebook Watch.

Users reportedly watch 100 million hours of Facebook video content per day. This stat was reported in 2016, however. We have not had an official update in the intervening period, so we can’t be sure how accurate this figure is in 2020.

Facebook behaviour through sessions

A 2017 study conducted by Facebook investigated how Facebook user behaviour was affected by various factors. The study found that, unsurprisingly, users tend to spend longer reading stories towards the start of their sessions. Faster reading time towards the start of a session indicates that the session will be shorter.

Towards the end of sessions, users will spend more time focusing on photos rather than text-based posts – 9% more time to be precise. At the start of a session the time spent is equal. The same applies to video content as text posts, albeit 5% less pronounced. External links also gain less traction towards the end of sessions.

Older users read stories for a longer amount of time than younger users; the difference is as wide as 80% between 15-20 year olds and 55-60 year olds. The difference between longer reading times towards the start of the session and shorter ones towards the end was far greater for older readers, while younger readers remained more consistent throughout the session.

The same is true for Facebook users with fewer friends, who generally spend longer reading posts, but show a greater propensity to slow down towards the end of a session than those with more friends (we might assume a fair degree of crossover with older users and those with fewer friends). The speed up is 14% for those with 50-100 friends, compared with 9% for those with 450-500 friends.

As we might expect, users spend longer reading posts during sessions that begin early in the morning (8am) or late at night (10pm) than they do during work hours (12pm or 4pm).

Perhaps more surprisingly, the study found that the activities of liking, commenting, and reading tended to occur in sessions focused on one of those three activities alone. This is more pronounced for likes and comments. In the case of the former, 49% of liking activity takes places in a mere 5% of sessions. In the case of comments the equivalent figure is 71% in 5% of sessions. To illustrate the crossover, if we take the top 5% of sessions by comments, and the top 5% by likes, there is only 27% crossover between the two.

In terms of reading, we see 26% of activity occurring in 5% of sessions. This smaller figure makes sense given that reading needs to take place during any session, before likes or comments are made accordingly.

Facebook as a news source

More than half – 52% to be precise – of US adults use Facebook as a news source – far more than any other site, with second-place YouTube logging 28%. To look at that another way, 73% of US Facebook users used the social network as a news source.

According to Pew Research Center data, the majority of US users who use Facebook as a news source are women, who outnumber men at around 6:4. The largest concentration fall into the 30-49 age bracket, and are white.

In terms of education, as we might expect, we see higher usage levels of Facebook as a news source among those with lower levels of educational attainment. That said, the difference between the 38% of those in the high school or less bracket who use Facebook as a news source, and the 28% in the college+ bracket is hardly a yawning chasm. Facebook, then, is a prominent news source among a diverse range of Americans.

Social media news user demographics

Social media news user demographics

Source: Pew Research Center

Shopping on Facebook

A year and half after it launched (October 2016), reported TechCrunch, Facebook Marketplace was up to 800 million monthly users.

Above, we referenced Cowen and Company stats that showed 15% of US Facebook users used the site to find and purchase products.

Facebook Controversies

While Facebook user numbers might be continually rising, that does not mean that we never see any attrition of Facebook users. This is in no small part down to the Facebook controversies that have dogged the company throughout its existence.

Certainly many users were upset by Cambridge Analytica Facebook controversy, which saw user data being harnessed for political ends by consultants working for Donald Trump. Facebook’s lack of action on fake news also left a bad taste in many users’ mouths. And, less controversially, there is the simple issue of users coming to find Facebook increasingly dull in comparison with more exciting, younger apps like Instagram or TikTok.

Research from the Pew Research Center published in 2018 found that 42% of US Facebook users had taken a break from using the site for a few weeks, while 26% had deleted the app from their phone. A further 54% had adjusted their privacy settings in order to not fall foul of Facebook’s seemingly lax attitude to their data.

US users who have stopped using Facebook temporarily or permanently

US users who have stopped using Facebook temporarily or permanently

Source: Pew Research Center

Of course, in order to be able to leave, users have to be aware that there is an issue in the first place. Interestingly, the same Pew Research Center study found that 74% of users were not aware that Facebook kept information regarding their interests and traits. 51% were uncomfortable with this information, while 27% did not feel that the list maintained by Facebook was representative.

US users’ awareness of personal information on Facebook

US users’ awareness of personal information on Facebook

Source: Pew Research Center

Fake Facebook users

There is one small caveat to be mentioned in relation to the Facebook user figures listed at the top of this fact file. Well, actually, it’s a major caveat. In May 2019, Facebook announced that 120 million of its monthly active users were fake accounts. While this only comes to 5% of its total user base, 120 million is a fair whack by any estimation. This figure doesn’t cover accounts detected by Facebook before they were able to become active. These numbered an incredible 2.2 billion in Q1 2019; which represents a significant increase on the already incredible 1.2 billion such accounts detected in Q4 2018.

The problem did not go away. Between April and September 2019, 3.2 billion fake accounts were removed by Facebook – the vast majority before they were able to become active. In December, in the wake of the shutting down of hundreds of profiles, groups, and pages (followed by 55 million accounts), it was announced that AI was being used to generate fake profile pictures. Many of these fake profiles were posting pro-Donald Trump political content from a site called The BL, which has alleged (though denied) links with the banned-from-Facebook Epoch Times.

In March 2019, Facebook announced it was suing three people and four companies based in China for selling fake accounts

Facebook banned content and spam

1.76 billion spam posts were removed by Facebook in the first quarter of 2019 alone. This was not the only variety of problematic content Facebook was forced to remove. Action was also taken on 6.4 million posts deemed to be terrorist propaganda, 4 million deemed to be hate speech, 900,000 related to drug sales, and 670,000 to firearms sales. The vast majority of problematic posts are detected by Facebook’s AI.

