Thursday, January 31, 2008

Facebook Figures Drop: Are WeTaking Our Balls and Going Home?

The Register reports today on a disturbing, yet totally predictable, trend: engagment in social networking sites is declining. Chris Williams sums up the comScore figures thusly:
The average length of time users spend on all of the top three sites is on the slide. Bebo, MySpace and Facebook all took double-digit percentage hits in the last months of 2007. December could perhaps be forgiven as a seasonal blip when people see their real friends and family, but the trend was already south.

The story year-on-year is even uglier for social networking advocates. Bebo and MySpace were both well down on the same period in 2006 - Murdoch's site by 24 per cent. Facebook meanwhile chalked up a rise, although way off its mid-2007 hype peak when you couldn't move for zeitgeist-chasing "where's the Facebook angle?" stories in the press and on TV.


Creative Captial read the comScore report and posts a nifty chart o'figures to explain it all...

Chris chalks all of it up to people getting bored with social networking--IMO, it's more about people getting bloody well tired (and in the old-fashioned, literal sense of the word) with having to chase around all the various social networkings and applications and other stuff, and *THEN* trying to keep up with all the conversations going on all over the place...

AND USUALLY AMONG THE SAME PEOPLE!!!

We're social networking all over the place, but we're not necessarily making new acquaintances--which was a big part of the "fun" of the old web. We're oftentimes just porting one group of friends from one network to another. Sure, when changing from LinkedIn to Facebook, we *might* add some folks to one that might not be on the other--but for many adults, there may be little distinction between friends on one network or another.

Even among young people I know, some will have a distinction between their Facebook friends (the preppies) and their MySpace friends (their "weird" friends) and will toggle between networks, but rarely meet new people online.

After awhile, even young people--who we *all* know are *so* much better at this online stuff then us old farts who've been here for well over a decade or more-- find it a real pain-in-the-ass to keep going between two or more social networking sites.

Yes, living a "double life" can be kind of tiring--no matter what your age...

And OpenID's not a *bad* idea--but maybe we're just over the whole thing anyway...(see Mashable's! highly unscientific poll and this great discussion of the subject at WiredJournalists and a post by Karen Christensen of the Berkshire Publishing group on the same thing--heh, go figure...guess that social networking burnout thing's kinda common...)

And not only are we not meeting anyone new, we're also not having any kinds of conversations, not exchanging much in the way of real information, not learning anything all that new, not even contributing to a particular body of knowledge (unless you consider contributing to marketers' stats contributing to a body of knowledge.) We're just sort of passively following various streams of our friends' thoughts....

Then again, what the figures *don't* show is a possible distrust of the web. Perhaps many people are heeding calls to watch out where you go online, and to not spread yourself too thin, lest you lose track of all that info about you that's out there.

Sometimes you have to pick your social networks as much as you have to pick your friends...

Perhaps forgetting-where-you've-been-lately is what happened to Arlington, OR mayor Carmen Kontur-Gronquist, who's recall was prompted by MySpace photos that show the mayor in a black bra and panties posing on a fire engine...

Brings a whole new meaning to the term "being hosed...."

They Mayor sez the photos shouldn't count because they were taken before she was elected....in true Pee Wee Herman "I meant to do that!" speech.

Then again, we *do* kinda consider past records of candidates when we vote for them. By her logic, Rudy Giuliani's two divorces and kid troubles shouldn't have made a difference in his low turnout in Florida--but I'd hedge a bet that they did...

So, you can never be too sure about what you put online, who might hold it against you, etc. And if you're just too darned tired or totally forget about all those profiles on all those social networking sites out there, you never know when one might come back and bite you in the ass...

Literally and figuratively...

Then again, maybe in the whole social networking scheme of things, we're figuring out that the best kinds of interactions end up being the ones we have face to face.

Just a thought...

3 comments:

Wendell said...

If Fb use really does drop (and we're not just seeing a settling to some plateau), I wonder about pre-Fb services. Will they resurface? How much has survived the past 18 months?
And is it true that everybody's headed over to twitter? (I can't imagine - but then I thought Fb was a bust.)

Watching and listening to the people around me (20-30 year olds), I'd say the user-originated spam is what most complaints are about, while looking at photos is the most popular past time. Maybe photo-sharing services will see a bounce back?

Tish Grier said...

I don't know about *everybody* heading over to twitter, but I know that the journalism community is looking for ways to use twitter for something other than just telling everyone you had waffles for breakfast...

Then again, twitter's had some outages over the past couple of days, so even that's not immune and could be a point against it (esp. if reporters and others are thinking of turning to it for cit j. or on the spot journalism in crisis situations....)

I'm going to look at the FB figures again because I'm thinking that FB's spike had to do with opening the site up to adults. If there's a correlation, then we might say that FB's building not nec. on long-term interest, but on the whim of adults who can't figure out when *not* to join something...

Eventually, *everything* out here on the web settles to a certain equilibrium. I think of Slashdot, which isn't the *hot* thing these days, but still has a loyal following and then some. Thing is, we don't know about *any* of this stuff--we don't know how long any of it will last, nor if any of it makes for viable business. The business models sure are hinky, if they exist at all.

KarenC said...

Would love to see any reference sources you recommend that analyse types of community and look at motivations for joining and participating in a social networking site. Also anything you've seen on types of participation (some people ask questions, some answer them, and others facilitate conversation/interaction).