Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Facebook and the social networking phenomenon

A few minutes ago, on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, it was reported that David Burrows MP was to ask Tony Blair the first question in Blair's last PMQs in the Commons today. He had asked people to post suggestions for that question on his Facebook site. (The most popular to date was "Is the possibility of you taking up playing the guitar professionally in your retirement just an Ugly Rumour?")

The fact that an MP is on Facebook was accepted without comment.

I have a Facebook entry (please "Be my friend") Of course, I only joined for professional research reasons! Then I found out that, contrary to perceived opinion, Facebook is not just for 18-22 year old college students (although there are rather a lot of them!). I found that a huge number of my business friends were also there. Some, by the way, posting hour-by-hour updates on their business appointments. Very revealing!

The Social Networking phenomenon is quite amazing. Myspace and Bebo are the leaders right now in the UK with c33% market share each in May 2007 (Source - Hitwise) Myspace has grown two and half times since Apr 06 and Bebo is up 3-times. But the one to watch is Facebook coming in at Number 3 with a 13% market share. But Facebook traffic is up 20-times on the year and 9-times since Sept 06. Amazing!

Hitwise has just published an excellent (and free..) report on Social Networking. I commend you read it.

Some facts for you:

  • Social networking now accounts for 4% of all UK internet visits - up 79% in one year
  • Comsumers spend more time on socal networking sites than any others. An average of 25 minutes..
  • Retailers are finding that upstream visits from social networking sites are soaring. For example, received 55% more upstream visits from Myspace than from Yahoo. Topshop more than twice - making Myspace the #2 referring site (after Google)

Although social networking is perceived as a young people's activity, all my experience indicates that its taken hold of us "older folk" too. I have long believed (see Click here) that "Silver Surfers" do, and will continue to, make up a significant percentage of internet users. And they are huge consumers (the link up between Saga and the AA yesterday illustrated that). Some may wish to belittle such sites as Facebook. But they are clearly having a major effect on how we interact both with our network of friends and with advertisers/retailers. That will have a detrimental effect on other sectors.

A good example of this is how email and other electronic means of communication means that the upcoming postal strike in the UK elicits a "Who cares?" response from most. Except, of course, for the 35% of the UK population who don't have internet access. Maybe, just maybe, they are the kind of consumers that advertisers don't care very much about... The same might well apply to membership of one or more social networking sites. Maybe, you will just not be able to exist socially or in business without being a member. A new definition of social exclusion?

And another of Holway's "Ignore this at your peril" warnings.

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