From April to September 2019, Facebook reportedly removed 18.5 million instances of child nudity and 11.4 million instances of hate speech. The latter represents a 7.5 million increase on the preceding six-month period – which Facebook partially explains by saying it is taking more proactive action.

Fake news on Facebook                                      

One of the most problematic Facebook controversies is the spread of fake or misleading news, with adverse effects for wider society. Indeed, entire TED Talks have been given on Facebook’s role in influencing democratic processes, through the spread of disinformation, as well as the aforementioned unethical usage of personal data. Buzzfeed research found that the 50 of the biggest fake news stories on Facebook of 2018 were shared, reacted to, or commented on 22 million times. Facebook’s actions (or lack of) in tackling this scourge has been consistently deemed unsatisfactory by media observers and experts, whatever lip service it has paid to doing so.

Facebook has denied influencing the Brexit referendum in the UK in 2016, claiming there was no evidence of foul play. On the other hand, it did find evidence of malicious activity (seemingly based in Russia) during the US election of the same year.

The app’s biggest market, India, is no stranger to Facebook controversies. It is estimated that 50% of Indians were exposed to fake news on Facebook and WhatsApp in the run-up to the general elections of 2019.

It was reported in 2019 that advertisers were able to change the headlines on articles shared on Facebook. This could mean an article could be posted with a Facebook headline that ran completely contrary to what was posted. Or – as is perhaps more common – in a way that is misleading. This feature has previously been open to anyone sharing a piece, but was shut down in 2017 in the wake of inevitable abuse (to the consternation of social media managers). Facebook has indicated it intends to shut this feature down – though we might have assumed that was the case in 2017.

Many users’ relationship with news on Facebook doesn’t go beyond the headline, either scrolling past and taking it as read, or more problematically, sharing without doublechecking the content (wonderfully illustrated through the mass sharing of a satirical article purporting to cover this very subject whose content was merely lorem ipsum filler text). This, therefore, can be a major issue – particularly when it seems as if the news is coming from a creditable source.

Users do seem to have some awareness of these Facebook controversies. Pew Research Center data shows that 62% of US adults believe social media has too much control over the news we see, with 55% believing that this results in poorer quality news, 53% believing it was one-sided, and 51% identifying misleading news as a major issue. While no app is singled out, Facebook and Twitter certainly tend to be names that come up in relation to this modern phenomenon. 62% of Indians believed that fake news would have an impact on the 2019 election.

Facebook began rolling out a news-focused subsection in October 2019, with the stated intention of curating high-quality news content from trusted news sources in order to combat fake news. While the move certainly suggested good intentions, the presence of far-right platform Breitbart cast considerable doubt on what passed muster as a credible news source. Facebook declined to reveal a full list of news sources that would feature. Mark Zuckerberg commented that the algorithm that would pick featured news may not favour the same articles as news editors.

Problematic Facebook usage

Social media addiction is a widely-acknowledged issue. Unsurprisingly, the biggest social media outlet of them all has been associated with problematic usage.

A study from Facebook itself, based on a sample of 20,000 US users, published in early 2019, looked into patterns of problematic Facebook usage (stating they would be avoiding the term addiction). Problematic users in this case were self-identified. In all, 3.1% of Facebook users identified themselves as problem users. The researchers argue their definition is loose, thus this figure represents what they say is the upper threshold for problematic usage.

Problematic usage was defined as that which had a negative effect on users’ lives, and over which users did not feel they had control (both elements were required). Survey results were cross-referenced with data drawn from server logs.

Such users tended to young – with those under the age of 25 are nearly 100% more likely to report problematic usage. They are 1.4 times more likely to be male, and perhaps experiencing a major life event (breakups increase likelihood by 2.4, moving to a new city by 2). In contrast to this real-life loneliness, they were also likely to have 29% more Facebook friends.

Their usage tends to focus on profiles (17.9% more time than average users) and messaging friends (62.7% more messages in all, or 38.7% more messages per hour, accounting for differences in usage time; they were also 36.7% more likely to have sent more messages than they received). They viewed their timelines 7.7% less than the average user.

Problematic users get 27.4% more notifications than the average user, and are more likely to respond to them – particularly if they were related to replies on comments they had made.

The study also found such users are 2.1 times more likely to have read articles on social media addiction, and are more than usually likely to deactivate their accounts – 2.6 times more likely to be precise.

Clearly there are certain limitations with this method, with its focus on those who have a good idea of the dangers involved and that they need to change their behaviour somehow. Those who identified themselves as being problematic users did indeed spend 21.6% more time using Facebook and logged 13.5% sessions than those who didn’t. They were also found to be more likely to log sessions at night time – confirming their assertion that Facebook was having a negative impact on their sleep.

Though only accounting for 3.1%, certainly this allows for a good deal of variance in the non-problematic group – which may well have contained non-self diagnosed problem users.

Interestingly, despite their awareness that their behaviour was problematic, these Facebook users reported that they valued their time on Facebook 9.1% more than those whose usage was not problematic. The relationship is complex therefore.

As with any research issued from the corporate entity in question – particularly Facebook – it is worth being alive to any spin/PR in these findings – potentially in the form of omissions. Other studies have been less coy about using the term ‘addiction’.

Increased Facebook usage has also been linked with feeling worse about oneself.

Facebook Marketing Statistics and Facebook Advertising Statistics

As well as being a social network through which users can connect with their acquaintances, Facebook is very much a platform through which businesses can communicate with current and would-be customers.

