facebook-decline-149x109Facebook, the social network giant, lost more than 1 million ( i.e 24% of Nigerian) users between January and April 2013, as monthly active users (MAU) decreased to 5.2 million in Nigeria as at end of April 2013, according to data from social media monitoring firm, SocialBakers.One wonders why Facebook is losing so many users in Nigeria, even though it remains the most popular social network ranking 35 on the list of countries with the most Facebook users and the most visited site in Nigeria, according to web information company, Alexa.

Here’s the simple reason: Over one million people did not log in to Facebook.com between January and April 2013 in Nigeria.

As a result, the social network giant appears to be losing its ground to mobile chat/messaging and social flirting platforms such as 2go, Whatsapp, Badoo, Eskimi as well as leading social networks such as Twitter.

But what factors can be attributed to this gradual shift in user behaviour towards social platforms?

With my knowledge and insight on the mobile landscape and ecosystem in Africa and especially Nigeria, I have identified five factors responsible for this trend we’re seeing today.

1. Real-Time Interactions

Facebook is still the platform of choice to make new friends or meet people for the first time due to its large user base, but once these friendships have been cultivated, Facebook ceases to become useful and loses its novelty in taking such friendships or relationships to the next level of socialization which requires real-time interactions just like Whatsapp, 2go and Twitter provides.

2. Data Efficiency

With its huge digital assets and properties and the large business (advertising) content it controls, Facebook can best be experienced with smartphones. However, with only about 4 million smartphones out of the over 100 million phones in Nigeria currently, the Facebook app is not data efficient, especially in a country where Internet access and electricity has made browsing the web on a smartphone a luxury.

3. Mobile User Experience

The majority of Facebook users that access the social network on feature phones are not having the same experience as smartphone users. While other platforms allow users to easily communicate with their friends or in group conversations and easily share photos and videos in real-time on feature phones with less keypad clicks and for free, Facebook makes these experiences cumbersome on feature phones.

4. Location

Social platforms such as 2go and WhatsApp allow you to communicate either with those you already know or are in a relationship with, so it is likely that people are spending more and more time with those they know very well and that are not more than 10 meters away from their location.

5. Cheaper Access

WhatsApp and 2go are known to perform well at low bandwidth connections and consume less data as well as serve as a cheaper alternative to SMS, especially among the youth which represent about 65% of the Nigerian population.

What’s More?

The shift towards real-time platforms is not only happening in Nigeria but in other African countries such as South Africa as well as in Asia as in, Japan and Korea. This means that emerging markets consume digital media in a different way to developed markets.

Interestingly, Twitter seems to be gaining as a result of the drop in Facebook active users in Nigeria, as I recently tweeted a chart from StatCounter. In Nigeria, it has more than 3.5 million users compared to Facebook’s 5.2 million users, Eskimi’s more than 5 million users, WhatsApp’s estimated 6 million users and 2go’s over 13 million users.

Finally, until Facebook delivers a simple, real-time and cost-efficient mobile experience to meet the needs of most of its users, it would continue to experience user decline in Nigeria.

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