Ofcom: Why kids are leaving Facebook, etc.
Today the UK national media were reporting that social network sites like Facebook and Twitter are no longer the preserve of the young with middle-aged people (like me!) logging into them in ever-larger numbers based on a report published by Ofcom, the communications regulator.
I got a call from Manx Radio here in the Isle of Man asking me if I’d come in and do an interview on the subject, and I said I’d be delighted. The thing is once the interview got underway we spent most of the time talking about Twitter, the how-to and why-bothers of it, and about the privacy aspects of Facebook. We ran out of time to talk about the Ofcom report.
But I did want to explore some of the reasons why it seems the kids are deserting social networking platforms. You see, Ofcom found a fall of almost ten percent in the number of 15 to 24 year-olds logging onto social networking sites from the internet at home. It also reports the proportion of 25 to 34 year olds using social networking sites fell from 55 to 50% and therefore concludes these are signs that the use of social networking sites may already have peaked among younger adults.
Many pundit are supposing that youngsters are fleeing because of the huge growth, from 40 to 45%, of 35 t0 54 year-olds using online social networks. There may some truth in that, but I believe it’s not for the whole “My Dad’s on Facebook? I’m leaving!” scenario.
You have to look at the larger tech and publishing trends to get the whole picture. Facebook was originally launched for use among college and university students. It’s whole premise was to let them interact and socialise online. Facebook leveraged the superior campus networks and the whole social aspect of university life to build its user base. The kids loved it, and it caught on like wild fire.
Since that time Facebook has opened up to all adults to use. It’s expanded worldwide, launched advertising, branding features and every old person’s favorite…email. Its steep path to profitability has had some bumps in the road, but progress has been steady and the company seems set to become the ‘Google’ of social networks. As this has happened, the product development strategy has change focus dramatically since the early days. Facebook’s appeal for younger people has become diluted as the company has focued on acquiring a more affluent demographic into its user base. So yes, Facebook is no longer all about life at uni. The kids don’t think it’s as much fun.
MySpace has different issues, but that are similar in that they relate to how the company’s growth strategy is impacting the platform. Yes, as an early entry into the market, MySpace was once the dominant social networking site and was credited with launching the careers of everyone from Lily Allen to the Arctic Monkeys to Snow Patrol. But with the advent of Facebook, Bebo and Twitter, MySpace’s prominance in the grand scheme of things has taken a hit. Since being bought by Murdoch’s News Corp, there has a been an exodus from the MySpace C-suite and the website is being blamed for its parent’s US$203 million loss in the fourth quarter this year. It’s transformation from an indy and underground culture to that of mainstream publishing most certainly must be causing many teething pains and this is impacting product development. So perhaps the kids are not as engaged as they once were. Still, the site’s audience has increased five percent this year, according to Ofcom.
When it comes to Twitter, well the kids were never there in the first place. They already had the online chatter thing worked out with MSN Messenger and phone SMS messages. So it didn’t really fulfill any need for them and wasn’t really relevant from the get-go. They are not leaving. They had never arrived.
So my message to all those mums, dads and grandfolks out there that think they are driving the young people away from social networks, don’t feel guilty. It’s not you. It’s the network platforms that are letting them down. Don’t worry though, our young, bright sparks are out there right now figuring out the next big thing for us.
BTW: If you want to hear my Manx Radio interview that doesn’t mention any of these things, but does cover Twitter basics and how private Facebook really is, click here!
Related articles by Zemanta
- Monetisation of social networking boom ‘eagerly anticipated’ (jonggunlee.tistory.com)
- With uncertain future, Bebo gets a new president (digital.venturebeat.com)
- Planet Facebook – Is Social-networking Site a Phenomenon or a Fad … (jonggunlee.tistory.com)