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Social Network Fatigue: Different Personalities Want to Spend Time Differently

Posted by Bob Warfield on October 24, 2007

Do you have children?  If so, you’ve probably heard them say to you many times, “I’m bored.”  Kids are always in search of something to do.  Something other than homework and chores, that is.

Do you know many adults like that?  Not too many here.  Most adults I know complain that they don’t have enough time to do what they’d like to be knowing.  Most know exactly what they want to do.  If they express boredom, it is often about a job or the lack of a relationship, but they don’t mean it in the same way kids do.  They don’t usually want you to immediately drum up something to alleviate their boredom.  Most adults are reasonably comfortable sitting quietly for a few minutes of quiet introspection.  They often welcome the calm.

What does this have to do with Social Networking?  I’ve come to worry that this need by my kids to be entertained by something all the time, no matter how trivial, says something profound about Facebook and more generally about how to construct a Social Network to appeal to different audiences.

There has been a lot of posting in the blogosphere about how college kids are amused by attempts to use Facebook for business.  Joyce Park, creator of a successful Facebook application for sending your friends virtual drinks says:

No one makes money on Facebook. Not even Facebook.

We all know that their ads have low (the worst?) clickthroughs.

It’s not clear that FB users have high purchase intentions. Why should they?

What are FB users doing?

Dating. And looking at pictures of people they’d like to date. Trying to pick up.

Folks, FB is A DATING SITE FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS! If you’re not in college, get over it.

Facebook is for people without jobs. And while that’s good for their users, it’s not for you.

That’s really telling it like it is and pulling no punches!  To underscore her point, Park goes on to quote Compete’s figures that show 50% of time on Facebook is looking at other people’s Profiles.

I have noticed on Facebook that while I have a lot of friends, most are dabbling at best, or inactive at worst.  It is the folks who are vicious networkers and extreme extroverts who seem to get the most from it.  Many others just want to be seen as being on Facebook, but aren’t really using it for much that I can see.

Zoli Erdos continues by saying:

The Facebook Fanclub’s recurring theme in comparing LinkedIn to Facebook is just how resume- and jobsearch-oriented LinkedIn is: go there, get what you want, then there’s nothing else to do there.

I’m sorry, but since when is this a complaint? Isn’t business all about having an objective and efficiently reaching it with minimum the time and effort? I suspect most of the LinkedIn “deserters” who switched to Facebook are independent types who have the time to hang around in Facebook, and are striving to enhance their personal brand.

Doc Searl has been saying life is too short for Facebook for some time:

Anyway, lif’e’s too short, and this list of stuff is too long. If you’re waiting for me to respond to a poke or an invitation,or a burp or any of that other stuff, don’t hold your breath. Or take offense. I’ve got, forgive me, better things to do.

All that poking and sending of virtual drinks does feel a lot like kids trying to avoid boredom or perhaps flirting behaviour to go back to what Joyce Park is saying. 

I’m not sure why, but this Phil Windley quote today (which I read right after Doc Searl) really rang my bell:

The problem is that Facebook is annoying because that’s what works. Facebook’s success depends on bothering you incessantly and creating things for you to do.

I think Phil is trying to say that Social Networks succeed by doing this, but it crstallized an entirely different reaction from me.  It makes me feel old to say it, and it may even be career limiting and oh-so-not-hip, but I’m beginning to think:

Facebook is software created by kids for kids to solve a kid’s biggest problem:  they’re bored.  They want something to do.  They want a date.  They have tons of time and no idea what to do with it.

That pretty much means Facebook isn’t going to be the whole Internet, because an awful lot of people, people who have the most money to spend, don’t suffer from the disease that Facebook cures.  So now I’m stuck in the middle.  The Kara Swisher’s of the world will be saying, “Duh, we’ve been saying this for so long you are late to the party.”  The Facebook True Disciples will be saying, “That guy is so old he doesn’t even understand Facebook.” 

C’est la vie!

From a broader perspective, I think this has ramifications for other would-be Social Networks.  Think about what your target audience wants to get out of the experience and make sure they’re getting it.  That may seem trite, but it’s important.

Related Articles

Microsoft pays $250M for a stake in Facebook that values the company at $15B.  Apparently advertising to kids who want to date is extremely valuable!

GigaOm is skeptical about advertising on Facebook

Mathew Ingram says the deal makes sense because its worth $250M for Microsoft to:

1. It gets to keep Google out, so that’s good.

2. It gets to serve ads to those millions of devoted users who check their Facebook every five minutes.

3. It has effectively bought a call option on the future of the company.

And besides, they only had to come up with $250M, not $1.5B. 

I’ve said in the past it’s a brinksmanship move.  Microsoft can easily afford $250M to push Facebook out of reach on total valuation.  This can have interesting consequences too.  It may make Facebook over confident and cause them to shoot for the moon and lose in the end.  Towards that end, it is interesting the MSFT ultimately invested only half what was being talked about.  I guess they aren’t completely bullish on the idea!

I read that overall traffic to Facebook grew 102% year on year, but that the growth for the 35 year old and older demographic was only 19% for the same period.  Adds credence that this one is for kids, but I’d love to see the data for the 25 year old break over.

Scoble is aggressively rumor mongering on what this means. 

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4 Responses to “Social Network Fatigue: Different Personalities Want to Spend Time Differently”

  1. [...] Plaxo, and Oracle, for example.  First thought is how much longer will businesses swim upstream trying to use Facebook for business networking and communities if OpenSocial plugs directly into real business networks and [...]

  2. [...] LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Oracle, for example.  I asked how much longer would businesses swim upstream trying to use Facebook for business networking and communities if OpenSocial plugs directly into real business networks and [...]

  3. Briana said

    Interesting. My experience on Facebook has been radically different. No one I know is using it as a dating service. We use it as a dynamic address book and a substitute for wallet pix of their kids! Everyone I know who is on Facebook (which is almost everyone I know) is using it to keep tabs on far-flung friends and family, especially sharing baby photos. When we need to reach someone we haven’t talked to in a while, we send them a message via Facebook, because we know they are more likely to see it there.

    In fact, very few people I know are using it to meet *new* people at all, for dating or otherwise. They’re weirded out when someone they don’t know contacts them via the service. The few tales of romance that I’ve heard have been simply that old flames were able to reconnect because they found each other via Facebook. That’s not Facebook as Lavalife, that’s Facebook as little black book.

  4. smoothspan said

    Briana, no doubt there are lots of ways to use Facebook. Also no doubt that it really depends what your sub-communitee is there and who you have friended.

    I was just talking with my trainer the other day. She’d joined Facebook for the first time and was remarking about what an interesting place it was. She said the odd thing was she was getting a bunch of queries about her relationship status, and she asked me whether that was normal. She wasn’t entirely put off by it, but there’s that business of using Facebook as a dating service again.

    Cheers,

    BW

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