Facebook Topples Over, Gets Really Gray

I’ve been active in social media for the last three years and for two years I’ve worked with clients creating and implementing communications and marketing campaigns using social media. I also operate two blogs (one personal and one professional) and belong to LinkedIn, Twitter, FriendFeed, Technorati, Digg.com, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Mixx, Mr. Wong, and Del.icio.us as well as participate in many online forums and bulletin boards

Hey, Sonny, look me up on Facebook.

Hey, Sonny, look me up on Facebook.

However, Facebook was the one social media platform that, until recently, I avoided. Most of my younger colleagues belonged. When I first heard about Facebook several years ago, it was aimed at college students and recent graduates. So while I kept a close watch on Facebook, I didn’t participate. After all, just how many social media platforms can one person participate in?

But after establishing my own communications practice, I decided it was time. My decision to join Facebook couldn’t have been better – or worse – depending on your point of view. Facebook has not only hit the tipping point in the last few months (alert Malcolm Gladwell), it has completely toppled over. The site announced 150 million users in January and halfway through February Facebook has already reached 175 million users.

But the real evidence of this topple over effect comes from the over 35 crowd – which is the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. The latest statistics have 10.4 million people over the age of 35 using Facebook, according to market research firm ComScore Media Metrix. That’s an increase of 98 percent since May 2007. I’m betting that the real number is actually higher.

This isn’t based on statistical evidence, but on my own personal experience. Suddenly, I’ve been inundated with friend requests from acquaintances from high school and college. Lev Grossman hits the nail on the head in his amusing column in Time called “Why Facebook Is for Old Fogies.”

The fact is Facebook actually makes more sense for older folks. The middle-aged get out less. Their social circles begin to revolve around children and jobs – and less on old connections from school and previous jobs. Older people also have more connections to maintain and understand the power of Facebook in helping them manage a viable social network. This isn’t just to catch up with former friends and colleagues, but to keep channels open for business, new ideas, and information gathering.

In the their book “Groundswell,” Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff compare social media to Theodore Sturgeon’s classic sci-fi story “Microcosmic God,” about a scientist creating a miniature civilization that grows at a rapid rate. Facebook encapsulates the ideas from Sturgeon’s story. Look at it this way.  In just five years Facebook has gone from young whippersnappers to middle aged.

Next up?  Facebook: the nursing home application.

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