Just as Facebook launches its latest iPhone app (3.0), the NY Times is reporting a Facebook exodus. When you see the recent jumps in the site’s overall numbers, an exodus is not immediately evident. According to comScore, Facebook attracted 87.7 million unique visitors in the United States in July.
In Mobile apps, we are finding that users have a core set of utilities and other apps including social networking sites are more disposable. The average length varies based on entertainment and connectivity factors. Mobile app user behavior seems to apply to the web based social apps as well. Once the novelty runs its course, users will move on to something else.
When I first established my Facebook account, it was the place I could connect the brands I worked for to college students and other bloggers. Today, it resembles the MySpace of 2007. A personal repository for images, video, text and superfluous applications. In last year's Facebook hype tour, Mark Zuckerberg claimed it was the one stop shop platform for all social interaction. In January, the numbers were impressive. The 35-54 year old demo was the fastest growing segment, with a 276.4% growth rate over an approximate 6 months. The 55+ demo was not far behind with a 194.3% growth rate. With those rates of growth, it is hard to see the exodus.
The numbers above only reflect people joining, and nothing more. The exodus seems to be happening amongst the Facebook early adopters and its core user base, college students. Many in this demographic have fled to new social software platforms that are less intrusive, more mobile and that have an auto connect to Facebook. (i.e. four square, loopt, friend feed, flickr, friendster, buddy cloud etc.)
Heffernan article outlined seven people who have left the site. She hardly highlights or proves a mass exodus. After a bit of research, the numbers reflect a significant drop in Facebook's college and youth demographic. In Jan of 09 its largest demographic concentration was amongst the 18-24 year olds, 40.8% which was a significant drop from 53.8% six months prior. (Download 2009 Facebook Demographics and Statistics as an Excel spreadsheet)
By no means do I see this trend as the demise of Facebook. If it can sustain the older demographic it could be a rich place to target, reach and engage with a demo that has been slow to adopt the social net in the past. The demographics are changing rapidly and seem to reflect a mass market media tool.
If you are looking for the youth population, Facebook is not the one stop social shop. It is merely a small fragment of the media consumed by youth today. The combination of mobile and television seem to be the best bet as their world revolves around entertaining content, location based connectivity, the search for fame and personal expression.