Why Facebook Hasn’t Hit a Billion Users

5 10 2012

Yesterday Facebook announced that it had passed the billion mark. It made news around the globe.  This was part of a media onslaught that also included the unveiling of Facebook’s first agency made commercial.

I have serious reasons to doubt accuracy of the figure.   Earlier this year the company I work for was asked by the Student Loans Company to ascertain what proportion of their target audience were Facebook users   We guessed it would be most but we wanted to provide a robust response.

We took population data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and matched it against age banded user data published by Facebook.  This was not entirely straightforward because the age bands that Facebook uses are not the same bands as the ONS uses.  Undeterred we found the following.

UK Population by age:

  • 20-24 – 4.31 million
  • 15-19 – 3.91 million

To get an 18-24 approximate figure we took the 20-24 figure and added 2/5 of the 15-19 figure. This gives us 5.87 million for the size of the population. Facebook data for this age group said that there were 7.33 million users.  So to answer the question that would mean 125% of the UK population aged 18-24 have a Facebook account.  The only reasonable explanation is that a good proportion of people have more than one Facebook account.  Anecdotally we know this to be true.   There are also a lot of fake accounts – 83 million according to Facebook’s own figures.

The billion user story is great for PR, at a time when Facebook really needs it.  There may be a billion Facebook accounts but I’m confident that they haven’t hit a billion users, yet.

If I’m wrong Mark, feel free to say so in the comments section below.

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Twitsophrenia – Split Personality Online

23 06 2011

Split Personality Cowboy and Indian CostumeIt began with a conversation in the Blackdog Ballroom with Dom Burch.  He is about to take a six month sabbatical from his role as Head of Corporate Communications at ASDA and he has a new twitter profile to mark the occasion.  I then saw on twitter that the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg is moving to ITV and will therefore cease to be @BBCLauraK; re-emerging in the autumn as @ITVLauraK.

The border lines in social networks are commonly understood if sometimes blurry.  Facebook for friends and frivolity,  LinkedIn for work and Twitter…well for either, or a bit of both, or neither.  Twitter is nothing if not versatile but if you tie your twitter account to one aspect of your life, in this case your working life, then you may find yourself in need of multiple on-line personalities.   The other downside is that if your circumstances change you’ll lose the network of followers that you have lovingly built.

For journalists, their personal following online is becoming more and more important.  Speaking in Cannes this week Piers Morgan claimed that a single tweet added up to half a million viewers to an interview he conducted with Charlie Sheen on CNN.  The value of a personal online network is not solely the preserve of the press.   So I guess we have to decide.  We can have different accounts for the different aspects of our lives or we can have an account that reflects the varied aspects of who we are and what we do but isn’t tied to any of them.  The choice as they say, is yours.





The Curious Case of Connect.Me

9 03 2011

Earlier today San Francisco web developer Joe Johnston launched his contribution to the social web with a small post via his twitter account @simple10.  It said simply “connect.me beta sign-up launched http://cxt.me/cn2Wfw“.

He doesn’t have a huge following but within hours the twittersphere was buzzing and some high-profile people were registering connect.me profiles without actually knowing what was on offer.  Secrecy seemed to be at the heart of the launch strategy; “We’d love to share more” said the site “but we’re in ninja stealth mode and would regrettably have to kill you.”  Part of the sign-up process seems to have involved (personally I wouldn’t touch it without knowing more) granting access to your social networks with the promise “We’re a better way to manage your connections and a better way for online communities to discover and connect”.

I don’t know about you but it seems pretty asymmetric to me to grant access to your social graph with zero information on offer as to why or what for.  However the desire to register your user name seems to be a big driver as many people did just that.

It looks like connect.me has found ways to get various types of data, particularly from Facebook once the user has provided a one-off authentication.  It will also call on data from Twitter and LinkedIn.   That might provide an exciting way of linking your social networks but equally it seems pretty scary granting that kind of access without knowing why.





Should Advertising Regulate in Social Media?

1 09 2010

Today the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that it extend its remit to cover “marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter”.  The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has decided to extend the digital remit of the ASA and has today published a document detailing the new remit and sanctions.