Facebook marketing statistics

There are 90 million business pages on Facebook. 140 million businesses use Facebook every month to communicate with prospective customers and employees, or to engage with their communities (this stat refers, however, to Facebook products, not just Facebook itself).

According to eMarketer Facebook marketing statistics more than 85% of US marketers have used Facebook as a marketing platform since 2016 – a figure set to creep up to 87% in 2020. This is in excess of any other social network, though the growth rate is outstripped by Instagram and YouTube – though the latter is far less popular among marketers for the time being. And certainly given the money will all end up in the same place, the rise of Instagram will not be of the greatest concern to Mark Zuckerberg.

Percentage of US marketers using different social media platforms

Percentage of US marketers using different social media platforms

Source: eMarketer

Facebook marketing statistics based on a study of 4,800 marketers conducted by Social Media Examiner confirms it is the most commonly used platform. No fewer than 94% of marketers reported that they used the platform. Considering second-place Instagram logs only 73%, and third-place Twitter 59%, we can see just how firmly established Facebook is as a marketing platform.

Which social media platforms do marketers use?

Which social media platforms do marketers use?

Source: Social Media Examiner

If we just look at B2C marketing, Facebook usage increases to 97%; Instagram is also up to 78%, so the gap is narrowed marginally. The gap is narrower still for B2B marketing, though at 91% Facebook is still the favoured platform, ahead of LinkedIn on 80%.

Limited to one choice, marketers were asked which platform they believed was most important. Facebook lost a few votes between 2018 and 2019, falling from 67% to 61%. That said, no other app gets anywhere near it. Indeed, joint second-place Instagram and LinkedIn together muster less than half of Facebook’s votes.

This, notably, is the first time Facebook has lost share in this survey, going back to 2015, at which point the equivalent figure was 52%.

Which social media platforms do marketers think is most important?

Which social media platforms do marketers think is most important?

Source: Social Media Examiner

There is of course, a significant disparity between B2B and B2C marketers. The former are slightly less enthusiastic about Facebook, with 48% choosing it as the most important platform, to LinkedIn’s 30%. On the other hand, a huge 69% of B2C marketers choose Facebook as the most important platform, with second place Instagram claiming a mere 16%.

Which social media platforms do marketers think is most important? B2B vs B2C

Which social media platforms do marketers think is most important? B2B vs B2C

Source: Social Media Examiner

51% of respondents to this survey (published in May 2019) said they planned to increase organic marketing activity on Facebook over the year to come, while 10% said they planned to decrease it. While the latter might seem like a small percentage, this is the largest percentage for any platform.

Notably, the 69% of marketers who say they want to learn more about marketing the platform is down considerable on the 79% who said the same in 2018. Instagram (72%) has overtaken it to claim top spot in this metric. While the percentages are high enough that it’s a bit premature to talk about this as definitive, we are certainly seeing a quiet shift in interest towards other platforms.

We might, at the very least, question to what extent Facebook’s dominance of other metrics in this survey may simply be related to its incumbent status as the default answer to these questions. Naturally, being the world’s biggest social media platform certainly is a compelling argument as to why marketers value it so highly, but is this enough to maintain its dominance? Does it have anything to offer beyond scale? We shall see, but certainly it may take years for clear trends to take shape.

Focusing on video, however, gives us another indication of Facebook’s sheer reach and polymathic possibilities. Facebook native video, used by 50% of marketers, are second only to YouTube videos, which at 57% are not actually that far ahead. Facebook Stories (remember those 500 million daily users) also feature, with 22% of marketers using these.

68% said they planned to increase their use of Facebook videos, compared to 71% for YouTube and 69% for Instagram. 75% of marketers want to learn more about how to use Facebook video, putting it in joint first with YouTube in this measure.

Which social media video platforms do marketers use?

Which social media video platforms do marketers use?

Source: Social Media Examiner

34% of marketers use Facebook Live – which given 43% don’t use live video at all is more significant than it sounds. Another way to put it is that 60% of marketers who use live video use Facebook Live.

There is a reason, of course for all this popularity. And that is the Facebook is simply the most effective platform open to marketers. In Q1 2019, no fewer than 80.4% of referrals to ecommerce sites from social networks came through Facebook…

Even second-place Instagram – perhaps the only likely candidate to usurp Facebook’s crown (albeit it would be a more a passing of the mantle) – is only responsible for 10.7%.

Social networks’ share of referrals to ecommerce sites

Social networks’ share of referrals to ecommerce sites

Source: eMarketer

Facebook Advertising Statistics

There are over 7 million active advertisers on Facebook, according to official stats. This represents a significant increase on the 3 million reported in Q1 2016 (this had doubled by Q3 2017).

According to data from the Pew Research Center, around a third of US Facebook users have over 21 categories listed on their ad preferences page. A further 27% have 10-20. This means that the platform can build up a relatively nuanced view of users’ interests.

Number of categories listed on US Facebook users’ ad preference pages

Number of categories listed on US Facebook users’ ad preference pages

Source: Pew Research Center

The Social Media Examiner survey referenced above also asked marketers on which platform they bought ads. Here, once again, we see Facebook surge into an uncontested lead, with 72% of marketers buying ads on Facebook. Instagram ads, on 38%, are only slightly more than half as popular.

Facebook is, in essence, one of the world’s most sophisticated advertising platforms, so it is unsurprising to see it so very dominant in this measure.

On which social media platforms do marketers buy ads?

On which social media platforms do marketers buy ads?

Source: Social Media Examiner

59% of marketers said they planned to increase their usage of Facebook ads; this is higher than Instagram (55%) and YouTube (40%). The 3% of marketers who say they are going to decrease their use of Facebook ads is the highest for any platform, but in this measure at least, the boat ostensibly remains un-rocked (though hidden waves are always a possibility).

