Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 21, 2010 9:23 PM

500 Million

Today was a big day. Not just for Facebook, but for Digital Marketing and Social Media.

When 500 million people do anything, it becomes mass media newsworthy. Today, Facebook made it official: they have 500 million accounts. This makes Facebook the third largest country by population after China and India - and a couple of hundred million ahead of the United States (according to Wikipedia). That being said, we're looking at the wrong metrics. Those are mass media advertising numbers, and they're not a true reflection of what is really happening with Facebook.

Facebook is small.

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. They're also not focusing on why people connect on Facebook (hint: it is - for the most part - a place to share information with those who aren't overly close with you). These are not people who are idly sitting by and waiting to consume content. They are on Facebook to create, edit, share and tag information (mostly personal information).

Facebook is the new portal... but with a big variance.

In the early days of the Internet, big media companies figured that if they create a destination with great original and aggregated content, people would flock to it... and we did. We always assumed that the Internet was just another media channel, but not a new media channel. Social Media is really about creating things (not just consuming things), so as more and more people join Facebook and connect with friends, family and business associates, it's obvious that this is becoming their homepage. The average user's newsfeed is now way more fascinating than anything they can get on Yahoo! or at CNN. It's their own little newspaper filled with gossip, news, links, pictures and videos of people they know (or are curious about).

Facebook makes us more human.

Like any destination with 500 million members there are going to be issues (from privacy to business strategy and from evil-doers to manipulators). This is a new world and the rules are fuzzy (at best). Along with this, there come a lot of haters and those who will be critical (we like to eat our own). In the end, Facebook makes us better. It has helped to turn technology from something cold that people did instead of meeting with real people to a much more warmer type of technology. Love it or hate it, Facebook makes us all connected (just a little bit more) and that's something to celebrate.

How do you feel about Facebook?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Ike
    Mitch Joel

    I don't know about a better grade of humanity, but Facebook is a time machine.

    It allows us to exist, simultaneously and ambiently, with a constantly churning random sample of the people who have been relevant at least once in our lives.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rich Lazzara
    Rich Lazzara

    Love the last sentence of our post. I just wrote a post on taking 60 days off from Social Media. I wanted to see what would happen to me without those channels in my life. To sum it up Social Media makes life better, more connected and will continue to grow.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mark Dykeman
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, sometimes I feel like Facebook is an intimate, friendly place. Other times I feel like it's a crowded nightclub where I know a few people, but I haven't had enough to drink yet to lose my inhibitions and let it all hang out (not that I ever feel comfortable enough to do that).

    Other times, Facebook feels like a crowded subway platform as the next train is about to arrive and I've been bombarded with sound, posters, images, etc., plus the press of bodies in a small place.

    Or am I actually thinking of Twitter? Hmmmm....

    Reply
    • I like to think of Facebook (and Twitter) as "spam free". Meaning that those who abuse the connection get blocked and ignored. The point of the Blog post was that it probably doesn't look like a crowded subway platform to the majority of people because they're only connecting to those they know (or want to know).

      Reply
  • Posted by Octavian Mihai
    Mitch Joel

    This post is right on the money.

    To answer your question.
    I personally think that anything too centralized is a bad idea. I also dislike when businesses are hypocritical. Walking the talk it's crucial to consumers. But. From a purely branding perspective Facebook does not have a clear mission statement, tagline or anything of the sort. They do not have to walk the talk because there is no talk, no brand promise.

    Facebook is for social media what Windows was for PC. Users will grow more sophisticated, better informed, more sensitive to bullcrap and then they will fly away. (Who am I kidding? all Facebook will have to do is to add Super-Pinch button and the user engagement will rise again. All hail the wisdom of crowds.)

    Reply
  • Posted by Robert Ezekiel
    Mitch Joel

    Everything I've read about FaceBook is that you have to have a presence otherwise you will miss out on all of those potential connections / sales. I was quite surprised to see that the "social circles" are still relatively small. So everyone is still "hanging out" with the people that they know/knew and not mingling with everyone else at the enormous cocktail party. It would be interesting to see a diagram on how those connections are made / being made over time.

    I'm still on the fence on if I should join or not. My wife has had a good experience connecting with old friends but I can only take so may old fraternity jokes these days ;)

    Reply
    • Remember: when you join Facebook, you decide who you want to connect with and who you want to ignore. Your Facebook experience is yours to create. I hope - at the very least - that you will give it a try. If it's not for you, you can always delete your account or simply not engage. It's your choice.

