interesting facebook user statistics out recently confirm what most of us (and certainly your teenagers) already knew – the service is growing up, and it’s not (only) about the kids anymore. and that’s not even the biggest news. what do the changing demographics mean for facebook users? for the growing number of businesses and organizations seeking to use the service to communicate with those users? read on…
the service launched at harvard in early 2004; by the end of that year it had attracted a million members. by the end of 2005, it was up to 5.5 million users. facebook was increasingly popular with college students, but growth was limited by the policy of limiting membership to those with edu email addresses (facebook added high school and international student networks in 2005).
I first joined at the start of 2006 using an alumni address – looking back at my old emails, I was logging into uva.facebook.com. things really started to move later that year. in september 2006, facebook opened the doors to non-edu members. by year’s end, facebook was at 12 million. four months later, they rocketed past 2o million. by october, the total was at 50 million. 100 million came last summer. and now? facebook claims 250 million people are ‘actively using’ the site (on within the past 30 days). wow.
there can be no growth without change
while all this growth was happening, the company introduced a variety of changes and improvements to how things look and act on the site. nearly all of the changes were greeted by some degree of protest. non-technical users, the vast majority of facebook members, were either confused, frustrated, or both. users of other services, especially twitter, delighted in decrying the ‘twitterfication’ of facebook. kind of reminded me of the cult of apple back when microsoft launched windows 3.1 with its apple-ightful graphical user interface. as with microsoft, most stuck around. proof of facebook’s success? anecdotal ‘quitter’ stories in respectable news outlets. interface changes. privacy issues. crowds of attorneys with frivolous lawsuits. facebook just rolls over and absorbs them, like jabba the hutt or some giant ball of silly putty.
but I digress
the point is, facebook has successfully evolved from a fun social outlet for college (and shortly thereafter high school) kids into a fun social outlet for kids of all ages that can also serve as a marketing channel for businesses and organizations. I found some additional demographic info supporting the maturation of facebook’s user base (caveat – I believe these numbers are just for united states users. it records total users as 42mm, while facebook’s claim for january 2009 is 200mm users). in october 2007, just 4.1% of facebook users were 35 and over. by january 2009, that number was 19.0% – in increase of over 450% in less than 15 months. I show the actual percentages with the growth number to show that facebook is still pretty youthful – the total number of new users under 35 joining in the second half of 2008 exceeds the total number of older users at the end of that period!
burying the lead
so older? yeah, a little. but the most interesting bit didn’t get nearly the coverage. I’ve seen some commentary on another statistic regarding mobile facebook users. 65 million users, over 25% of current facebook members, access the service through mobile devices. however, the most interesting statistic didn’t make any of the articles I’ve seen. facebook notes that mobile users are 50% more active than non-mobile users. this kind of information is critical for anyone trying to develop strategies to communicate with the most engaged members of the facebook community. marketers need to be aware of what users see in the different versions – full versus the new lite versus mobile.
exciting stuff. what do you think?