Class of 2006Lee Odden got me thinking. (I bet I’m not the first person to say that.)

Lee’s post and poll at Top Rank Blog Sunday offered up the latest usage statistics for MySpace and Facebook. MySpace is still top dog. According to Nielsen Online, it had 40 million more users than Facebook in December. Lee then offered the personal anecdote that he doesn’t log in to Facebook as often anymore. He posed the question, via the poll, “Are you still excited about using Facebook?”

As of Tuesday night, 146 people voted. The leading answer was “No, I’m over it,” which came in at 49 percent of respondents. Twenty-nine percent were still undecided, 18 percent answered, “Yes, the fun is just beginning,” and four percent answered, “What’s Facebook?”

The numbers are interesting but since they represent Top Rank Blog readers, one can assume the sampling shows the attitudes of internet and search marketers, social media and PR types and the like. An argument can be made that this is a poll of semi-early adopters of Facebook, meaning those of us who jumped on the social network as soon as the .edu requirement was lifted.

But thinking the differences between MySpace and Facebook through a little more thoroughly, I see similarities in the two largest social networks and the different education levels of our society. Could MySpace and Facebook be mirroring our social class system?

MySpace made having a web page, a blog, an online photo album and even a place for videos easy for the common user. By targeting the younger, hip-to-technology segment of the world, but allowing any regular Joe to walk in and set up shop, MySpace brought many a person into the Internet age. Sure, it has always been big, gaudy and commercial … kind of the NASCAR of social networking … but it appealed to people because it was easy to figure out.

As a result, the common person – not techies, intellects or high society folk – can assimilate there and feel comfortable. Anyone can do it and because of its liberal policies on content, customization, graphics and advertising, you can make your page whatever you want it to be.

Facebook was only for the college crowd until late 2006. To be there, you had to be well-educated, assuming our definition of well-educated is at least beyond high school. It was built by someone from Harvard. It was less customizable, neat and organized. While there was no real technical acumen needed to set up shop, the mainstream opinion of it was shaped by the college-only rule. The sparseness in design also looks more technical, less commercial, more high-brow.

Then you mix in Facebook’s more stringent policies on content, customization and advertising (pre-Beacon) and the average Joe wasn’t as comfortable. If you can’t drape Harley logos or pink cupid themes all over your page, why bother?

The parallels are interesting. MySpace is the blue collar, average guy place to enjoy social networking. Like it or not, the majority of Americans are lower middle class and below. According to the 2006 economic survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, 75 percent of Americans have a household income of $75K or lower. The median household income for those with nothing higher than a high school diploma is around $40,000. According to the 2003 Annual Social Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS) (PDF DOCUMENT), only 27 percent of Americans report they’ve completed at least a bachelor’s degree.

This means MySpace has a much larger pool of people to choose from, assuming non-college educated folks find Facebook unappealing.

Yes, Facebook is experiencing tremendous growth. According to Comscore in July, it grew an astonishing 299 percent (compared to MySpace’s measly 72) in daily visitors from June of 2006 to the same month in 2007. Those numbers indicate Facebook may, in fact, catch its bigger, less-refined brother.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The only way they can is by tapping into MySpace’s audience. That won’t happen at a great rate if Facebook continues to trend uppity. As Andy Keith, one of the commenters on Lee’s post said so well, “Facebook was initially fun and interesting, but now comes across as increasingly narcissistic.” The geek swagger that seems to emanate from founder Mark Zuckerberg carries over to conversations surrounding Facebook. It’s hard for the common person to find attraction in self-import.

Certainly, good marketing and repositioning can move Facebook forward. But the answer of whether or not the upper crust place for social networking can ever surpass the play space for the regular guy probably lies in the numbers.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. Top 10 Social Networks, Blogs And Web Brand Rankings For December 2007
  2. Differences Between MySpace, Facebook And Others
  3. MySpace Unveils Safety Plan
  4. MySpace May Still Dominate In The U.S., But (Surprise!) Facebook Is Catching Up Fast Worldwide
  5. MySpace and Facebook – We Can Co-Exist

IMAGE:Graduating Class of 2006” by Silfverduk on Flickr.

[tags]MySpace, Facebook, social networking, social class system, social media, online consumer profile[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.leapfroginteractive.com KatFrench

    Count me among the “over Facebook” crowd. Ironically, if Pownce replaces anything in my social media menu, it’ll probably be Facebook, rather than Twitter.

    If you haven’t already seen it, you might find danah boyd’s essay on class divisions between Myspace and Facebook interesting.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    What? No link? I see how you are. Making me search. Heh.

    Pownce is an interesting place. I originally got an invite from a Beta user who wanted to share MP3 files with me. We developed a nice network (20 or so) folks who would just pick a theme for the week and upload songs we shared with one another. I found some new music that way. I haven’t used it for much else since, though. Maybe I’ll go play there some more.

    I still think the number of users on Facebook makes it too big a sea not to swim in.

    Here’s a question for you, though: What social class applies to Pownce? Twitter? Friendster?

  • http://buzznetworker.com Kevin

    I said in an earlier post that my head almost exploded when I read some of the best marketing posts of 2007 and nobody had anything about myspace but facebook was all over the place.

    The problem is that most people that write about social media are technosnobs. I got into a fight with Aaron Brazell about this and a few other people. Facebook will NEVER surpass Myspace. Tech people can dismiss the site all they want but I have built a blog audience on there, converted sales for the company I work for, and can create massive word of mouth via that site. The same can’t be said for Facebook.

  • http://www.passagecommunications.com SoniaC

    Jason, thanks for the great research here! I’m wondering if the proliferation of networks through white labeling etc. will eventually turn memberships into a brand alignment thing. As a vehicle of self expression aside, do you think that consumers will start wanting to categorize their identities through the networks they choose to be a part of?

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Kevin — I, too, have played in the ‘space and have seen real growth there. And you’re right. It’s just a numbers game for me. MySpace is the everybody place. Facebook does lean tech crowd.

    Sonia — I can see the development of niche networks around brands becoming very big. (I hope so because I’m advocating it for some clients … ha!) I do think that consumers will categorize their identities in their networks but only within the networks that compell them to join and share with others. Building brand enthusiasts who live and breathe your brand is what companies need to shoot for. Giving them the tools to celebrate and promote the brand through social networking is, I think, one wave of the future.

    Thanks to both for chiming in.

  • http://www.charlesheflin.com Charles Heflin

    The social networks are as good as your ability to capture your audience within them. All of this (is one better than another?) is nothing but speculation and opinion based on ones own ability to drive a social movement to their message within that network.

    If you have the ability to connect with people, then using one social network over another is a moot point. If they work for your business then use them all… Why pick and choose?

    What’s the point? If your audience is there, you should be too, despite the opinion on which is bigger and better…

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Charles,

    Your points are certainly applicable to marketing through social networks, either strategically or even individually, but the article was meant more as a sociological look at the make up of each and some (admittedly amateur) philosophising about the ability for Facebook to overcome MySpace in terms of popularity. I agree with your points, just think you mist the gist. Thanks for chiming in, though.

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