I have some serious and personal concerns about the document.  In justifying the extension of its remit ASA refers to 3,500 complaints in 2008 and 2009 about the content of organisation’s websites.  How does this relate to social networks or social media?  Throughout the document there is constant reference to “other marketing communication” (sixteen times on 14 pages) with only a very loose definition of what constitutes “other marketing communication” suggesting that it is concerned principally with the primary intention “to sell something”.  Marketing communications is so much broader than that.

The plan is to carry out a review of guidelines in 2013, two years after the implementation of the extended remit.  This shows a fundamental misunderstanding and disregard for the speed of change on-line; for example in two years Twitter went from zero to 10 million tweets per day.  Spotify, which is fundamentally changing the music business, is less than two years old.

There is also a contradiction in terms of definition.  The guidelines exclude “press releases and other public relations material” and yet the definition of “other marketing communications” includes items that could be considered to be public relations material, for example the promotion of unsolicited (or solicited) consumer endorsement.

I would endorse all of the objectives of the CAP code with regard to the prohibition of misleading advertising, the protection of children and social responsibility.  The intentions here are good there is no doubt of that.  I just can’t help feeling that in regulating the social media space, bodies that concern themselves with advertising and have advertising in their title feel more than a little out-of-place.





Cameron and Zuckerberg Face to Face

9 07 2010

Two weeks ago this blog reported that Mark Zuckerberg and David Cameron had met at Number 10.  In this video conference between the two of them, Cameron confirms that the meeting happened. 

In an extraordinary, albeit somewhat staged discussion, David Cameron demonstrates that he hasn’t forgotten the PR skills that he forged in his early career.  In short, this is a quick chat about crowd sourcing ideas for debt reduction using Facebook.  The British public will be invited to communicate their ideas through a dedicated forum on the number one social network.    This is partly a PR exercise to show just how down with the new channels the new PM is.  He even speaks the lingo “thank you for engaging” he says to Zuckerberg and “it’s all been, up to now, very top down”.

It also shows just how powerful the social networks are becoming.  Not only does Zuckerberg get ‘face time’ with the British Prime Minister for the second time in less than a month he is also given an open invitation to drop by whenever he likes; “next time you are in town come and look us up”.





Cameron Meets Facebook’s Zuckerberg at Number 10

21 06 2010

Downing Street If  more proof were needed of the growing power of social networks it came with the news that the new UK prime minister David Cameron met this morning with Facebook head honcho Mark Zuckerberg at 10 Downing Street.

Joining the two fresh-faced power brokers was the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, who used Twitter at 11.28am to announce the meeting had just taken place “Just met Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook. Really smart guy with some good ideas on improvement digital engagement in policy making.”

According to the BBC’s Rory Cellan Jones “the Cameron/Zuckerberg summit was about how government can use the internet more to engage with the public”.

This is the first time that a British prime minister has met with a social network supremo and he did so before he has had face to face talks with many of the world’s major political leaders.





Top 10 Web Wonders of the Decade #2

13 01 2010

It may be the number one social network on the planet and the second most visited site after Google but it misses the number one spot on our list of web wonders from the last decade.

Number 2: Facebook

Facebook  currently has more than 350 million active users worldwide.  It is probably also the world’s most valuable web property.  Eighteen months ago BusinessWeek valued the business between $3.75 billion and $5 billion  based on reported that private sales of stock and purchases by venture capital firms.  Despite all of this it wasn’t until September last year that Facebook enjoyed a positive cash flow.

When it was launched in 2004, access was initially limited to students in the US and the public roll out wasn’t until 2006, and it would take another year for Facebook to roll out globally.  The ubiquity of the most powerful of social networks has been achieved in little more than three years.  While the growth of twitter seems to have stalled of late Facebook use keeps on climbing.   According to data from Nielsen this month for the third month in succession Facebook has seen an increase in the number of U.S. users and the amount of time spent on site whilst Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and even Google all witnessed a decline in users during November.

Facebook has become so ingrained in our culture that the very name has evolved into use as a verb; “I’ll facebook you later”.  So if Facebook is the world’s number two website and the number one, Google is ineligible for this top ten list (because it launched in the 1990s), the what could be the number one web wonder of the decade?  Stay tuned.








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