Social Classes And Social Networking

by Jason Falls |

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]

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).