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Facebook holds ground among Saudi, UAE users but comes under pressure in US, UK

A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a displayed Snapchat logo. The pair are in fierce competition to retain social media users across the Gulf. (Reuters)
LONDON: While Facebook’s dominance in the US and the UK is being threatened by the growth of Instagram and Snapchat, the world’s largest social network is forecast to hold its ground in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to research firm eMarketer.
In its latest forecasts, the US-based group has predicted that Facebook’s appeal, particularly among the younger generations, is set to decline in both the US and the UK. In the 12-17 age group in the US, eMarketer forecasted a decline of 3.4 percent this year over the last year, marking the first time the firm has predicted a fall in Facebook usage for any age group.
A different picture is emerging in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where despite the rising popularity of Instagram, Snapchat and other social networking sites, Facebook has retained and is predicted to increase its share of users, according to eMarketer’s latest data available for the region.
In Saudi Arabia, almost 60 percent of the total population will be on Facebook by 2021, almost double the proportion recorded in 2013, according to the latest data for the country, updated in May. The proportion of social media users on Facebook is expected to also rise from 87 percent in 2013 to 95 percent in 2021.
The UAE is forecast to see similar growth, with almost 63 percent of the country’s total population to be using the network by 2021, again almost double that recorded in 2013, eMarketer data show.
However, growth is likely to slow in both countries, the report said. The UAE will see Facebook user growth slow to 3 percent in 2021, which compares to rates of 25 percent and 20 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Saudi Arabia will see a more subdued growth of 5 percent in 2021, eMarketer predicted.
The research firm categorizes a social media user as someone who accesses their Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat account via any device at least once a month.
Elsewhere, Facebook is likely to see its market share diminish, eMarketer analysts warn. In the US, the number of Facebook users as a proportion of all social network users is forecast to steadily decline from its peak of 91 percent in 2013 to 88 percent by 2021 as other networks gain ground, eMarketer’s data show.
The popularity of Instagram in the US is set to grow, with 55 percent of social media network users predicted to be on the picture-sharing network by 2021, compared to 37 percent in 2016. Similarly, Snapchat is gaining fans with the proportion of social network users accessing the messaging service rising to to 47 percent in 2021 compared to 33 percent in 2016, according to eMarketer.
Facebook’s marketshare in the UK is also being eroded. Facebook users as a proportion of total social media users is expected to decline from its 92 percent peak in 2012 to 87 percent by 2021.
“Facebook is still the big winner in social media,” said Bill Fisher, eMarketer’s UK senior analyst.
“But it will be slightly concerned that younger people in the UK are having their heads turned by Snapchat. Of course, its ownership of Instagram is softening the blow, and it will be further enthused to see Instagram’s longer-term prospects looking even better than Snapchat’s.”

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