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To “Like” or not to “Like”...?

US Facebook activity depends on age…

On the 19th April 2010 Facebook made a simple but fundamental change on its website.  No longer could one “Become a Fan” of people or products, instead the function was renamed “Like.”  A small and seemingly insignificant difference that Facebook explained away as: “Starting today people will be able to connect with your Page by clicking “Like” rather than “Become a Fan.  We hope this action will feel much more lightweight, and will increase the number of connections made across the site.”  Initially they were wrong. Four weeks after the Facebook change the website Mashable, ran an online poll asking what people thought about it. The 4,514 responses showed that nearly twice as many people actually preferred the “Become a Fan” option to the “Like” option. What is fascinating about this poll is that it indicates that even young people, by far the heaviest users of Facebook, are very conservative in their behaviour and they don’t like change imposed on them. But Facebook has a successful history of overriding their users’ preferences, specifically with regards to privacy.  On the Internet a year is a long time and by June 2011, on an average day on the website in the United States, to “Like” another person’s content was the most common activity (26%). This is ahead of commenting on somebody else’s post or status (22%) or responding to another person’s photo (20%).  These figures come from the recently released report titled: “Social Networking and our lives” published by the Pew Internet Project.  (It’s worth noting that the Pew survey used a smaller sample of Facebook users, only 877 people, on which to base their findings, some 3,637 fewer than Mashable’s.) The Pew report also shows that of the Americans who use an online social network, Facebook is by far the most popular with 92% of users, compared with My Space (29%), Linked In (18%) and Twitter (13%). To create this chart I’ve drilled down into the data to expose the most popular activity on the most popular online social network in the US.  Displaying the data in visual form, rather than the table form used in the Pew report, makes it easier to distinguish the difference that age makes to behaviour.  Just looking at the yellow line indicating the average frequency of clicking a “Like” button doesn’t show the extremes, or “outliers”, of the behaviour.  For example, compare the 30% of the 18-22 year olds who click on a “Like” button several times a day with the average of half that number among all the age groups.  Or, at the other end of the age groupings, look at the 35% of people aged over 65 who never click on a “Like” button compared to the 12% of the youngsters aged 18-22.  Averages always hide the wide variation in distribution across groupings. Facebook was commercially driven to make the change to soften the “Become a Fan” button, as they explained in a confidential email sent to advertising agencies. Tests had shown that apparently twice the number of people would click a button labelled “Like” than would click “Become a Fan” and Facebook had to increase the button usage.  Higher numbers of consumers clicking and approving Brands was obviously very desirable for Facebook.  Now one of the key social media metrics that Brands monitor is the number of “Likes” they receive, and perhaps this goes some way to justify the marketing expenditure made with Facebook.  But for Brands and consumers alike this crude metric demonstrates the binary and simple nature of the measurements of much of social networking behaviour. On Facebook there is no way to display subtlety or grades of expression - you either “Like” something or not. There are no shades of difference or degree.  This clumsy restriction of human expression will have to change if Facebook is to arrest the declining numbers of visitors in developed countries.  It should not underestimate the importance of the future threat of Apple’s rumoured social network.  Apple has an installed base of over 108 million iPhones worldwide (Apple figures as at March 2011), more than enough for an effective network.  Furthermore Apple has been developing a social network to rival Facebook for some years and has been expanding on its existing patents in this area.  Click here for an explanation of the latest Apple patent that has just surfaced after being originally filed in 2009. Apple, with their legendary design and human interaction skills, can dramatically improve the consumers’ social networking experience.  Could the same thing that happened to Nokia in the mobile phone space be about to happen to Facebook?  Nokia thought that they were in an unassailable position just as Facebook thinks they are today.  In any event, tighter integration of the iPhone hardware will emerge in the autumn in Apple’s new operating system iOS 5.  And that will be the platform on which many consumers will be enthusiastically clicking the “Like” buttons on their iPhones and iPads. June 2011
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To “Like” or not to

“Like”...?