74% of marketers say they want to learn more about Facebook ads. In this respect its lead is relatively narrow, with second-place Instagram logging 65%

Of major global digital ad sellers, only Google’s business is worth more than Facebook’s. eMarketer stats forecasting total net ad revenue over 2019 (published in March 2019) estimated Facebook’s total for the year would come to $67.37 billion, with Google at $103.73 billion. Facebook total net ad revenue is over twice the figure of third-place Alibaba ($29.2)

Largest online ad platforms

Largest online ad platforms

Source: eMarketer

According to Facebook ad benchmarking stats from online advertising agency Wordstream (based on 8,287 US accounts, between Nov 2016 and July 2019), the average CTR for Facebook ads across industries is 0.89%. This of course varies from industry to industry. From as little as 0.45% for science-related ads (scientists are clearly sceptical about which ads they are willing to click) to as high as 1.68% for pets & animals (if you’ve ever been in the home of a pampered pet then this will make perfect sense).

Pets & animals is some way out in front in terms of Facebook CTR, with the next highest CTR delivered by ads in the food & drink sector (1.2%) and news (1.05%). On the other end of scale jobs & education (0.55%) and finance (0.58%) offer the next lowest CTR outside of science.

Facebook ad CTR by industry

Facebook ad CTR by industry

Source: Wordstream

So how does that translate in cost per click terms? The average across industry, according to these Facebook ad benchmarks comes to $1.68.

By some distance, the highest CPC is delivered by finance ads, at $3.89 – over twice as much as the average rate. With a low CTR and high CPC, hopefully for advertisers these ads are delivering the sort of high-quality, lucrative customers presumably being targeted by these ads. Internet and telecom Facebook ads, at $3.07, deliver the next highest CPC, followed by home & garden ads $2.78.

The lowest CPC can be found in food & drink Facebook ads, at $0.42. The next lowest CPC is offered by ads in pets & animals ($0.61) and hobbies & leisure ($0.61).

Facebook ad CPC by industry

Facebook ad CPC by industry

Source: Wordstream

What about the payoff: conversion rate?

Well, while food & drink and pets & animals Facebook ads may deliver high CTR and low CPC, conversion rates – at 3.98% and 3.27% – are relatively low.

On the other hand, science ads may have had a low CTR, but with a low CPC and high CVR (11.04%), clearly the first stat doesn’t tell the whole story. This is the third highest Facebook CVR; jobs & education is the highest (12.82%) – the same applies here. The second-highest is beauty & fitness (11.65%).

News gives us the lowest conversion rate (2.15%), followed by hobbies & leisure (2.91% – another low cost, low yield example).

Across industries, the average was 9.11%.

Facebook ad CVR by industry

Facebook ad CVR by industry

Source: Wordstream

So finally, what does that mean in term of cost per acquisition/action? The average across industries is $19.68.

Of course, other variables play into this which mean that this is an imperfect comparison. For instance conversions in the finance industry are likely to be worth much more than those in food & drink.

On the other hand, there’s no disputing that $56.89 paid by the pets & animals industry per acquisition certainly looks very high; one would hope that this acquisition would lead to long-term customers. The same can be said for home & garden CPA of $44.23. Facebook CPA of $41.28 for the finance industry is also high, but as we say above, this is likely to deliver customers of high-financial worth.

The lowest Facebook CPA is seen in the science ($12.67), food & drink ($12.91), and pet & animals ($15.29) sectors. The last sector shows us the difficulty of Facebook ad benchmarking using one indicator: high CTR and low CPC are seemingly offset by a low CVR; though ultimately, low CPA shows that advertising on Facebook can be cost effective, despite the low conversion levels.

The same might be said for food & drink. For such sectors, a high-CTR, low-CVR ads can still deliver low-cost acquisitions/actions.

Facebook ad CPA by industry

Facebook ad CPA by industry

Source: Wordstream

The above Facebook CPA figures seem to refer to commercial actions. AdEspresso stats referring back to Q1 2019 look at the cost per app installs. At this stage these clocked at around $0.64.

The average level across 2018 was perhaps around $0.63. This perhaps is suggestive of an upward trend, with the second half of the year tending to deliver higher CPA. These patterns, however, can be unpredictable…

 

Facebook CPA: app installs, Q1 2019

 

 

Facebook CPA: app installs, Q1 2019

Source: AdEspresso

Another set of Facebook ad benchmarks, from Ad Stage (based on an analysis of 1.12 billion ad impressions in Q3 2019) found a median CPC of $0.57. The trend over the trailing year has generally been downwards, with Q3 2018 CPC standing at $0.75.

With the exception of a brief surge in Q1 2019, this trend has been consistent, representing a serious reduction in the price point of Facebook ad clicks (24% year-on-year), according to these Ad Stage stats.

Facebook newsfeed ads median CPC Q3 2018 – Q3 2019

Facebook newsfeed ads median CPC Q3 2018 – Q3 2019

Source: Ad Stage

This has not gone hand-in-hand with a lower CPM, however. Indeed, the trends don’t seem be connected, with CPM rising in price significantly between Q3 2018 ($7.44) and Q1 2019 ($10.60), before what is either a significant correction or a freak quarter in Q2 2018 ($7.71) took us nearly back down to the levels of Q3 2018 once again; albeit this would still represent a 10% increase year-on-year.

Going back further than this particular graphic shows to Q1 2019 shows that the trend has generally been upwards in recent years. Even with the dip in Q2 2019 taken into consideration, one thing is clear: Facebook CPM is in a completely different ballpark to that which it occupied even as recently as the beginning of 2018.