      Reply
  • Posted by dannybuntu
    Mitch Joel

    I'm still not on your friends list ;)

    Reply
    • Facebook (sadly) limits personal profiles to 5000 and I'm capped there. I've moved everything over to a page so I can be as active and connected to this community as possible. You can find it here: www.facebook.com/mitchjoel and you can always feel free to connect with me here, there or anywhere :)

      Reply
  • Posted by mike_mcgrail
    Mitch Joel

    Facebook is huge no doubt about it however I am an 'always on' type of guy but I find my use of Facebook slipping. This may be due to the circle of people I have in my FB network and it may say more about me than them, but I cannot stand the tedium of Facebook status updates (delete as appopriate) I am tired/hungover/bored/hungryry/hating my job/loving the new Lady f****** Gaga track etc etc. And when it comes to brands, I have yet to find one that I relate to that I would regard as having a truly great FB presence. The fact that social circles are so small means that the spread of exposire for these brand is not as massive as many a Social Media 'expert' would have you believe.

    I read this on slideshare yesterday - http://ht.ly/2evOT it is from one of the guys at Google and breaks down people's online circles very well, have a look!

    Reply
    • I respect all of your comments Mike, but I also urge you not to be what I call "a market of one." This usually comes in the form of statements that begin with, "I never..." or "Nobody I know does..." H&M has close to 4 million people following them (with some very lively conversation) on their Facebook Page. The trick (if you can call it a "trick") is to figure out what works best for you and bring that good stuff out. I was also never a fan of gifts, throwing sheep or Farmville, but I still respect how it helped the community coalesce.

      Reply
  • Posted by Sue Anne Reed
    Mitch Joel

    In my personal life, I've always been the type of person that kept up with other people -- whether they were people from high school, college, old jobs, etc. Social media, and specifically Facebook, has made that a lot easier.

    In addition to that, it also allows me to connect with folks in ways that I wouldn't have been able to in the past. My nephew celebrated his 13th birthday a couple of days ago. Because he splits time between my sister and my former brother-in-law, it's kind of hard to track him down. Facebook allowed me to post a message that he would see in the morning and chat with him later. Recently, another niece that I had lost contact with actually found me on Facebook. I've now been able to catch up on what's going on in her life.

    Twitter has allowed me to be part of a community that may or may not have existed via email groups / listservs in the past, but was definitely harder to find. Now, it's a lot easier. It's also easier to share information about various topics - whether it's PR, non-profit marketing, etc. - with both a niche community and a wider audience.

    Reply
  • Posted by Andre Ivanchuk
    Mitch Joel

    500 mil seems like a small number, considering the momentum FB has been building up.

    I'd be curious to find out how individual activity & output on FB has changed over the past 5 years - whether the early adopters & the early majority are spending the same about of time on FB as they once did.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rick Morgan
    Mitch Joel

    My mother is 87 and Facebook is how she stays "connected" with her kids, grandkids and great grandkids. For her (an us) Facebook has provided a new way to stay "in touch". That is good.

    Reply
  • Posted by Eric Pratum
    Mitch Joel

    In my mind, Facebook has replaced (or is in the process of replacing) the "Have you seen this?" email. I don't have to mass email my friends the latest funny Old Spice videos because I might have posted them to my Facebook profile or fan page, and if I had to email the links to people, I would probably only send them to the people most on my mind, my closest family and friends. On Facebook, I can share things like that with everyone, and if it resonates with anyone, they can respond regardless of whether we are close or not.

    When it is someone I'm not particularly close with, their response gives us the opportunity to grow just a little closer. I mean, that might sound silly, but I bet that we all know minute details about people we would otherwise not have a connection with, and that actually opens up many opportunities for us to find people that enrich our experiences with the subjects we are most interested in.

    Sidenote, I had just written a similar post on Grizzard.com and was letting it sit in the background before posting so that I could get a break from it and come back to it with a bit of a fresh mind after some reading. Since your post is so similar and better written (if you ask me), I'm dropping a link in my post, directing people here.

    Reply
    • It's amazing how much serendipity comes out of channels like Facebook and Twitter when you consider the tight controls we have over who we are connected to and what we're willing to share.

      Thanks for linking to this post, but I bet you have your own perspective to add, so please do add the post you have been working on to your Blog.

