Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Facebook: Addictive, Fun, Maybe Profitable

I was not the first of my friends to have a CD player back in the 1980s.

I was not the first of my friends to have a cell phone. Heck, my current cell phone is from 2003 (ancient!).

Former communication scholar Everett Rogers chronicled the way we pick up new technologies in a 1962 book titled Diffusion of Innovations. Rogers stated that the pattern with which we adopt technologies roughly fits the normal distribution.

Here is an approximation of the normal distribution, or bell curve.

Rogers argued that innovations would be adopted (i.e., diffused) at a rate that is consistent with this distribution.

Thus, imagine that time runs along the X axis (the bottom), and the percentage of people adopting an innovation at any given time runs along the Y axis (the side).

So when a new innovation is launched (far left, bottom), a few people jump on board.

This always reminds me of the humorous line, "Who bought the first fax machine?"

At any rate, Rogers argued that 2.5% of people were innovators (I am going to quote the figures from Wiki since I do not have the book with me). These people were ahead of the curve, pardon the pun.
Next come the early adopters, which represent 13.5% of the population. Still not me.
These are followed by the early majority, which represent 34% of the population. At this point, half of the population has a microwave.
I'm pretty much an early majority. I started this Weblog, for example, well after lurking and watching the experiences of IU professor Rob Potter. Nonetheless, this site was up well before many people jumped on the Weblog parade.
To quickly round out Rogers' theory, next came the late majority (34%) and laggards (16%).
All of this makes for a long introduction to the point that I am a relative latecomer to Facebook, which now boasts 29 million subscribers.
My students at The Ohio State University warned me that Facebook was addictive. That is, perhaps, why I stayed away. I had no time for yet one more technological time sink.
Then a bunch of my friends from NMSU started a group on MySpace. I resisted at first. Then I relented. I started a MySpace page.
Now, I must say, that MySpace is a whore-like Tammy Fae Baker approach to social networking. In "pimping" your page, you make everything ugly and trashy like, well, Wal-Mart clothing.
Meanwhile, several faculty members at Tech were starting Facebook pages. I resisted.
Then former Ph.D. colleagues trumpeted the superiority of Facebook. I resisted.
Finally, one day, curiosity got the better of me. I signed up. And it's pretty addictive, I admit. You can quickly keep tabs with people and see how they choose to present themselves to the world.
You can also see many pictures of your students in all kinds of drunken debauchery, which is amusing by itself.
Some readers (i.e., late majority) must be reading this and saying, "Yes, but what is it?"
I'll let Advertising Age explain:
"All of this works, Mr. Van Natta said, because Facebook inhabits the intersection of the web and real life, and its connections are between real people who know each other."
When I got up to enjoy my first cup of coffee this morning, I had two traditional e-mails. But I have three messages in my Facebook inbox.
I could see that one of my friends was "happy," another has a birthday tomorrow, and one of my former students is leaving Spain. Just like that.
Ad Age's article says Facebook's power has even Google worried. You see, Google is the undisputed king of searches (and they power this Weblog). Our research also indicates that Google is a Lovemark.
But your Google results and my Google results are isolated beasts. There is no connection. Yet my nascent Facebook account has 77 friends. And I'll bet with some six or so (think Kevin Bacon) degrees of separation, I am connected to all 29 million users.
Just that quick.
We'll see whether it pays off in the long run ... for me or for Facebook.

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Blogger Leah Fo Shizzle Bizzle said...

funny i was just IMing with a college buddy yesterday about the iPhone and telling him about diffusion of innovation and that he was an "innovator/early adopter"

10:51 AM  
Blogger Leah Fo Shizzle Bizzle said...

also, I resisted joining facebook until May because it had the rep before of being "college only". It's definitely cleaner and way more adult than myspace, but myspace has the nice music feature, which I like.

10:59 AM  

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