It has been suggested that changes to the news feed pushed out in 2018 may be behind this upward surge in Facebook CPM. These changes have led to the time spent using Facebook to decline – as expected even by Mark Zuckerberg himself. Ergo, it is harder to rack up those ad impressions.

Even before this change, Facebook CPM was drifting up. It was posited that this was related to Facebook approaching the point of ‘ad load’ – simply, they were running out of space to actually put ads into. And there can’t be many economic principles quite so inescapable as scarcity value. The change to the news feed may have only exacerbated an existing trend.

Q3 2019’s median figure of $8.19 suggests we might be seeing Facebook CPM drift continue its upward drift, suggesting that even the seeming corrective of Q2 2018 was merely a blip.

Facebook newsfeed ads CPM Q3 2018 – Q3 2019

Facebook newsfeed ads CPM Q3 2018 - Q3 2019

Source: Ad Stage

Median CTR for newsfeed ads according to these Facebook ad benchmarks comes to 1.45% in Q3 2019. This represents an increase on Q2 2019’s 1.2%, as well as a year-on-year increase on Q3 2019’s 0.99%.

It is down slightly, however, on Q1 2019’s 1.48%. Q2 2019 is the only quarter in the range in which we saw a decline in median Facebook CTR. The general trend seems to be upwards, even if Q3 2019 has not recovered to Q1 levels.

Facebook newsfeed ad CTR Q3 2018 – Q3 2019

Facebook newsfeed ad CTR Q3 2018 - Q3 2019

Source: Ad Stage

The above stats pertain to newsfeed ads. Ad Stage also provide stats pertaining to ads placed elsewhere in the Facebook advertising grid.

If we take cost-per-click ($0.55) and cost-per-mille ($2.08) as our guide, ads placed in the righthand column represent better value (very slightly and significantly, respectively) than newsfeed ads. Clickthrough-rate (0.14%), however, is significantly lower – around a tenth of newsfeed ads.

This does seem to be something of a case of getting what you pay for – though, ultimately you’ll end with CPC at more or less the same level. Ultimately these two types of ads represent two different ways to achieve the same result.

Facebook righthand column ad benchmarks, Q3 2019

Facebook righthand column ad benchmarks, Q3 2019

Source: Ad Stage

Or there’s a third way to achieve the same cost-per-click as a righthand column ad (to the cent) or a newsfeed ad, somewhere in the middle in terms of CPM ($4.50) and clickthrough rate (0.64%): Facebook Marketplace ads.

Facebook Marketplace ad benchmarks, Q3 2019

Source: Ad Stage

Discounting Facebook Messenger, which we will cover in a separate collection of stats, the last form of Facebook advertising brands can take up is through its Audience Network – basically Facebook ad network extended to different apps and websites.

This form of advertising finally offers some differentiation in terms of CPC, which comes in at a lower $0.42. CPM is lower than newsfeed ads, at $7.29, while clickthrough rates of 1.67% are superior to anything else offered in the Facebook ad ecosystem.

Perhaps there is something about outside the Facebook app or website itself that makes users feel a bit more comfortable about viewing ads. Indeed, there’s the aforementioned overload of ads and algorithm changes on Facebook, which certainly makes vying for attention more difficult.

Then perhaps there is also an element of discomfort for users about being served extremely-specific targeted ads. There is such a thing as too-well targeted.

Facebook Audience Network ad benchmarks, Q3 2019

Facebook Audience Network ad benchmarks, Q3 2019

Source: Ad Stage

A 2018 study from web analytics firm Metricool, analysing 148,187 Facebook ad campaigns, found that the most common campaign objective for brands advertising on Facebook was post engagement. A full two thirds of the campaigns analysed had this goal in mind.

Interesting, web traffic was only the chief objective for 13% of campaigns, and conversions for 5%. This tells us something interesting about Facebook advertising: brands seemingly do not view it simply as a direct conduit towards a purchase, but rather a way to build relationships with current and prospective consumers.

Facebook ads, then, are a way to try and cultivate a sort of soft power, intended to humanise brands and perhaps give them an air of authenticity, in order to meet the expectations of the modern consumer. Even when it come to advertising, this is still ‘social’ media after all…

What do brands want to achieve with Facebook ads?

What do brands want to achieve with Facebook ads?

Source: Metricool

Of course, one reason why brands might so heavily favour post engagement over actions that might lead to a purchase is that this objective requires a little less by way of investment. Indeed, we see that while post engagement account for 19% of Facebook ad investment (which in the interests of balance is still the second-biggest segment), it is into traffic that the largest investment, 25%, is made. Conversion, it’s certainly worth adding, also accounts for 19%…

How much Facebook ad budget goes towards meeting each objective?

How much Facebook ad budget goes towards meeting each objective?

Source: Metricool

The objective of Facebook ad campaigns also has a bearing on CPM, according to these Metricool Facebook ad statistics. How important CPM is an end goal, of course, will vary depending on campaign objectives. This will of course determine whether an advertiser will choose to focus on reaching a larger, more general audience, or a smaller, but more-targeted one.

Average Facebook CPM according to this data was $1.26 (the figure printed on the CPM graphic seems to a typo, belonging rightly on the CPC graphic you’ll find lower down the page). This could go as low as $0.48 for brand awareness, for which CPM might be a fairly useful measure of success. The low CPM here can be directly related to the relatively low level of investment we saw above. The same might be said of reach, for which CPM comes in at $0.52.

On the other hand, CPM is nearly 10 times higher at the top end of the scale for product catalogue sales, at $4.77, with conversions in second with CPM of $4.02.

These two are notably in a category of their own in terms of CPM, which makes perfect sense. Achieving these campaign objectives is far more about reaching the right people than it is reaching as many people as possible. So while CPM may be much higher, so long as other results are achieved, the cost would be justified. Think of it a the cost of reaching 1,000 of the right people.

