Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Facebook: Addiction or Annoyance

Facebook has exploded with growth in recent months particularly among us older folk, and oddly enough in Los Angeles and Atlanta more than other cities.  In the beginning of the year I heard that the fastest growing demo of the website was women 55 and older (that's me--tomorrow I join the "older") and according to iStrategylabs, that trend continues to be true through July 2009. A FB board member, Mark Andreessen, who is currently venturing into the blog business, claims that FB will make billions in the next few years.  Currently FB brings in about half a billion for 200 million users making the per user revenue fairly small, although the number of active users is probably much less and active users are really the ones to bring eyeballs to the ads.

The trick for FB is to figure out how to remain the latest dot.com thing.  It has always been said that accurately figuring out the tastes of the movie going public, notwithstanding all the film models we have at studios, really would make a studio executive a millionaire.  So too for the internet where tastes seem to have an even shorter shelf life.

FB somehow has managed to find a broader audience than many of the other internet wonders.  It succeeds in creating a community for some, allowing the sharing of information, photos and videos.  Some of us spend time on it reconnecting with old friends and exchanging ideas.  Sometimes the exchanges are even material.  One of my friends today revealed that he got his ticket to the MJ Memorial through FB.  He simultaneously offered a ticket to Oleanna which was tempting to me but not feasible for this evening.  FB meets Craigslist.

Some people however really seem to dislike FB.  My daughter's beau, for example, disdains the site and chides my daughter for any time she spends on there.  I can understand a little bit about what he dislikes because the way young people typically use FB ("I am so getting crunk tonight") is less interesting to me as well.  Young people may in fact be leaving FB, and probably not just because they are graduating as BusinessWeek suggests.  Another of my younger friends, a woman in her mid-20s, hates the site now even though she found it addictive the first few days she joined.  When I asked her to explain, she said it was boring without anymore detail.

Many people I know only check FB occasionally because they are not that familiar with or interested in the technology.  Some are worried about their privacy and others prefer "human contact" such as bumping into people on subways or talking on the telephone.  Others feel they already have enough human contact during the workday and do not want to "talk" or otherwise interact with anyone on the internet in their free time.

It seems to me that figuring out what works with FB is beyond my simple powers of observation and deduction.  The one thing that may work to FB's advantage is its "graying".  We older folk have more money to spend on those products in the border ads.   If FB is to meet Andreessen's predictions, and not meet Myspace's fate, it needs to have the boomers clicking through on the sidebar ads, as well as grow the base.

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