Facebook adoption slows in Asia

A purge in bogus accounts is the probable cause, but advertising revenue per user is also down

ASIA-PACIFIC — Facebook’s user growth in Asia slowed to 3.96 percent in Q3 from 5.12 percent in Q2, as the company reportedly moves to clean up fake accounts created for the purpose of liking pages.

Average advertising revenue per user (ARPU) growth in Asia slipped from 22 percent last quarter to 15 percent this quarter.

Research from We Are Social, a social-media agency, shows that the most significant changes in the past quarter were in India and Indonesia. "Both countries actually registered a drop in active accounts," said Simon Kemp, the agency’s regional managing director. "We’d stress that this is more likely due to Facebook ‘purging’ spam or fake accounts than it is a reflection of any sudden drop in genuine usage."

Kemp sees lower use amongst teens, although it’s worth noting that this same group has increased its usage of some of Facebook’s other offerings—Instagram and WhatsApp—during the same period.

"Facebook (the company rather than the platform) still captures a significant amount of social media activity," Kemp said. "Still, there are fewer opportunities to interrupt people on Instagram and WhatsApp through paid media, so brands will need to get better at content that people choose to share organically."

The social network site has about 864 million daily users and 703 million mobile daily users worldwide. Facebook has built its business around fan acquisition, and ensuring its authenticity is critical. One of its main ad product goals is to make ads more relevant in hopes of providing a better experience for users and greater return for marketers. Facebook plans to continue building Custom Audiences and also offers Lookalike Audiences, which help marketers find new potential customers who are similar to their current customers. Facebook declined to comment for this article.

To grow its user base in Asia, Facebook is focused on developing partnerships with mobile operators. Providing easy, cheap, or even free mobile access is the surest way for Facebook to engage anyone who hasn't yet signed up.

It is unlikely slowing growth will impede revenues at this stage. Jan Rezab, CEO of Socialbakers, said there is no serious indication of a growth problem in Asia. "I always expect to see use pick up in the fourth quarter and first quarter. Initiatives like increased focus on public content and investment in video will have a positive impact on the use of the platform," Rezab added.

Apart from getting savvier at monetizing its mobile-oriented products, Facebook's stated strategy of reducing organic post views to less than 1 percent by the end of 2014 means that marketers have little option but to invest in paid placements if they want to make the most of the audiences. "This may not be popular amongst brands, but most recognise that Facebook still offers highly effective and efficient access to audiences around Asia—just not in the same way it used to," Kemp pointed out. 

This article first appeared on campaignasia.com.

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