Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Facebook - Now we are five

(By Richard Holway) Facebook is five today. If you had listened to the Today programme today, you would have got the impression that John Humphreys thought that was the average age of its users. His disdain was palpable!

Like it or loathe it, Facebook has been a phenomenal success in those five years. It now has over 150m users and has overtaken MySpace as the most popular social networking site. Over 70% of users are outside the US. The average user has 120 friends. Those 150m users spend 3b minutes (or 5700 years!) on Facebook everyday. 13m users update their profile at least once per day. 850m photos are uploaded every month. 2m events are created and there are 20m active user groups. More than half of Facebook users are over 21 – indeed the fastest growing sector is the over 30s.

The problem with Facebook is how on earth can you monetise it? Every attempt so far has failed. We all accept adverts on news websites but think it’s intrusive on social networking sites. Facebook users have kicked back against every monetising attempt so far. Now they plan to turn it into a giant market research engine. Based on your profile, you will be asked to complete research questionnaires. I’ll need persuading on that one.

I think the real problem is that Facebook is trying to make it alone. Noble as that might be, it really needs to be part of a larger entity whose main aim with Facebook can then be as a marketing channel; drawing in all those sticky users. I have long contended that Microsoft should buy it and use it as their Mytop. Ie you (or 150m users) use your Facebook page as your portal not just to all things Facebook, but all things Microsoft (like Contacts, Word documents and onward into the Cloud) I think that would be a much better purchase than Yahoo or AOL.

Personally, I still check into Facebook everyday. Yesterday, many of my friends posted snow pictures – as did I. My grandson started school in Perth, Australia yesterday and the Status update from my daughter created comment from many of our extended family and friends around the world. It was a day of “Facebook at its Best”. John Humphreys clearly doesn’t know what he’s missing.

1 comment:

Richard Holway said...

Interesting comment received from Nick Brown. He further suggests we start a Facebook Group to "Get John Humphreys onto Facebook"

Hi Richard,

I liked the fb article this morning. I also listened to radio4 this morning. I have to say that if anyone has used fb as successfully as Obama did to win the race for presidency, then the contender on this side of the pond would have to be radio 4’s very own Ed Stourton.

Ed set up a group on fb when his career was threatened to be cut short (see I joined his group that he created to drum up support and the good news is that he continues to be the brilliant broadcaster we love to hear. He recently sent a message out to thank people too!

I wonder how this could have even been achieved 5 years ago – fb allows me to be known and counted, but I don’t have to submit my private contact details or address. Maybe we have discovered that campaigning will emerge as a fruitful bounty for their business model?

How else could you have achieved that without the phenomenon that is fb? - No one wants to waste time signing a petition, we are the ‘now’ generation after all!

Mr. H will be on fb in no time – and the bad news; it’s far to sticky to leave once you are!

All the best,