Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Opt-in may save Facebook brand

December 6, 2007

Facebook responded to a significant user revolt (50,000 signatures) who demanded that the Beacon system be turned into an opt-in program. For the last 3 weeks, Facebook was turning personal buying decisions over to online friends and info-hungry companies such as Fandango.com and Blockbuster… that is, unless users opted out of the Beacon program. Now, they have to choose to share their info if they want.

Mark Zuckerberg by Craig Ruttle/AP I believe for colleges the most important lesson is the volatility of a brand. Just a few weeks ago, the Facebook brand was so golden that Microsoft was willing to pay $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in the company. Today, and for months or years to come, the Facebook brand is tarnished because of decisions that put its profitability ahead of its clients’ interests. Its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has also no doubt sustained some negative PR baggage. Here’s what Mark said: “We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them.” Indeed.

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Facebook vs. porn

December 6, 2007

Here’s another interesting trend, as revealed in Time:

… after other social networks, the most clicked-on category of sites was search engines, with 11.6% of all downstream visits. Web-based e-mail services were next with 8.5%. Blogs came in third in popularity at 6.1%, claiming more than four times the number of visits to traditional news sites, which logged 1.5% of downstream visits.

Perhaps a more interesting — and more accurate — way to figure out where college students are going online is to assess which of the 172 web categories tracked by Hitwise get the most hits from 18- to 24-year-olds. Here’s a shocker: Porn is not No. 1. I’ve actually been puzzled by the decrease in visits to the Adult Entertainment category over the last two years. Visits to porn sites have dropped from 16.9% of all site visits in the U.S. in October 2005 to 11.9% as of last week, a 33% decline. Currently, for web users over the age of 25, Adult Entertainment still ranks high in popularity, coming in second, after search engines. Not so for 18- to 24-year-olds, for whom social networks rank first, followed by search engines, then web-based e-mail — with porn sites lagging behind in fourth. If you chart the rate of visits to social-networking sites against those to adult sites over the last two years, there appears to be a strong negative correlation (i.e., visits to social networks go up as visits to adult sites go down). It’s a leap to say there’s a real correlation there, but if there is one, then I’d bet it has everything to do with Gen Y’s changing habits: they’re too busy chatting with friends to look at online skin. Imagine.

One question left by reading Bill Tancer’s article is: though social networking enjoys a higher percentage than porn at present, has the actual visiting of porn sites dropped among Millennials? Or are they just visiting Facebook more… in other words, more internet activity?

Facebook sharkbait

December 4, 2007

First, what the press is saying: “Facebook has turned all the people who rooted for it into a lynch mob….from media darling to devil. The most interesting thing about Facebook right now is who will replace it.”

My take: Millennials at their core are civil libertarians, but not in the way Boomers are. Unlike Boomers, they trust some things: family, community, human nature … even certain institutions. Yes, they also distrust hype and hubris. But not with the revolutionary, righteous indignation of us boomers. I perceive their attitude to be more like “Duh, so you like, were expecting a corporation to be truthful and protect your information?!! Of course they’re going to screw you if they can.” Reputations don’t have as far to fall, because expectations are lower and cynicism… no, that implies disillusionment; an absence of illusions is much more prevalent.

On the other hand, a strong reaction is possible to this Facebook thing, because once the exodus starts among friends, it will quickly accelerate. Because in my view Millennials to a large extent have not yet discovered how dangerous and vulnerable their reliance on digital media and identities can be. When they realize they’ve been stalked by info profiteers, I think there’ll be a backlash and a switch to something that makes the virtual community they desire easy while decreasing the actual commitments and facts they have to share.

All of this confirms my belief that colleges should go slow on being too diabolical with the info harvest methodologies. Be careful about the microsites that tie in email compaigns to a unique URL for each prospect. Bear in mind that when you as a frosh prospect get a postcard in the mail that shows a photo of a volleyball player at some school, pulled from a database because you are tagged as a volleyball player… and that what you’re thus experiencing is not a legitimate personal interest in you… When you finally see that XYZU was simply including you in a numbers game, as a calculated effort to catch your attention…. well, you may wonder why you ever expressed an interest in XYZU. You’ll feel hustled — invited to the dance through an impersonal marketing effort, made possible by combing through your digital life for hot buttons to push.

Ultimately I think the pendulum will settle closer to the gravitas of authenticity … of colleges simply being who they are, and letting prospects pick their school based on how that fits with what feels right for them.

SpaceBook and MyFace

December 3, 2007

On a lighter note, here’s a funny Norwegian-esque look at this careening internet culture…

Gunther Wilson on SpaceBook and MyFace.

Do you want to associate with Facebook?

December 3, 2007

It’s funny how when a company goes overboard, as Facebook did with its Beacon info harvesting snafu, its customers start looking at everything it does a little more carefully. It’s a lot worse than first glance. So now I discover what a young facebook user produced last June:

Ominous Facebook video

Which is on the regularjen blog. You can also read RXCringely’s report here.

Millennials’ webnetworking and ethnicity

November 22, 2007

Interesting research at Northwestern finds a connection between ethnicity and the sites millennials choose for their social networking activity.

The research surveyed just over 1000 freshmen at my daughter’s school, UIC — which is in the top 10 nationally in terms of student ethnic diversity.

Facebook enjoys 80% usage, 75% frequently. MySpace is used by 54%, 40% frequently. Then comes Xanga, Friendster, Orkut, and Bebo, all of them at under 10% usage.

Whites disproportionally choose Facebook, while Hispanics prefer MySpace and Asians disproportionally choose NOT to use MySpace. Asians use Facebook, too, but also choose Xanga in disproportionate numbers. The study found no preference of one site over another among African-American young people. It also found that kids who live with their parents (which happens perhaps more at a commuter school like UIC) are “considerably less likely to use Facebook than their more socially connected peers.”

Even more interesting to me was a very strong correlation between parental education level and the choice of social networking sites:

Students whose parents have a college degree are significantly more likely to use Facebook than those whose parents have some college experience but no degree. MySpace users, on the other hand, are more likely to have parents with less than a high school education than those whose parents had some college experience.

The study confirms what we all know instinctively, that we are all influenced by our nurture…. If we are inclined to get involved, we’ll also get involved online. If we are inclined to hang out in certain circles as children, we’ll be inclined to run in those circles as adults, even if we have opportunities to change our patterns.

My biggest takeaway is this statement by the researcher, Eszter Hargittai: “Everyone points to that wonderful New Yorker cartoon of the dog at the computer telling a canine friend by his side that ‘on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog’. In reality, however, it appears that online actions and interactions should not be viewed as independent of one’s offline identity.” (Emphasis mine).

Another excellent writeup on this report is found on Associated Content.

Chase is chasing Millennials

October 29, 2007

The marketing department of Chase certainly keeps up with the Millennial generation demo research. In a letter to my daughter promoting the Chase Plus 1 Student Mastercard, notice how many hot button phrases get dropped in one short paragraph: “it’s about being a part of something… Totally new way to hook up your friends, your community, and yourself…Earn points on Facebook…use Karma points for music, DVDs, electronics…” Yep, Millennials like significance, community, Facebook, religious pluralism, music, DVDs, iPods, and “hooking up” … no doubt the double entendre was intentional.