Some stunning numbers about Facebook

I recently sent an email to my college roommate, regretting that we hadn’t been in touch and suggesting that we talk on the phone soon.

“Why?” he emailed back. “My whole life is on Facebook.”

Social networking among American adults has nearly doubled in less than three years, and Facebook is cornering the market.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, nearly half of all U.S. adults — 47 percent — are engaged in social networking on at least one platform. That’s up from the 26 percent of adults who used social networks in 2008.

A stunning 92 percent of adults who use social networks are on Facebook; MySpace trails with 29 percent, while LinkedIn and Twitter follow with 18 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Another stunning fact: of those Facebook users, 52 percent say they’re on it every day.

A protester in Rabat, Morocco, holds a "f" in recognition Facebook's role in the North African revolts, during a protest in March.
REUTERS/Adam Tanner
A protester in Rabat, Morocco, holds a “f” in recognition Facebook’s role in the North African revolts, during a protest in March.

Enough with numbers. In plain English, what this means is that Facebook is on its way to becoming the most used, most accepted form of personal communication in our society. You don’t need to call, write or email; just check Facebook and see what’s happening in the life of anyone you care about.

View their photos, click on the articles they recommend, see what they think of the latest “Glee” episode — it’s all there, often in real time.

I went to a local restaurant with some neighbors last week. A couple who usually joins us was on vacation, and we commented that they were missing the fun. One member of our party instantly took out his phone, snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook with a note to our absent friends. The whole thing took less than a minute.

Marketers have always maintained that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Facebook and cell phones — along with other interactive platforms like Yelp and YouTube — allow for instant word of mouth that can quickly spread to hundreds, even thousands of trusted contacts.

A mention on Facebook doesn’t yet have the power of an ad in the glory days of TV, when there were only three networks and marketers could easily reach a third of all Americans with any message they cared to send.

But it’s growing, and it’s powerful. It’s easy to forget that Facebook has been open to the public for less than five years.

It’s hard to imagine what will happen in the next five.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Paul Steinle on 06/20/2011 - 02:26 pm.

    Dear John,

    Interesting article. I noticed you attributed your (estimated) numbers of Facebook users to Pew research.

    Near the end of the article I notice that you write that advertising on Facebook is “powerful.” I am wondering what your source is for that assertion.

    Paul Steinle

  2. Submitted by C.S. Senne on 06/20/2011 - 02:42 pm.

    …uh, like, OMG! Facebook: a 24/7 holiday letter! Like look at me! Like look at my perfect children! Like are you still looking at me? Can you see me eating a cupcake? Why haven’t you tweeted me in the last hour? Like I posted another great picture of myself!! Ain’t narcissism grand?

  3. Submitted by John Reinan on 06/20/2011 - 04:08 pm.

    Paul, I meant that Facebook itself is powerful — wasn’t specifically referring to advertising, although I can see how you could read it that way.

    However, it’s worth adding — we had a client spend a modest amount of money recently, a few thousand dollars, on Facebook ads, and they have been driving tremendous traffic to the client’s main website and also have helped them increase their Facebook following by several thousand people.

    So I’d call that pretty powerful advertising.

  4. Submitted by r batnes on 06/20/2011 - 10:47 pm.

    I’ll agree with Julian Assange’s take on the Facebook phenomenon – “Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence.”…and the most fascinating part is that it’s updated constantly by the people themselves.

  5. Submitted by Lance Groth on 06/21/2011 - 02:47 pm.

    I agree with comment #2. The narcissism of modern society is breathtaking – and troubling.

    Bah, humbug. Count me among the luddites.

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