The Big Disconnect—People Leaving Social Networks

For the past few months, trend trackers have been talking about people leaving mainstream social networks because they take up too much time, give away too much private information, and are filled with too many Farmville updates. Some consumers are migrating to more niche networks, and others are giving up on social networks entirely.

I’ve just seen the first quantitative data that captures this trend. The graph above is the Google trend line for “Delete Facebook Account” searches. The phrase didn’t even register until 2009, and now it is shooting up like a rocket. The controversy over Facebook’s Open Graph API and “instant personalization” have certainly added momentum.  But even without the past month’s data, there’s a clear trendline pointing up, up, up.

I haven’t been able to find any data about people joining niche networks or going back to connecting with their friends via email and phone calls.  I’ll keep looking.

Meanwhile, do you think consumers are more likely to quit social networks entirely, or switch to smaller ones that more closely match their personalities and interests?

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2 Responses to “The Big Disconnect—People Leaving Social Networks”

  1. The web has low barriers to entry, better mousetraps rule quickly, and no megasite has proven able to penetrate ALL countries. See eBay and Google.

    There are a dozen viable Facebook contenders for the 3 billion connected people that aren’t using it — see Orkut, Bebo, and RenRen.

    Even so, attrition is manageable in the context of continued double digit growth. Facebook Credits will soon prove an effective tool for retention, especially as FB creates exchanges with other currencies both online (like Zynga money) or offline (watch for tie-ins to consumer loyalty program currencies). Just hope it all doesn’t turn into Zimbabwe, which also cranks up the printing presses in times of stress.

    Like all corporate stories, it boils down to careful management of greed. Zuckerberg has always been ruthless in the manner of a Bill Gates — and he’s obviously a genius — but his monopoly is not on as solid footing. And most people can see the NEED for office software, vs. a virtual pig in a Poke(s).

    The network effect has never been won back once lost. Your graph probably does need figures, and is it net of new people joining? That would be the whole story.

  2. Hi Anton,
    Thanks for the thoughtful comment! You make great points. It will be interesting to see if we can get “net” statistics over time to watch if the trend becomes more mainstream, and to see whether people transition to other networks or to entirely new technologies.

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