Facebook CPM by campaign objective

Facebook CPM by campaign objective

Source: Metricool

Campaign objectives are not the only thing that have a bearing on CPM. Naturally, efforts will cost more or less depending on the market being targeted.

The most expensive Facebook CPM by some way can be found in the UK, for which a thousand impressions will set you back $3.15. Spain comes in second ($2.42) and the US at third ($2.29). The lowest CPM for the countries covered by this survey, limited to Europe and the Americas, is delivered in Colombia ($0.42) and Ecuador ($0.55).

Facebook CPM by country

Facebook CPM by country

Source: Metricool

Metricool also look at CPC by campaign objective. The average figure here is $0.05.

As well as looking at it by specific brand objectives, we also get average Facebook CPC by slightly broader categories of objectives. These come to $0.19 for lead generation, $0.13 for conversion, and $0.05 for traffic.

The most expensive types of Facebook click according to this measure are app installs, for which you’ll be looking at $0.30 per click. This is by far the most expensive click to pursue, coming in at over 50% higher than second-place lead generation. Clearly there is a hesitance in terms of committing to app installs.

The lowest Facebook CPC is generated by campaigns with post engagement as their objective. Likes and comments come in at $0.02 apiece. Messages, at $0.04 will not set you back much more.

Facebook CPC by campaign objective

Facebook CPC by campaign objective

Source: Metricool

As with CPM, the UK is the most expensive market in terms of Facebook CPC, at $0.23. The US ($0.13) and Spain ($0.09) again take up second and third place, albeit in a different order.

Latin American countries – in this case Bolivia ($0.01) and Ecuador ($0.02) again can be found towards the bottom of the list. Interestingly, however, they are joined by France, with CPC of $0.02. If these results are to be trusted, this shows that the different behaviour of users in different markets can have significant results on Facebook marketing costs…

Facebook CPC by country

Facebook CPC by country

Source: Metricool

Slightly more recent Facebook CPC by campaign objective stats published by AdEspresso find significantly higher results than Metricool. The most expensive CPC is derived from campaigns which look to expand reach, with cost per click coming in at $1.22, followed by impressions, at $0.92.

We might note, however, that CPC might not be the most effective measure to gauge the success of campaigns with these focuses. Perhaps Facebook CPC stats related to lead generation ($0.80) and  conversions ($0.55) will be more edifying.

The cheapest clicks are attained by campaigns with a focus on link clicks, for which each will cost $0.22.

These stats have come down over the course the year preceding these stats, say AdEspresso. Conversions, in particular, stand at around a fifth of the level at which they stood at Q1 2018.

If we can make these stats marry with those we looked at above, this means that while CPM might be drifting upwards, actually getting those clicks which ultimately lead towards revenue-generating activity may actually be coming down in cost. This would give a very different spin to the changing value of Facebook advertising.

Of course, such easy narratives are denied us by

Facebook CPC by campaign objective, Q1 2019

Facebook CPC by campaign objective, Q1 2019

Source: AdEspresso

Focusing on campaigns that target likes, we see the average cost-per-like on Facebook was $0.17 in Q1 2019. This is slightly higher than 2018’s average of just below $0.16. This suggests an upward trend, with cost-per-likes tending to drift more or less upwards throughout the year (albeit unevenly).

Facebook cost-per-like, Q1 2019

Facebook cost-per-like, Q1 2019 

Source: AdEspresso

Facebook Revenue Statistics

Facebook revenue for Q3 2019 came to a stately $17.65 billion. This compares to $16.89 billion in Q2 2019 (a 5% increase), and $13,727 in Q3 2018 (a 29% increase). Indeed, it is the highest single quarterly Facebook revenue figure ever generated, beating the previous record of $16.91 billion in Q4 2018.

(It’s important to state here that we only have recourse to figures as Facebook as a whole, so this figure will also incorporate revenue generated from Instagram and Facebook Messenger, while WhatsApp is not a revenue generating product).

Facebook revenue follows the typical app revenue of increasing throughout the year, with Q4 by far the best quarter, and Q1 the worst (in revenue terms). It also follows a typical geographical pattern, with the US & Canada contributing by far the largest share. In Q3 2019, this came to $8.49 billion – or 48% of total revenue.

Europe contributed $4.12 billion (23%); Asia $3.27 billion (19%); and the rest of the world $1.77 billion (10%). Even in the relatively short time period covered in the graphic below, we can begin to see a pattern describing itself, reflecting the changing global paradigm. That is that Asia is gradually coming to contribute a greater share of Facebook revenue, while the share contributed by Europe is being eroded.

Facebook revenue by region, Q3 2017 – Q3 2019

Facebook revenue by region, Q3 2017 - Q3 2019

Source: Facebook

Of course, to put regional revenue figures into context, we need to consider them in context of audience size, to get Facebook ARPU stats. While Asia may be coming to contribute more revenue, this is from a much, much larger user base.

Globally, Facebook ARPU came to $7.26 in Q3 2019. This represents an improvement over figures in earlier quarters of the year. Facebook ARPU was slightly higher in Q4 2018, at $7.37, though this is a consequence of the revenue surge typically seen in the last quarter of the year. We can expect to see this replicated in the final quarter of 2019 also.

The disparity between the US & Canada and other regions is considerable, with the $34.55 delivered by each user in these two countries comfortably more than three times that of Europe, at $10.68. The disparity between Europe and Asia-Pacific is equally pronounced, with the latter’s $3.24 per user less than a third of Facebook ARPU in Europe.