US Facebook activity depends on age…

On the 19th April 2010 Facebook made a simple but fundamental change on its website.  No longer could one “Become a Fan” of people or products, instead the function was renamed “Like.”  A small and seemingly insignificant difference that Facebook explained away as: “Starting today people will be able to connect with your Page by clicking “Like” rather than “Become a Fan.  We hope this action will feel much more lightweight, and will increase the number of connections made across the site.”  Initially they were wrong. Four weeks after the Facebook change the website Mashable, ran an online poll asking what people thought about it. The 4,514 responses showed that nearly twice as many people actually preferred the “Become a Fan” option to the “Like” option. What is fascinating about this poll is that it indicates that even young people, by far the heaviest users of Facebook, are very conservative in their behaviour and they don’t like change imposed on them. But Facebook has a successful history of overriding their users’ preferences, specifically with regards to privacy.  On the Internet a year is a long time and by June 2011, on an average day on the website in the United States, to “Like” another person’s content was the most common activity (26%). This is ahead of commenting on somebody else’s post or status (22%) or responding to another person’s photo (20%).  These figures come from the recently released report titled: “Social Networking and our lives” published by the Pew Internet Project.  (It’s worth noting that the Pew survey used a smaller sample of Facebook users, only 877 people, on which to base their findings, some 3,637 fewer than Mashable’s.) The Pew report also shows that of the Americans who use an online social network, Facebook is by far the most popular with 92% of users, compared with My Space (29%), Linked In (18%) and Twitter (13%). To create this chart I’ve drilled down into the data to expose the most popular activity on the most popular online social network in the US.  Displaying the data in visual form, rather than the table form used in the Pew report, makes it easier to distinguish the difference that age makes to behaviour.  Just looking at the yellow line indicating the average frequency of clicking a “Like” button doesn’t show the extremes, or “outliers”, of the behaviour.  For example, compare the 30% of the 18-22 year olds who click on a “Like” button several times a day with the average of half that number among all the age groups.  Or, at the other end of the age groupings, look at the 35% of people aged over 65 who never click on a “Like” button compared to the 12% of the youngsters aged 18-22.  Averages always hide the wide variation in distribution across groupings. Facebook was commercially driven to make the change to soften the “Become a Fan” button, as they explained in a confidential email sent to advertising agencies. Tests had shown that apparently twice the number of people would click a button labelled “Like” than would click “Become a Fan” and Facebook had to increase the button usage.  Higher numbers of consumers clicking and approving Brands was obviously very desirable for Facebook.  Now one of the key social media metrics that Brands monitor is the number of “Likes” they receive, and perhaps this goes some way to justify the marketing expenditure made with Facebook.  But for Brands and consumers alike this crude metric demonstrates the binary and simple nature of the measurements of much of social networking behaviour. On Facebook there is no way to display subtlety or grades of expression - you either “Like” something or not. There are no shades of difference or degree.  This clumsy restriction of human expression will have to change if Facebook is to arrest the declining numbers of visitors in developed countries.  It should not underestimate the importance of the future threat of Apple’s rumoured social network.  Apple has an installed base of over 108 million iPhones worldwide (Apple figures as at March 2011), more than enough for an effective network.  Furthermore Apple has been developing a social network to rival Facebook for some years and has been expanding on its existing patents in this area.  Click here for an explanation of the latest Apple patent that has just surfaced after being originally filed in 2009. Apple, with their legendary design and human interaction skills, can dramatically improve the consumers’ social networking experience.  Could the same thing that happened to Nokia in the mobile phone space be about to happen to Facebook?  Nokia thought that they were in an unassailable position just as Facebook thinks they are today.  In any event, tighter integration of the iPhone hardware will emerge in the autumn in Apple’s new operating system iOS 5.  And that will be the platform on which many consumers will be enthusiastically clicking the “Like” buttons on their iPhones and iPads. June 2011
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