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Facebook: Not Just for Kids

March 6, 2009
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Having long ago passed the age where I was eligible for membership in AARP, I looked at sites like Facebook as being great for college-age people. After all, that is who it was designed for back in 2004. Of course, Internet time is measured like dog years except faster, so it might as well have been 1984.

Having long ago passed the age where I was eligible for membership in AARP, I looked at sites like Facebook as being great for college-age people. After all, that is who it was designed for back in 2004. Of course Internet time is measured like dog years except faster so it might as well have been 1984.

So what has changed in those five short years that makes me revisit the idea that Facebook could be relevant to someone who still refers to recorded music as albums. I could hardly be called an early adapter, as 175 million people joined before my daughter convinced me that it was time for me to be “friended.”

Facebook hit its “tipping point” this past year as it went from 1.1 billion minutes of daily use to 3 billion minutes in less than twelve months. Facebook even beat out the ubiquitous iPod by two years, for the fastest technology to reach 150 million users. For comparison, cellphones took 14 years to hit that number. Facebook is picking up 1 million new users every month in the United States alone.

These numbers create a tsunami effect for anyone in business. Societal changes play a huge role in business and in government today as proved by the recent presidential election. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogs and other social media are changing the advertising world for all businesses large and small alike.

The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women 55 and older, up 175% since September 2008. This falls in line with the statistic that 58% of AOL email users are women 45 and above. As this is the sweet spot for service businesses, savvy marketers should be looking at designing a message that informs but does not intrude.

Advertising messages are being ignored in most media so this may be an opportunity to get some attention to your message. Blatant advertising will bomb; but something as simple as starting a Facebook group for pet lovers in your town will be effective. Sign up as a partial sponsor for a charity pet walk and enlist your customers with pets to participate. This can work for almost any type of charity. Email marketing may be viewed as spam but if it comes from a Facebook group it passes the spam test and has a much better chance of being opened. One area that has proved successful for a few cleaning companies has been linking their newsletter on Facebook.

In addition to marketing opportunities, Facebook can be used to good effect in an office environment. Many companies do not allow their employees to use Facebook during work hours. This may be a mistake, as it can be used as a tool for improving customer relationships or as an inter office wiki site. Companies that prohibit the use of Facebook will be viewed as stodgy and backward thinking, and the young talent will go elsewhere.

Facebook can be used to bring people of like mind together. Invite a group of service providers from different fields in your market area. Facebook differs from a bulletin board by allowing only the people you want to join the group. Topics can remain positive and on track without the negativity and name calling that can occur on a bulletin board. Think of it as a mastermind group on steroids.

Some in the media are questioning if the base of Facebook will stay as the older generations invade their turf. Once your parents catch on to something you know that the cool factor has definitely diminished and the trend setters will be onto the next wave. On the positive side, Facebook may continue to grow for exactly that reason. Spreading out the demographics allows it to avoid the fate of MySpace in being forever labeled as a kid’s site. Microsoft plunked down $240 million for a tiny 1.6% stake in the company. This bodes well for the long-term growth of Facebook.

Do not post questionable pictures or posts on Facebook; it will be on the web forever for future employers to view. Author Seth Godin recommends that you load up Google with a “long tail” of good stuff.

Whether you use Facebook as a social tool, a marketing tool, or as a place to hold great discussions with business associates from around the world, it is time to join. As for me, AARP will just have to wait.

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