Facebook Revenue Soars as Usable Real Estate Plummets

Facebook's Secret Message to Me

Facebook’s Secret Message to Me (Photo credit: boltron-)

I used to really love Facebook.   I loved it not only for personal use, but for business use as well.  I still have multiple Facebook accounts that I manage for my business and of course, my personal account. I used to visit my Facebook feed several times a day.   I did it to look for news, what my friends were saying, the few photographers I follow, some gardening pages that are really high quality, and to keep up with my direct reports at work.

I’ve visited my Facebook page twice in the last week.  Once was to tell my daughter who’s studying abroad in Copenhagen that we wanted to chat with her on …. wait for it…. Skype.  I’d normally just chat her on Facebook.  I’m bummed that I don’t want to go there anymore.

So, as a social media manager and a lover of all things social, some of you are probably shocked at this attitude.  Let me tell you how a long-time Facebook user and enthusiast ended up jaded and frustrated.  It’s all about usable real estate:

I Mean REALLY, Look at All Those Ads

At some point, any site that depends on ads for its primary source of revenue has to go overboard on the ads due to the almighty dollar, and I think I know when Facebook finally went over the line.

The only thing I really like to look at is my news feed.  There are other features in Facebook, but the news feed right in the middle is what everyone likes and uses the most.  So, I got frustrated one day and graphed out the changes in the Facebook UI over time, and compared that to company revenue.

Check it out:

I went back in time all the way to 2010 and looked at a LOT of screen shots of Facebook’s UI changes over time. I used screenies from all over the place, including a Facebook UI timeline I found on SlideShare that was easy to thumb through.

I then checked the estimated and projected yearly revenue for Facebook from 2010 until today and graphed it out.  Here’s what I came up with:



So, the X axis is the year.  Obviously :)

The Y axis means two different things.

The BLUE LINE is the usable real estate as a percentage, in my terms.  I got this percentage by doing the following:

  • I analyzed screenshots from 2010 forward of what the Facebook news feed page looks like
  • I compared the horizontal pixels used by the news feed box to the total width of the frame
  • I turned that comparison into a percentage of usable horizontal real estate.

The RED LINE is the yearly (or estimated yearly) gross revenue for Facebook, in HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS.  So for example, in 2010 Facebook brought in around $2 billion.

For me, reading the graph, I was still a satisfied user back in 2012 when the horizontal real estate was OK.

You know what happened in 2012?  Facbook got CLOBBERED on the street.  They got panned for their lack of a good approach for mobile revenue, which prompted the pretty drastic decrease in usable real estate.  But it wasn’t just adapting to mobile.

They’re simply cramming too many ads down my throat now.

They’re even sprinkling them in my news feed, polluting what once was a hefty stream of consciousness from all of my trusted friends and companies.

If that graph continues like that, we’ll start seeing Facebook posting losses because people WILL leave in droves.  Mark my words, Facebook :)

I’ll tell you what Facebook.  Two years down the road, I’ll throw another data line into the graph that shows active users of the platform and we’ll do the same exercise!!

Till next time,


Social Media Full Disclosure – Be “Friends” with your Kids!

My FaceBook Friends

Image by Josh Russell via Flickr

Today, I will cover our third rule for working with your kids to protect and monitor them online, without them feeling like you’re watching over their shoulder all the time.  The rule we will cover today is:

You will accept all “friend” or “follow” requests from us on your social media accounts.

I know what you are thinking…. you’re supposed to be a guiding element and an influence in your kids’ lives, not a friend!  You are there to set boundaries and rules, enforce discipline, teach your children the difference between right and wrong, and so on.  This very important rule actually allows you to do all of these things.

What Does Being Friends Mean?

For those that are relatively unfamiliar with social media outlets such as Facebook or Twitter, the concept of being “friends” with your kids might not be familiar.  Simply put, when you “friend” your children on one of these systems, it allows you to see content and conversations that they are posting on that site.

For example, if you are friends with your kids on Facebook, all you have to do is log in to your Facebook account and view your news feed.  You will then be able to see all of the updates, pictures, and comments they’re making and sharing with other accounts they have “friended.”

Almost all social media sites have this feature.  Some sites call it a “follow” or “watch” function, but they all do basically the same thing.  Updates and content posted by the people you are following are available for you to view and consume.

