Like many of my fellow online marketing analysis, researchers, and consultants (et al.) I’ve been following (and participating in!) Facebook for quite a while now. The story is well known now – Facebook and social networks in general are the new belles of the ball, and everyone’s scrambling to figure out what that means to them.
A few weeks ago I went to FacebookCamp Montreal, and the kick-off presentation by Colin Smillie and Roy Pereira, from Toronto’s Refresh Partners presented some Facebook demographics which were interesting, but at first blush, quite mundane. Sure, Facebook is huge and growing, got it. Still, though I couldn’t put my finger on it, something was bugging me after seeing the graphs and tables laid out.
Last week, there was a post in Techcrunch that again spoke to Facebook’s demographics: Facebook Is Almost 2/3 Women (and other stats), but this time the numbers, and their implications, leapt out at me.
In Canada, we’re used to being just behind the leading edge of internet trends. We’re early adopters, and heavy internet users – but if you really want to know where this stuff is going, the tendency is to look to the Bay Area and South to Silicon Valley, not in our own backyard. The demographics of Facebook paint a very different picture. It’s clear that if you really want to understand the meaning and implications of Facebook, your analysis should start in Canada, not in the US.
The US is an oddball in the Facebook universe, an outlier whose demographics are clearly not representative of either the present or the future of Facebook – and US usage is probably not a good indicator of trends related to either Facebook, or, likely, social networking in general. In the US, Facebook membership is much smaller as a proportion of population than in Canada (or the UK and several other leading countries). The population in the US is markedly younger as well, and more male-dominated than it is in Canada and elsewhere. There are lots of reasons for this – most notably the traction that Facebook achieved early on in strictly college-based populations – but this deformed the growth of Facebook in the US and the demographics continue to suggest that the US is not in the mainstream of Facebook tendencies and trends.
I’m not in any way suggesting that there’s something wrong with the US – just that any serious analysis of Facebook and the changes they introduce should isolate, to some degree, US usage patterns from the rest of the world, particularly Canada. The mainstream of Facebook adoption is – and has been for at least 6 months – outside the US.