At first it appeared like a rather amusing way of keeping up with friends from college, university and the workplace. Now, however, it’s clear that it’s changing the way we communicate.
It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. TV 13 years. But Facebook managed to attract over 100 million users in just 4 years and 6 months. Already it has a user-base of over 200 million, including stacks of Generation X and even Baby boomers merrily discovering its joys.
If it were a country, Facebook would be the 3rd biggest country in the world. And it’s still growing.
What this means for your business?
With increasing numbers of baby-boomers on Facebook, it seems a whole generation is getting more comfortable with online social media.
People who a few years ago were struggling to get their head around email are slowly but surely getting used to communicating more informally with digital text. This is having a knock-on effect for business communication as the formal business letter seems to be struggling under the weight of social media communication. I’m seeing more and more smiley faces in serious emails !
Of course, management still send out formal emails to clients and staff and I don’t expect that to change. But recipients certainly seem to be looking for more and more personality in the digital communication they receive, if the customers I talk to are anything to go on. Otherwise it just doesn’t get read.
Facebook – A channel to talk
Facebook is also proving to be a new channel to discuss products and services with customers, as well as a place to provide them with plenty of resources.
A few years ago you went to the company Support Forum for info or help. Now you’re just as likely to find help on a Facebook Fan Page.
IEG SÃ¶dermalm â€“a senior high school here in Stockholmâ€“ are using Facebook as a community resource (Disclosure: I’m consulting with IEGS on social media strategy). It’s great to see Maths Help and Writing Help appear online in a Facebook Wall, as well as the more predictable technical resources. Created in the smash and grab spirit of YouTube, the community has definitely seized upon this channel as its rapidly become one of the school’s biggest sources of daily web.
Facebook is also quickly replacing email as a way of getting information out to people. Answering a question or posting information to the Fan Page Wall seems to spread the word â€“ especially if tied in with other social media outlets like Twitter and a blog.
Facebook’s Becoming Ubiquitous
Wherever I look right now I seem to find people using Facebook. as one of the selling points to promote the Nokia N97.
Businesses, lunch groups, car manufactures, coffee houses, people promoting concerts; all of them and many more seem to be reaching out on Facebook.
For me the final sign that Facebook is now ubiquitous is that a growing number of my friends are starting to email me through Facebook rather than directly firing up a desktop email client to get in touch. When fortysomethings who’ve never heard the phrase “social media” are using it as an integral part of their daily lives, you know it’s mainstream. For a while at least.
An Eye on the Future
Lets be cautious though. Just a couple of years ago a lot of people were on MySpace. Just ask Rupert Murdoch.
It remains to be seen whether Facebook can be the first social media site to mature and maintain a broad audience.