Of course, this means you’ll need an account on every social media site your kids use.  This is actually a good thing; being familiar with the sites your children use (including possible security and privacy issues) is a great line of defense in helping to protect them!

Should I Chatter with my Kids on Facebook Now That We’re Friends?

This is a loaded question.  The short answer is: “It depends.”

Some kids will prefer that you do not comment on their posts or status updates, while other kids may not care one way or the other.  For instance, older teens may prefer more separation between their home lives and their other, public relationships.

NO kids want you posting stuff that might embarrass them.  Keep in mind that any of the following things might be things they are not sharing with their friends:

  1. Activities they’re involved in outside of school.
  2. Pet names you call your children (for instance, my wife calls our 17yo daughter “Bunny”… she is NOT supposed to post that!)
  3. Adorable pictures of your 2 year-old in the bathtub, your 8 year-old in pajamas, or their “chubby” phase at any age!  Yes, I know you love those photos.  They’re also likely to embarrass the heck out of your kids when everyone sees them.
  4. Affectionate language from you directed at your kids.  Some may not mind this, but others will be embarrassed by displays of affection online.  A good rule of thumb for this one is:  If they are easily embarrassed by hugs and kisses from you in front of their friends in person, they’re likely to react the same way to similar displays online.

I should state here that open communication is key.  While you are setting up ground rules for how your children will behave online, let them help set up the ground rules for how you will engage with them online.  Ask them to discuss their preferences, compromise where possible, and then respect those boundaries.  This gives them some control over the situation, without risking their safety.  Hopefully, this mutually respectful attitude makes them less likely to break your agreement and decreases the chance that your kids will try to hide online activity from you.

What if I Don’t Know What Social Media Sites my Kids are Using?

This is a common follow-up question.  If you are concerned that your children have started online accounts that you don’t know about, an audit of their online footprint is in order.  I have covered this in a previous blog post about the first rule of social media full disclosure.  Read through it and send us an email if you have any questions!

I’m Following my Kids, but I Can’t See Their Updates.  What’s Wrong?

In some cases, your kids might know enough about the advanced privacy features to be able to hide their updates from you.  For example, Facebook allows a user to put your friends into “groups” and you can set specific security for those groups.  So, in this case, it’s possible your kids did the following:

  1. After they accepted your friend request, they put you into the “Parents” group in their profile.
  2. They then changed their privacy settings so that the “Parents” group cannot see any updates, pictures, or comments.

If you know your children are active on Facebook or other social media sites, and you don’t see their updates, there is a good chance they’ve blocked you.   There is a logical order of operations to handle this:

  1. Log-in to their account yourself to see all of their updates.  You should have their log-in information if you followed the advice in my post about managing your child’s online accounts.
  2. Check if they have assigned your account to any limited access groups in their privacy settings.  You can find a great help page about Facebook Friend Lists on Facebook’s help site.  There is also a great Privacy Help Page as well, if you are generally unfamiliar with Facebook privacy.
  3. If your children have blocked you in any way, be prepared to have a conversation with them about your role in protecting them online.
  4. Almost all social media sites have some sort of privacy settings that users can leverage to hide (or reveal) information to specific people.  It might be a good time to make sure you understand those privacy settings in detail, for every social media site your kids visit!
  5. There are parental control tools that monitor online activities, including reporting on new friends that your kids collect on Facebook and other social media sites.  Check out our resources page for a Round Up of Parental Control Tools!

In my next “social media full disclosure” post, I will talk about how to help your children set up their privacy settings on several popular social media sites, and how to deal with online “stranger danger.”

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In The News: NJ Teen Uses Facebook to Cyberbully Peers


Image by J_O_I_D via Flickr

A 14yo boy in Jersey City was arrested this week for using Facebook and the telephone to cyberbully fellow students, according to Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray.

The teen reportedly used a series of fake profiles on Facebook to threaten one victim. As the victim blocked each profile, the teen would open a new fake profile and continue the harassment.

The teen called his victims names and threatened to kill one of his peers, describing a grisly dismemberment using a rope and car. His motivation for these extreme threats? Jealousy over the other boys’ interest in his girlfriend.

The boy faces prosecution and is currently in the custody of his parents. Prosecutors in the case describe cyberbullying as a “serious and growing problem” in  New Jersey. Belleville, where the youth was arrested, has a Cyber Crimes Unit.

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