Facebook Usage Soars As Demand For Ads Decline

By Amit Chowdhry ● March 25, 2020
  • The use of Facebook has surged due to the mass quarantine in order to combat the spread of COVID-19. And at the same time, Facebook has been seeing less of a demand for ads.

The use of Facebook’s apps has been surging and it has been tricky ensuring that the service stays online while the company’s 45,000 employees are working from home due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) quarantine. In a number of countries, messaging on Facebook and Instagram jumped by more than 50%. And group calls in Italy increased by over 1,000%.

“We’re just trying to keep the lights on over here,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview last week with The New York Times.

The rapid increase in traffic has been putting stress on the company’s capacity. And Facebook’s staff has been working around the clock to help keep the data of its users secure. Plus the company is working hard to prevent virus misinformation.

“The usage growth from Covid-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day,” wrote Facebook VP of Analytics Alex Schultz and VP of Engineering Jay Parikh in a blog post. “Maintaining stability throughout these spikes in usage is more challenging than usual now that most of our employees are working from home.”

What prevented Facebook from crashing was that the areas where the virus and quarantines had the largest impacts in only a few areas where the company operates. For example, Facebook is banned in China, which is where the virus first appeared.

“It really is a big technical challenge,” added Zuckerberg via The New York Times. “We’re basically trying to ready everything we can.”

This has been a major shift in corporate culture for the company as well. In the past, Facebook discouraged employees from working at home. Facebook has always advocated for face-to-face meetings.

In fact, Facebook’s employees at offices overseas and outside of the state were often asked to travel to the company headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Facebook employees have also been struggling with video conferencing. Often times, employees saw their video calls freeze up.

There were some cases where a bug caused thousands of posts from major news outlets to get flagged as spam and the posts were removed. It took about a day to fix the bug.

Facebook has also taken a hit financially. The major increase in traffic is happening on messaging services like Messenger and WhatsApp. Those apps bring in much less revenue compared to the core Facebook app.

“We have received questions about revenue, so want to provide some context here too: Much of the increased traffic is happening on our messaging services, but we’ve also seen more people using our feed and stories products to get updates from their family and friends,” explained Schultz and Parikh. “At the same time, our business is being adversely affected like so many others around the world. We don’t monetize many of the services where we’re seeing increased engagement, and we’ve seen a weakening in our ads business in countries taking aggressive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”