Another Perspective on Facebook

Posted by: Peter Burrows on March 29, 2006

In Student Monitor’s monthly report on what’s hot with the collegiate set, Josh Weil highlighted what the market researcher says is some remarkable momentum for Facebook. He writes:

College students are flocking to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace in record numbers. Based on current traffic levels, the top social networking sites offer marketers the opportunity to reach more than 3 million college students in any given month. There are only a few media outlets that offer such a high level of targeted reach.

According to the Fall 2005 Student Monitor Computing & The Internet study, 53% or 3.2 million students (49% of men and 56% of women) visited Facebook at least once during the past month, making it the third most popular site after Google and Yahoo. According to Internet measurement service comScore Media Metrix, Facebook registered over 5.5 billion page views during the month of February making it the 7th most heavily trafficked site on the Internet. Among college students specifically, the growth in site visits (and page views) to Facebook has been nothing short of phenomenal. Last year, 16% of college students reported visiting Facebook compared to 53% this year, an increase of over 230%. Meanwhile, the other social networking powerhouse, MySpace, is also extremely popular among students. Thirty-two percent or some 2 million students report visiting MySpace at least once in the past month.

The leading social networking sites are an increasingly popular form of communication among college students because of the tools offered by each site including photo posting, messaging, blogs and friend lists which gel perfectly with the digital lifestyle habits of today’s college students. Facebook adds an additional element of exclusivity for college students since a user needs to have an “.edu” email address to register.

So how did Facebook get so popular so quickly? The answer is simple: connectivity. Imagine this: You and I are good friends and attend the same high school in northern California. At graduation, you decide to go to the University of Colorado at Boulder and I plan to attend Princeton University in New Jersey. Through our cell phones and through email we remain in close contact. One day a new friend at Princeton tells me about this site where I can register to keep in touch with the new friends I’m making at Princeton as well as my high school friends who are attending other colleges around the country. In a very short period of time, not only I am using Facebook’s networking capabilities to keep in touch with you at Colorado, but I am also communicating with several of your new friends at Colorado and you are doing the exact same thing with my new friends at Princeton. Now, multiply that scenario by six million. It is that simple, Facebook and other leading social networking sites like MySpace succeed by offering exactly what college students desire.

Facebook offers marketers a targeted platform to reach college students. By only allowing college students (and now high school students as well) an opportunity to register, the audience is already more targeted than other social networking sites liked MySpace or Tagged. What’s more, the fact that Facebook.com is somewhat more controlled than the more open, uncensored MySpace environment offers marketers an additional level of comfort, especially given some of the recent stories in the media highlighting privacy and security issues of the popular social networking sites.

I’m not suggesting that would-be acquirers should be cutting that $2 billion check. But it does suggest an asset whose value is on the rise.

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Reader Comments

Debra Williamson

March 29, 2006 04:04 PM

Great followup above to yesterday's piece on a possible Facebook sale. When I went 'back to campus' earlier this year for my eMarketer report "College Students Online: Social Networks and the Net Generation," I found that there was a wonderful openness about being on Facebook, likely because it's aimed squarely at the student market. The college students I spoke to definitely felt more comfortable with Facebook; they felt it was a special place for them and not a site where just anyone could create a page and ask to be your friend.

Marc

July 2, 2006 06:36 AM

Restrictions and exclusivity in networking is what sunk Friendster. Facebook will get to the point where they open up to everyone or else fall by the wayside.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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