The Austin American Statesman has a helpful article on Facebook for thirtysomethings (which also applies to those in their 40s and 50s, too.) Hat tip to Mari Smith. It gives a window into the thinking of recent Facebook adopters.
Jeremiah Owyang recently posted a good explanation of “The Social Graph.” I agree with Jeremiah that social networking features may become a greater part of all web sites, but unless someone makes it extremely simple to carry your social networking identity across sites, there will be a gravitation toward the top-tier sites like Facebook and MySpace. That’s why Michael Arrington reports that top leaders and founders of some of the second-tier sites are leaving (or bailing, depending on your perspective.)
The thirtysomethings, fortysomethings and fiftysomethings who will create the critical mass for social networking are not geeks, for the most part. They also seem to be coming to Facebook in large numbers.
As the American Statesman article indicates, these people don’t belong to a ton of social networking sites. They are just now getting into Facebook. Transporting identities isn’t a big deal to them, because they are mostly just starting on their first site. If they find one that is meeting their needs, as Facebook seems to be, they won’t feel the urge to join another one. They can form new groups effortlessly within Facebook. Why go elsewhere?
And now, with Facebook’s Beacon (although it is somewhat controversial), what they do on other sites can find its way into their Facebook news feeds. So that does provide some of that information flow.
For most non-geeks, the issue won’t be “How can I reconcile all of the social networking sites to which I belong?” It will be, “Which one site gives me everything I really need?”
I had dinner with my twentysomething daughter and her husband last night (they met through Facebook), and she asked, “Are people thinking that Facebook is just going to be a fad?” I explained how some believe that thirtysomethings, fortysomethings and fiftysomethings joining Facebook will cause the college crowd to exit to whatever comes next. But I said I don’t think that’s likely, because of how much I see her younger siblings using Facebook, and how they have all of their Homecoming pictures and the like stored there. It’s the world’s biggest photo-sharing service. I don’t see them leaving that, and their friends, to join other sites.
“I just see it as a another way to communicate,” Rachel agreed. “I tell people who want to get in touch with me to ‘Facebook me.’ It’s just like the telephone or the text message.”
Geeks like having interoperability standards between social networking sites. But so far Google’s OpenSocial is just a common language that widget makers can use to make their lives easier in application development.
For everyone else, I think even relatively easy interoperability between sites may be too complicated. I have a bunch of real-life friends who are starting to get into Facebook. Like those mentioned in the American Statesman article, they are starting to see the potiential benefits and usefulness.
What would they have to gain from joining a second social networking site?