Facebook is the most talked about social network of 2007, connecting over 30 million members daily. The site extended its reach over the past year beyond its core base of United States college students and into high school, workplaces, and metropolitan areas. The new Facebook lets outside developers reach its entire audience through the Facebook Platform, groups, and events yet most companies are unfamiliar with the social norms of the world they are about to enter.
I sat down with my 19 year-old sister the day before she left for her second year of college at UC Santa Barbara. She is part of a generation of teens that grew up with social networks such as NeoPets, LiveJournal, and MySpace as digital forms of personal expression. Today my sister’s life is connected through Facebook, which now includes her family, friends, and classmates. She sends more messages through Facebook than e-mail or IM combined, preferring to reach people she knows inside of a webpage.
My sister joins social networks to share media and information with friends. In high school LiveJournal was a way to share stories, suppress gossip, or just generally vent about teachers and parents. MySpace became the central location for sharing photographs through the site’s built-in photo feature or extended through the Photobucket widget.
My sister joined Facebook shortly after receiving a UC Santa Barbara e-mail address. Her dorm‘s resident assistant quickly created Facebook groups for the entire building before anyone arrived at school. Facebook groups connected the incoming first-year students by floor, allowing my sister to know her neighbors before ever meeting face-to-face.
Facebook opened its applications platform on May 24th with a group of about 70 launch partners. The most popular of these applications replicated MySpace features such as a top friends list, music playback on your profile, and more Flash widgets on your wall. My sister’s friends protested the change by joining a group against the MySpace-ification of Facebook.
The most popular applications among my sister’s friends are artsy comment tool Graffiti, The Compass politics ratings by The Washington Post, and virtual drinks sent by Happy Hour. She discovers new applications through her friends’ news feeds.
Marketing and advertisements
Happy Hour makes revenue through a survey firm Peanut Labs. My sister answers survey questions in exchange for virtual currency to spend on virtual drinks. She is not aware of other advertising in her favorite applications.
It is unclear what information is shared with each of the applications she uses every day. My sister pays little to no attention to the permissions prompts when installing applications and presumes all boxes checked by default are mandatory for using each application.
Listen to the podcast
I discuss these issues and more in this podcast on Facebook usage trends. Our conversation is 30 minutes in length, a 14 MB download.