Facebook moves beyond youth choice to become the people's choice

There was much of interest in the 6th annual Ofcom Communications Market Report issued earlier this month.  Highlights include that “Communications spend appears relatively robust when compared to alternative claims on disposable income” ie meals and nights out.  Mobile usage has overtaken landlines for the first time in the UK in the first half of 2009.  And we still love watching the telly – average minutage has gone up by a minute since 2003 at an average of 225 minutes a day each.

Facebook however has shown exceptional growth.  Since May last year the site has grown by 73% to reach 19 million unique users a month in the UK.

Comparable figures for MySpace and Bebo are down at 5 million and 4 million respectively and Twitter – which gets more press coverage than anything else has only 2.6 million unique users (although growth is exponential here too – but from a lower base of 150,000).

So what is the reason for Facebook’s command of the market?

Blake Chandlee, EMEA’s commercial director says the company sees itself as a utility which enables people to connect with each other in any way they want to.  And for many it now means that there is always a friendly face online for them to socialise with fulfilling a basic human drive of social contact.  Most of us are gregarious.  Facebook means that there no longer has to be any alone time.

And there is much more yet to come – from social search so that you can find out what your friends prefer rather than rely on an anonymous algorithym , to Facebook on your TV so that you can watch what your friends are tuned into and much more.  Chandlee also mentions as part of the company’s DNA the hundreds of engineers focussing on nothing other than ensuring privacy and that what you want kept personal and secure is kept that way.

One innovation  which has great potential for brands is Facebook Connect.  This launched at the start of the year with an event that allowed users to log-in to CNN during Obama’s inauguration and chat to friends whilst watching it live.  As a way of leveraging event TV, an entertainment launch or a big advertising stunt you can see its potential.

Facebook is due even more publicity.  The book about its foundation : The Accidental Billionaires: Sex, Money, Betrayal and the Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich is out now, and a movie scripted by West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin and produced by Kevin Spacey is rumoured.

Whether the Facebook people like the publicity or not the site has entered the mainstream.  Might this mean that younger audiences start to abandon it to find their own exclusive territory?  It might, but I think it might mean that it’s the family favourite, the people’s choice.

As seen at Mediaweek.co.uk

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