Gmail: The Old Man’s Facebook? 7

Speaking a few week’s ago at Morgan Stanley’s technology conference, Google’s Eric Schmidt, somewhat famously, described Twitter as the “Poor Man’s email system.” However, according to a new report from Nielsen, traditional email systems – which Mr. Schmidt inferred Twitter was a knockoff of- are falling out of favor with consumers across the globe.

According to Nielsen’s “Global Faces and Networked Places” report, social networks (including Facebook) and blogs have moved ahead of e-mail as the fourth most popular online activities. Of course the findings weren’t all bad for Mr. Schmidt and Google, as search (i.e. Googling) remained the most popular online activity.

Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networks or blogging sites, and the sector (defined by Nielsen as “Member Communities) now accounts for almost 10% of all Internet time. (BTW – interesting that they combine blogging and social networks into one sector, especially if you read this  TechCrunch post from today).

In addition, the report notes that Facebook is the driving factor in this shift towards Membership Communities, stating:

“The total amount spent online globally increased by 18% between December 2007 and December 2008. In the same period, however, the amount of time spent on ‘Member Community’ sites rose by 63% to 45 billion minutes; and on Facebook by a massive 566% – from 3.1 billion minutes to 20.5 billion.”

In driving this growth, Facebook has overtaken MySpace with the largest global reach.

However, despite the massive growth, Nielsen’s report echoes other recent reports, which have chronicled advertiser’s failures in attempting to reach audiences (especially the younger demographic) through Facebook and other Member Communities. In order to reach these growing audiences, within this new channel, Nielsen encourages advertisers and brands to do the following:

  1. Work with the social networks more closely
  2. Create new approaches to the ad model
  3. Focus on conversing, not pushing sales (Easier for someone to say than do in a recession)
  4. Utilize an authentic tone
  5. Leverage campaigns that add value to the consumer

With Facebook’s most recent changes set to make brand pages similar to personal profiles, more advice and insight along these lines (like this White-paper from The Advance Guard) will be needed by marketers.

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