(Thoughts spun from the posts, “Study: males vs. females in social networks,” on Royal Pingdom and, “It’s Not Easy Being Popular. 77 Percent Of Facebook Fan Pages Have Under 1,000 Fans,” on TechCrunch.)
A couple of recent stories on social media stats got me thinking about how we’re often trying to apply traditional lenses to social media’s reality. It’s neither a good or bad thing, it just is, but we wrestle so much with those that promote social media too heavily for the sake of it (i.e. the dreaded “guru” speaking at a Holiday Inn near you) or those who seem to will its destruction because they just can’t stand it (the “traditionalist” – kind of a hipster for luddites). There’s no shortage of information and statistics in social media, but it’s the lens you apply that will tell you the most about how this data applies to your environment.
Boys vs. Girls
Royal Pingdom used Google’s Ad Planner to take a hard look at the gender breakdown in social networks. Their results aren’t entirely shocking, but there were a few nuggets.
“The social news sites Digg, Reddit and Slashdot have significantly more male users than female. The standout here is Slashdot which takes male geekdom to new heights with 82% male users.” – Royal Pingdom
They point out that if you remove those three social news sites (i.e. take out social news altogether) you end up with the number of females outnumbering males across the board in the major networks.
I was particularly surprised to see that LinkedIn was now dead even female-to-male, in a landscape once edging more male. The 60/40 rule for female to male on major networks stayed relatively true for the biggest of them, MySpace still maintaining a higher female-to-male than Facebook.
My two cents: While these stats are interesting, remember that this does not cover all social media. For the most part we’re only speaking of massive social networks designed for just that purpose: to provide an infrastructure for a large amount of associated and disassociated people. There are a few channels here dedicated to a subject (such as Last.fm’s music purposes) but it’s still a way for anyone to dive in and then self-select once inside to various groups. I stress this distinction because we have to be careful to only focus our efforts on the critical mass builders – particularly because that’s not always where the most passionate are. A nearly hidden message board run out of someone’s basement in Omaha might have 3,000 of your most ardent fans that can tell you more about your brand reputation and inform product development than the 400 “Fans” of your Facebook Page. Both elements are necessary and critical to understanding, interacting and studying the social media landscape.
Which brings us to the TechCrunch article proclaiming, “77 Percent Of Facebook Fan Pages Have Under 1,000 Fans.” At first, as a headline, it grabs your attention and delivers a potentially damning comment on Facebook’s critical mass. But here’s where we need to first gut-check our reasoning for being surprised by the figure: what percent of all Facebook Fan Pages are major brands? Small businesses? Products (vs. manufacturers)? The sub-1,000 fans statistic is only powerful in the correct context.
The Sysomos study of 600,000 fan pages (see their original post here) is incredibly interesting, although I suggest you strip away the TechCrunch focus on “fame” as the lens through which you view it. (TechCrunch even points out that “so-called celebrities only make up 7 percent of all fan pages” – so why are we looking at this from a fame angle?)
One of the biggest stunners for me is that out of the 600,000 Pages studied, “Facebook fan pages tend to be updated only once every 16 days” which I have to believe is a statistic skewed by those who don’t update at all.
My two cents: The surprise isn’t that a majority of Facebook Pages have fewer than 1,000 fans – look deeper into the Sysomos post:
“On average, a Facebook Page has 4,596 fans.” – Sysomos
Now THAT is pretty remarkable. Especially since that average Page comes from such an evenly-distributed set of categories*:
* NOTE: Facebook’s available categories are horrendous. They don’t even match up evenly based on national or local subsections and lump some industries in strangely (such as a national healthcare company being under “Health and Beauty” while on a local level there is a “Medical Service” choice- neither of which appear on the other list).
Another very interesting revelation is how social interaction begets more social interaction:
“Pages with more than one million fans have nearly three times as much owner-generated content as the average Facebook page. (Where ‘owner-generated content’ means things like photos, videos, and links posted by the page’s – Pages with more than one million fans have nearly 60 times as much fan-generated content (photos, videos) as the average Facebook page.” - Sysomos
The most important thing to take away from both of these studies is to at the very least look past the headlines. But on a much deeper level it hints at the power of a self-selecting group of people. Whether it’s on Facebook or on an obscure message board, we have to find out where the interaction lies in order to learn from it. What I would really like to see is the Facebook Page data on number of fans and interactivity crossed with the age of the Pages – who has retained their Fans, their brand families, their second-time-shoppers.
There is no shortage of data, but be careful to not get caught up in the easiest zeroes and ones (or clever headlines) and apply your own filter. Not for the sake of generating more Pages or work for your social media team, but for the sake of learning more about your once and future fans and how you can best take care of their health and yours.