Could a Bleak Study Be a Bad Sign for Facebook?


It seems like you can't go a day on Wall Street without hearing a news story about Facebook . The recent unveiling of Graph Search, a.k.a. social media's answer to Google, has helped Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild shake off the stigma of last May's catastrophic IPO bust. The positive PR has helped Facebook reach a five-month high of $32 -- $6 away from its IPO price -- although the company has since slumped to $29.

Now comes a new survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that suggests that most of Facebook's users experience periodic apathy toward the website. Could this be a sign of bad things to come?

The study
The Facebook survey polled 1,006 individuals, who supposedly represented the entire FB community. Two-thirds of America's entire online community have Facebook profiles, and the survey revealed that 61% of the social media site's users had taken a voluntary hiatus. The reasons were numerous, and ranged from being too busy with the demands of real life, to an "absence of compelling content," to being just plain tired of reading about gossip and drama from Facebook acquaintances.

Additionally, 20% of the survey takers who were not currently on Facebook admitted that they used to be active on the website but had since stopped. With all of these facts coming to the surface, one can't help but wonder...

Will Facebook be in trouble?
History has shown that, in an online world, consumer apathy cometh before a fall. It was a huge factor, after all, in the demise of Facebook peer MySpace, which can't seem to muster anything like the success it once had, whether Justin Timberlake is at the helm or not.

Judging Facebook's recent financials, however, the social media giant may have hit a few hiccups but still seems to be going strong. The company has increased its annual revenue 17 times over since 2008. However, its margins are somewhat concerning: In 2012, Facebook put 89% of its revenue into operations, leaving a minuscule 1% in net income compared to last year's 26%. Hopefully, the Graph Search hubbub can help Facebook regain some of its footing.

The surveyors' most popular reasons for leaving Facebook seemed to have nothing to do with the website itself. Friend drama and life busyness are factors that depend entirely on the individual, and unlike the ill-fated MySpace, Facebook has managed to broaden its key demographics from young adults to their parents. Meanwhile, it's keeping an eye on the future with developments such as Graph Search and its mobile phone application and continually researching how best to monetize itself.

In short, people might get bored with Facebook, but that doesn't mean it's going anywhere.

After the world's most hyped IPO turned out to be a dunce, most investors probably don't even want to think about shares of Facebook. But there are things every investor needs to know about this company. We've outlined them in our newest premium research report. There's a lot more to Facebook than meets the eye, so read up on whether there is anything to "like" about it today, and we'll tell you whether we think Facebook deserves a place in your portfolio. Access your report by clicking here.

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Fool contributor Caroline Bennett has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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