The rest of the word’s $2.24 (relative) closeness to the Asia-Pacific figure suggests that while the Asian market may be growing in importance in revenue terms, it is still closer in many respects to the developing economies of Latin America and Africa than with Europe.

That said, we must also bear in the mind the diversity that we lose in considering things in such simplistic regional terms. No doubt ARPU somewhere like Japan or Australia is significantly higher than it might be Pakistan or Laos; the same logic would apply in South Africa or Mexico versus Bolivia or Botswana.

Facebook ARPU by region, Q3 2018 – Q3 2019

Facebook ARPU by region, Q3 2018 - Q3 2019

Source: Facebook

As with other major US tech companies, Facebook is primarily an advertising business. In Q3 2019, advertising contributed all but $269 million of Facebook revenue. That sliver (relatively speaking) was delivered through payments & other fees.

Geographic breakdowns of revenue show that advertising revenue is spread pretty much in proportion with overall revenue (given that it is worth 99.9% of Facebook revenue this perhaps hardly needs to be related).

Payments & other revenue comes disproportionately from the US & Canada; Europe contributes around the same proportion as it does to overall revenue, while Asia and the rest of the world account for barely any.

In Q3 2019, mobile advertising revenue accounted for 94% – up on the 92% logged in Q3 2018.

Facebook revenue by section, Q3 2017 – Q3 2019

Facebook revenue by section, Q3 2017 - Q3 2019

Source: Facebook

According to eMarketer stats published on Journalism.org, Facebook has come to control a greater and greater share of US digital ad revenue, rising from 25% in 2014 to a princely 40% in 2018. The only sign of a slowdown in Facebook’s controlling of this sector is the fact that 40% is a mere 1% increase on the 39% reported in 2017.

Second-place Google’s share has decreased by 25% over the same period, from 16% to 12%, while a seemingly heavily wounded Twitter’s has halved from 4% to 2%. Even after absorbing Yahoo’s share of the market in 2019, Verizon Media Group’s share still stands at a mere 4%. No one, then, comes close to Facebook’s share of US ad market revenue.

Facebook share of US digital ad revenue, 2014 – 2018

Facebook share of US digital ad revenue, 2014 - 2018

Source: Journalism.org

Casting our eye a bit further back to look at annual revenue figures in years gone by, we can see that Facebook is still logging confident increases in revenue, with 2018’s $55.84 billion representing a 37% increase on 2017’s $40.65 billion. This itself is a massive 47% increase on 2016’s $27.64 billion.

Slowed growth in percentage terms is perhaps to expected at this level, with recent Facebook annual revenue figures about at the level of the GDP of a small Eastern European country. There is, after all, a limit to how much it is possible to grow.

In the earlier days, naturally, growth was explosive. 2013’s figure of $7.87 billion represents a tenfold increase over 2009’s $777 million. Five years on from that, in 2018, the figure had increased sevenfold once more.

Facebook annual revenue 2009 – 2018

Facebook annual revenue 2009 - 2018

Source: Statista

Facebook profit

Facebook net revenue stood at $6.09 billion in Q3 2019. This represents a healthy year-on-year increase on Q3 2018’s $5.14 billion – 18% to be precise. At the time of writing, the highest profit figure reported is Q4 2018’s $6.88 billion. We might fairly expect that this will be exceeded in Q4 2019.

The significantly lower figures reported in Q1 and Q2 2019 are due to legal expenses of $3 billion and $2 billion, related to a US Federal Trade Commission settlement in that period.

This penalty was incurred for Facebook’s violation of a 2012 FTC order. This earlier order pertained to privacy-related violations – primarily that Facebook’s misrepresented the extent to which users could control their private data. The new penalty was imposed when Facebook was not held to have adequately addressed these violations.

Facebook net income, Q3 2017 – Q3 2019

Facebook net income, Q3 2017 - Q3 2019

Source: Facebook

At 41%, Facebook’s operating margin in Q3 2019 is relatively low compared to recent years. At its peak, in Q4 2017, it was as high as 57%.

As a consequence of the aforementioned FTC penalty, Facebook operating margin in Q1 and Q2 2019 was unrepresentatively low, at 22% and 27%.

Facebook operating margin, Q3 2017 – Q3 2019

Facebook operating margin, Q3 2017 - Q3 2019

Source: Facebook

Facebook has been turning a profit since 2009, after which point net profit levels have surging upwards. The increase between 2017’s $15.94 billion and 2018’s $21.11 billion stood at 33%, while a year further back (2016 to 2017) we were looking at a 56% increase.

While we might expect slowing levels of growth, if we go a year further back still (between 2015 and 2016) we see a huge increase of 177%, clearly marking a point at which Facebook established how to move forward at a new level of financial productivity. Growth had been close to 100% the previous year.

Facebook annual profit/loss 2007 – 2018

Facebook net income, Q3 2017 - Q3 2019

Source: Statista

Facebook costs

In Q3 2019, R&D costs account for the greatest share of Facebook expenses, equal to 20% of revenue, with cost of revenue close behind on 18%, marketing & sales on 14%, and general & administrative expenses on 8%.

This is most commonly the order in which these expenses have fallen in the trailing two-year period covered here. Previous quarters in 2019, however, have seen higher than average cost of revenue and general & administrative expenses.

The former we can perhaps ascribe to the natural ebbs and flows of cost of revenue. The latter to the aforementioned FTC penalty imposed over these quarters, which are incorporated into general & operating expenses.

Facebook costs as % of revenue, Q3 2017 – Q3 2019

Facebook costs as % of revenue, Q3 2017 - Q3 2019

Source: Facebook

Facebook public trading

Facebook went public in May 2012. At the point of the Facebook IPO, shares were priced at $38, giving it a valuation of $104 billion. This propelled it instantly into the ranks of the top-25 US public companies, as well as being the third-largest US IPO of all time at the time, raising $16 billion.

