The continuing popularity of social media is undeniable, despite recent claims that Facebook is losing its appeal in the UK and USA.
Three of the world’s most popular brands online are social-media related (Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia) and the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites, equating to 22 percent of all time online or one in every four and half minutes!
The latest study by the UK Online Measurement Company (UCOM) and research company, Nielson has produced some interesting insights into Facebook usage and its evolving fan base. The study concluded that 26.8 million people in the UK visited Facebook during May, only Google was more popular. Also, the site originally set up for students is attracting an older audience. Use of the social networking site by the over-50s is rising faster than any other group. Membership, as a whole grew by 41 per cent between 2009 and 2011, but among older users, the figure was 84 per cent, according to Nielsen.
Adoption by the over 50’s, combined with new users from the populations of developing countries going online, will enable Facebook to reach the billion user milestone relatively quickly.
These more affluent older members will increase Facebook’s appeal to businesses as they are an attractive audience for advertisers, whereas Simon Spaull, Chief Development officer at advertising agency TBG Digital, points out that the younger, under 25 audience, are difficult to monetize.
The presence of parents on Facebook may drive away the younger generations, although trends expert Dr Antonia Ward from The Future Laboratory states that the broadening appeal is inevitable. "It is a platform. As it becomes embedded in society, it becomes more embedded across the general public. Something like Facebook has to have a very broad base of users or it does not work," she said.
Sam Gadsby, Head of Social Media at Clicky Media said, “That combination of established and edgy is seen as a virtue by many advertisers”
It is unlikely that Facebook will lose its appeal to the younger generation and move towards an older audience but more probable that it will widen its appeal, becoming a combined community of young and older users alike, and social and business users.