Monday, March 15

Tracking Facebook: Popularity vs. Penetration

Ever wonder whether Facebook is the best choice for business in your market? Statistics from Candytech, a Czech-based developer that specializes in Facebook applications and marketing roll-out, owns a portal that can help provide an answer. (hat tip Dave Courvoisier.)

Its team, led by bakery manager Lukas Maixner and chief baker Martin Homolka, are responsible for collecting and publishing near-real time statistical information on Facebook. The data includes the popularity of applications, developers, pages, groups, participants by country (by state in the United States), and average CPC and CPM in each country.

Understanding The Data At A Glance

The statistical information can help marketers and businesses prioritize when and where Facebook fits into their online social media marketing mix. And, in addition to the total number of participants, Facebakers gives up a glimpse of stated gender and age-related data that might cause some marketers to rethink the message.

For example, a business in Nevada considering Facebook as part of its social media presence will find a relatively small pool of participants, ages 18-44, compared to the state's population. And, as a result, it might not make sense for a proximity-reliant company to invest in a Facebook presence unless California is part of the intended audience.

The same holds true across the country. While it's no surprise that California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois lead the nation in terms of participants, the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Colorado, Massachusetts, and North Dakota have higher market penetration, with as much as 40 percent of the population participating on Facebook.

In Europe, the story is much the same. The United Kingdom, Turkey, France, Italy, and Spain outpace many neighboring countries in terms of total adoption, but Iceland, Norway, and Denmark lead in penetration. In South America, Argentina and Columbia have more population, but Chile has the highest penetration. In Asia, Indonesia leads in population, but Singapore leads in penetration.

Understanding Usage At A Glance.

In addition to Facebook by the numbers, Facebakers reveals how Facebook is used. Among the top 15 most popular pages, only Facebook, Starbucks, Twilight, I "Heart" Sleep, and Coca-Cola break into the top 15 company pages online. The balance belongs to games, actors, musicians, other personalities. Likewise, games dominate the most utilized applications, with only two Facebook applications and one cause-related group breaking into the top 15.

Even the number of active users tells the story. While some companies clearly benefit from a Facebook presence, Facebook users are mostly interested in personal connections and playing games. And since leading games, such as FarmVille, require participants to stay online while they play, such games dramatically spike the total time that participants stay online.

This doesn't mean that Facebook isn't good for business. However, it might mean that Facebook needs to be prioritized beyond being the brightest and shiniest social network du jour. Sure, anyone can make the case that it is always good for business, that it can be used for crowdsourcing, and why it might one day replace blogs. But that doesn't mean any of it is true for your business.

It might be. And it might not be. Sure, having a Facebook presence can be beneficial. But it takes a better understanding of the population, demographics, psychographics, common sense, and (most importantly) your customers before placing it at the top of an online priority list because it's popular.

After all, even in states where Facebook is widely adopted, the network is still only reaching about 40 percent of a population in a specific geographic region. Consider what kind of crowdsourcing misdirection that could lead to. Or how giving up to 80 percent of your proximity-based customers for lack of a blog might impact growth. Or how focusing too much on one or two specific networks might cause you to miss other online sites where your customers interact on a daily basis.

All this comes back to one simple truth about online marketing. It can work, provided it is part of a more comprehensive communication program. And, with an increasing number of sites like Facebakers.com, more companies will begin to appreciate it.

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