As you’ve no doubt heard, Facebook has now reached 500 million users, which would make it the third largest country in the world (if it were a country). This achievement certainly merited the flood of congratulatory posts across the Web, but after reading the first ten or so, they seem to begin to blend together. But a few stand out because they bring something else to the conversation, answer lingering questions or draw insightful comparisons. Here are the top 5 observations on Facebook at 500 million.
1. Marketers need to get granular:
Mitch Joel tells us to break it down:
“In fact, Facebook is just a very large bunch of very small connections and communities. According to Facebook’s latest statistics, the average user has 130 friends. Marketers are focusing on the 500 million number and wondering how they can get their brands, products and services in front of them. They’re not focusing on how complex and tangled the social graph actually is.”
2. A peak or a breather?
Inside Facebook raises the question that initially baffled analysts:
“Facebook’s growth slowed down in the United States in June, following a burst of activity through April and May. The country picked up only 320,800 new monthly active users in June, compared to the outstanding 7.8 million it gathered in May.”
And then takes a stab at answering it:
“It’s not uncommon to see a saturated country like the US take a breather after a spurt of growth.”
But Future Tense points out the most likely cause:
“Of course, FB faced user backlash and harsh media attention right around [June] for perhaps overplaying its hand when it came to sharing and exposing user data. If this is largely due to that dust-up, then it’s a HUGE effect (much larger than Facebook let on when they said the controversy had no discernible impact on their numbers). But even if millions were turned off by the negative attention, it’s a temporary effect.”
3. Remember AOL?
PC World reminds us of a time when we thought we knew what “ubiquitous” meant:
“AOL may have helped connect people online in the early days of the Internet, but even during its heyday AOL was one-fifteenth the size that Facebook is today. Amazingly, Facebook put AOL to shame without any free CD giveaways.”
4. How honest is the average user? And Zuckerberg’s profile fib :
One of the most interesting parts of Lesley Stahl’s 2008 60 minutes interview with Mark Zuckerberg is her pointing out an interesting claim on his Facebook page—that he graduated from Harvard (he didn’t finish). Since then, however, studies by researchers in the U.S. and Germany reveal, perhaps surprisingly, that Facebook users tend to, “express who they really are rather than idealized versions of themselves.”
“College-age users of Facebook in the United States and a similar social networking site in Germany typically present accurate versions of their personalities in online profiles, says psychologist Mitja Back of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. People use online social networking sites to express who they really are rather than idealized versions of themselves, Back and his colleagues conclude in an upcoming Psychological Science.”
“Bottom-line: Gosling and his colleagues found no evidence that the people were using their social network profiles to promote idealized personalities. In fact, the research suggests that the apparent accuracy of member postings could explain why the sites have exploded in popularity.”
5. Facebook isn’t quick to update its own “status”:
…or update their official timeline…
Maybe they figure they don’t need to, because everyone already knows. They’re probably right. Congratulations, Facebook.