      Reply
      • Posted by Eric Pratum
        Mitch Joel

        Thanks, Mitch. You are very generous. My related post on Grizzard.com: http://www.grizzard.com/facebook-hit-500-million-this-week

        A similar thing happened with my blog and Think Traffic the other day. I had posted nearly the same points the night before Corbett had a post go up. My theory is that, despite the fact the circles we work in might be tightly controlled, many of us are still largely influenced by similar sources even if indirectly.

        Cheers

        Reply
  • Posted by Lori Johnson
    Mitch Joel

    It's really true that FB allows us to connect as large or as small as we want to.

    I realized started to understand the power of having this access to my connections on FB a few weeks ago when there was an earthquake in Toronto. One of my friends was visiting up there and she posted what was happening on her wall. So, I found out about the earthquake before CNN could even tell me about! Wow. That same friend posted pictures on her wall of the protests at the G8 meeting. She happened to be in the area and had this first hand experience that I could call and ask her about. Fantastic. I have often wished that I could call Anderson Cooper directly but FB has given me a bigger footprint just through the connections with people I am friends with on FB.

    We've turned a corner now and there's no going back!

    Reply
  • Posted by Shannon Pearson
    Shannon Pearson

    Facebook has allowed me to do so much in terms of networking, job searching and getting in touch with people I otherwise never would have been able to (as quickly as I wanted too). If you know how to use it properly and to your advantage it is an absolutely amazing tool.

    Reply
  • Posted by karim kanji
    Mitch Joel

    That is a great question that you pose Mitch. And one that seems to have generated a wide array of answers. I'm cool with Facebook. I did find it funny/curious that Mark Zuckerburg speaks (in the video from his FB blog) about the important thing are the stories that have come out of people connecting on FB.

    While this may be important to these individuals, I'm not sure about Mark's sincerity.

    Regardless of his motives or even the constant issues with privacy, I continue to use Facebook. I post and tag photos, publish posts from my blog and even use their chat feature to speak with people whom I may not have the opportunity to do otherwise.

    I'm cool with Facebook.

    Reply
    • I watched the interview with Diane Sawyer last night with Zuckerberg. He does seem very sincere (we have to remember he's only 26 years old - there's a lot of room to grow and develop). On top of that, let's not forget that he had a chance to sell Facebook to Yahoo for over one billion and he turned it down. He's clearly not just about the money.

      Reply
  • Posted by Steven Burrell
    Mitch Joel

    I am not a big fan of facebook at all. I thought the point of the site was to make connections with different people, but I find that most people tend to just stay within their same social circles. I thought the whole point of social networking was to meet new and interesting people and share ideas and cultures but I do not see to much of that happening.

    As far as Zuckerberg I do not think he was sincere at all, alot of what he had to say seemed rehearsed to me. And I believe the only reason he did not sell facebook to yahoo is because he is trying to figure out a way to make the billion dollars with out giving up or sharing any rights of the company. Its something me and a few of my friends have been discussing, we believe he is trying to find a way to monetize facebook.

    But maybe I am just being really cynical?

    Reply
    • Much like anything else in the world, you don't join and then have a right to make new friends and connections... you have to earn it (and that takes a lot of time and effort). I get tremendous value out of Facebook and have made some great connections by focusing on the types of people I feel I have to connect to.

      As for Zuckerburg, I don't think you're being cynical at all. Of course he is trying to monetize Facebook - it's a business. It always was a business. It's not a non-profit or a social experiment. It was set-up to make money... and lots of it.

      Lastly, he's not looking for ways to monetize Facebook, he already has many channels... he's just doing what any good business should do: he's looking for more ways to make more money (and faster).

      Reply
  • Posted by Meredith Greene
    Mitch Joel

    Finally, a piece which grasps the concept that Facebook is an unusual entity where advertising cannot utilize the one-size-fits-all mentality. It is indeed all about small, human connections and joining groups, allowing the clientele find you out of their own interest/curiosity. Facebook fans sometimes become acquaintances and view the members of a company as individuals, instead of being hidden away within a 'faceless' corporation. Blanket ads simply do not have the same effect on FB as with television. Nicely done; retweeted.

    Reply
  • Posted by Lucio Flavio
    Mitch Joel

    Honestly, I really don't know if I like facebook or not. On one hand it allows us connecting with many people around the world sharing our feelings and life's ¨momentum¨but on the other hand we waste a lot of time instead of being with real friends.

    Reply
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