The "monthly active users" figure has long been the industry standard for user engagement in social media. It's easy to digest, but more importantly, it's a benchmark capable of comparing the most social of social networks to the new kids on the block.
When it comes to Facebook, however, monthly active users have become a mere side dish to the more relevant main course that is "daily active users." During the company's Q2 earnings call, there was an entire menu of them: Daily actives worldwide (699 million), mobile daily actives (469 million in June), and even the number of active users during America's daily primetime television hours (88 to 100 million).
So when Facebook unveiled its daily active users figure for the U.S. last week — 128 million — it didn't simply break the industry standard, it began the process of rewriting it.
"A lot of people focus on monthly active users or even registered users to demonstrate their size and scale," the Menlo Park, Calif. company wrote in an email to media. "We think this is becoming on old way of looking at the media world. In this world, understanding who comes back at least once a month is only part of the picture."
Facebook defines "daily active users" as those who "actively visited/engaged with Facebook." In other words, active users are considered anyone who uses their Facebook login, even if it's for a third-party app.
A company spokesperson said the announcements highlighting daily active users won't come regularly, and that there is still value in monitoring and publishing monthly active users. Facebook's actions, however, seem to demonstrate its dedication to using the new metric.
For a company with the social-media giant's user base, there are multiple benefits to releasing daily user figures. For starters, they uphold the network's position as an industry leader, but these figures can also have a major impact on ad sales by providing marketers with information on exactly who they can reach and when.
"Our clients rely on Facebook to connect their message with the people that matter to them, every hour of every day," Will Platt-Higgins, Facebook's director of global accounts, said in a statement. "We want to provide marketers with helpful metrics and insights on consumer behavior, across all devices, to maximize the effectiveness of their campaigns. If a business has a sale on Monday, or if a film is premiering, Facebook gives marketers the certainty that they are reaching the right people, on any given day.”
Of course, changing the industry standard — intentionally or not — requires participation from said industry. Of course, changing the industry standard — intentionally or not — requires participation from said industry. Other social networks don't break out daily active users, although some appear to share Facebook's mindset.
"We look at a number of signals for engagement, but since most members rely on Nextdoor on a daily basis, it makes sense for us to focus on daily and weekly actives," Nirav Tolia, co-founder and CEO of Nextdoor, said in a statement. Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods, does not reveal its daily active user data.
"What we care most about is that people use the app multiple times every day," Nate Johnson, the company's vice-president of marketing, said. "We pay very close attention to that." Path also doesn't publish daily user data.
Other social networks such as LinkedIn, however, are not convinced.
"LinkedIn will continue to use monthly average users as a way to gauge engagement," according to a company statement. "Because we focus on the quality of time spent by our members rather than the amount of time, monthly average user continues to be a meaningful metric for advertisers who want to drive engagement over time."
Both microblogging service Twitter and Google+, the second-most popular social platform behind Facebook based on monthly active users, declined to comment. (Vine, the video-sharing service owned by Twitter reported total registered users on Tuesday, but not monthly actives.)
For the time being, Facebook appears to be in a league of its own, and said it plans to continue releasing monthly active user metrics. After all, it is the industry standard.
Would you rather receive data about a social network's daily or monthly active users? Give us your take in the comments, below.