In the all-time, global chart, this puts Facebook in tenth position.

Biggest IPOs in history (as of January 2020)

Biggest IPOs in history (as of January 2020)

Source: Statista

At the time of writing (early January), Facebook’s market cap was at $607 billion – it’s highest-ever level. Prior to this, it had reached $606 billion as of July 2019.

The Facebook market cap took a plunge after this point, however, falling as low as $361 billion in December 2018, before recovering to climb to the current level. The last time Facebook’s market cap was so low was January 2017. This crash came in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal – which was naturally had an impact on forecasted and actual financial performance.

Aside from a wobble in March 2018 (also related to data privacy being in the news), Facebook’s value has climbed up pretty steadily since the time of the IPO. Yes, even a huge, globally-publicised scandal couldn’t stop Facebook in its tracks.

Though we should also consider these figures also include Instagram, which in many way acts a safety buffer for Facebook – though it has also been implicated in the spread of fake news.

Facebook market cap, 2012 – 2020

Facebook market cap, 2012 - 2020

Source: Macrotrends

In terms of global standings, this makes Facebook one of the world’s most valuable companies. At the start of the year, it was in fifth-place. While it’s not quite in the same bracket as the top-four of Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon, which are all above or around the $1 trillion mark, it was the best of the rest at the stage this snapshot was taken.

World’s most-valuable companies at the turn of 2020

World’s most-valuable companies at the turn of 2020

Source: The Wrap

At the time of writing (early January 2020), Facebook share price stood at $212.60. 2018’s previous peak price was $210.91.

The March 2018 dip saw prices go as low as $153.03, and the December 2018 dip saw Facebook stock priced as low as $124.95.

Facebook stock price 2012 – 2020

Facebook stock price 2012 - 2020

Source: Macrotrends

Final thoughts

Facebook is the first true giant of the social media age; the app on which you could as safely assume anyone you met would have a profile as they would a telephone number.

In certain markets this perhaps seems less the case than it was. Facebook has lost its cool factor, with more youth-orientated apps of more appeal to younger users. Indeed, that’s the problem with ubiquity – who would want to be on the same social network as their dad or their grandmother after all. (Although this is hardly going to be too worrying to Facebook, as the biggest youth-orientated social network out there is Instagram, which also comes under its control…)

Facebook also has serious trust issues, seen as ineffectual in dealing with the spread of fake news and practically complicit in the leaking of data to Cambridge Analytica. The latter hit Facebook in perhaps the only place that could really hurt it – in the financials.

But despite the fact that the only news we ever seem to hear about Facebook is (justifiably) negative, somehow nothing seems to affect it. It keeps adding users – while it may be falling out of favour in more mature markets, it is still adding users in emerging ones. And, despite everything, it just keeps making money.

Indeed, Facebook has something of a captive market when it comes to advertising. Advertisers hoping to get the maximum reach from their social media campaigns surely don’t have much choice but to sign up with the world’s biggest social network. Certainly, others will offer a better match to certain demographics, but there’s nothing that come close to those 2.45 billion global users, which represents a huge diversity of demographics.

As of yet – aside from Google – there doesn’t seem to be any sign of any other company reaching the same sort of scale in terms of reach. Perhaps such a thing is impossible: perhaps we’ll never see anything like Facebook again. We can never say never, of course, but as it stands Facebook is the sole social media titan of this age.

This is something that has become problematic, of course, as a consequence of its lax attitude in certain departments – namely the leaking of personal information and the spread of fake or misleading information. Both have been connected with electoral foul play, just to what extent we may only find out in the future. If it is not conveniently buried by those who successively come to benefit from it…

We also stand to find out if all the personal information we’ve freely given up to Facebook has been used for any other unsavoury purposes.

In either case, certainly the company has shown little appetite to resolve these issues except where pushed. Perhaps the only thing that could bring it to heel would be brave politicians imposing stricter penalties on it for its various ‘slip-ups’. As it stands the current levels seem to be water off a duck’s back. There has been talk of breaking it up – which might take some of the sheen of invulnerability away at least. There seems to be little appetite for that at this current moment, however, beyond the speculative. Mark Zuckerberg has been bullish about this, expressing confidence that any legal challenge could be faced down.

In the midst of all the negativity (again worth pointing out – justified) it’s easy to forget the ways in which Facebook is a marvel. Perhaps it seems old hat to us in the jaded early 2020s, but let’s pretend for a second that we live in the pre-Facebook world. The only social network most of us have ever heard of at this point is the already amusingly-ramshackle MySpace.

Imagine a global online network through which you connect with people across the world. A site through which you could file and share your memories, organise events, and join shared-interest groups with people you might never otherwise meet.

A place where you could share interesting or edifying content, in a range of media, with your network; where you could shop for or sell almost anything; or organise fundraisers. A single login which would let you instantly sign up to media or commercial services around the world. But above all, a space in which you could interact with your friends and acquaintances online – an extension of the ‘real world’.

That would be something quite incredible to the person of 2005 (they haven’t even got a smartphone yet so imagine just how hard their world is going to be rocked). It would seem perhaps like the stuff of science fiction, part of beautiful vision of our online future.

Facebook has offered us all of these things, but it seems as if it has come at a price. A price, however, that it seems we’ve all been willing to pay thus far (and directly into Facebook’s coffers too). Whether or not Facebook cleans up its act, be it by choice or by being compelled to – nothing is impossible, after all – it seems like it is here to stay for now.

Certainly, it will prove an edifying case for scholars looking back at how business was done, and how we lived, in the disruptive first decades of the 21st century.