Facebook is the Gateway Drug of Social Media

FacebookaddictionNew joiners to Facebook go through phases – understanding privacy, etiquette and addiction.  But what happens when they settle down?  The functionality of Facebook is a “lite” version of many other social technologies many have come to know.

Facebook is growing strong, recently passing the 175 million members mark.  I’ve seen many folks go from skeptic to addict in recent months.  My parents are on Facebook.  My neighbors are on Facebook.  My high school class is now mostly on Facebook when 6 months ago it was the exception.  My CEO, clients and colleagues are on Facebook.  Campers from summers in the late 80s and early 90s when I was a camp counselor are on Facebook.  Facebook dominates dinner conversation with friends, and Facebook regularly freaks out my wife when people she talks to know what I am up to.

Take a look at what people are doing in Facebook after they get through the initial connection streak:

  • The “25 things about me” meme is one of a dozen different types of viral “notes” going around.  Isn’t this a form of blogging?  I doubt many would claim the “Blogger” title though.
  • Over time, more people seem to use status updates more.  I don’t have any scientific data to back this up, but I’ve noticed people slowly adopting using the status update for a funny anecdote, what’s for dinner, a victory potty training moment.  The status update has many similarities to Twitter.
  • More people are posting and sharing links, photos, and other content.  Enter (arguably) easy to use versions of Delicious.com, Flickr and Friendfeed.

acpromFor these reasons I think Facebook is an easy “gateway” for those who don’t use those other tools day to day and are building their communities – and it may even encourage more adoption of Twitter, Friendfeed and other tools down the road (especially with their integration to your News feed).  All of these features add up to introducing core social media technology functions to the average Joe – who also happens to own a scanner and is sharing pictures of me from my senior prom.  (The mullet was all business in front, party in the back, I swear).

Did Facebook introduce you or people you know to social media?  How’s it going so far?

Photo credit (above): escapetowisconsin via Flickr

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  • I wouldn’t be on twitter right now if I hadn’t practiced it on Facebook first. And now I’m on Twitter all the time. Haven’t gone to friendfeed yet – but I’m sure someone will tell me it’s a must, I’ll ignore them for a bit, then I’ll explore it and find it is a must.

    The nice thing about starting with Facebook, at least for me, is I started sending messages to people who already know and like me (I personally know all but 2 people on my facebook). It was much easier that way.

  • I wouldn’t be on twitter right now if I hadn’t practiced it on Facebook first. And now I’m on Twitter all the time. Haven’t gone to friendfeed yet – but I’m sure someone will tell me it’s a must, I’ll ignore them for a bit, then I’ll explore it and find it is a must.

    The nice thing about starting with Facebook, at least for me, is I started sending messages to people who already know and like me (I personally know all but 2 people on my facebook). It was much easier that way.

  • barb

    Nice words- and YES, Praise FB! ~ For I too am an ADDICT ! Really, it started out SMALL~ just a FEW little posts, maybe a photo of last weekend ~ THEN~ I found myself logging in more than ONE time a day, two, three, updating my status. Next thing I knew – it was a full-blown BOOKMARK, and it was the SECOND thing I checked every morning right after business email! AAAhhh – FACEBOOK -Aaahhhh THERE is my page – THERE are my friends ! Let’s put some more OLD photos up for the FB world to SEE ! Worse thing, is I’ve gotten my FAMILY involved ! Oh the SHAME ! – now I have Sisters, Sons, and Nieces, Nephews, COUSINS for heaven’s sake ! WHERE will it STOP! My Mom’s SISTER who is 84 years OLD!?!? Can it have even snared HER ! Oh Poor Auntie!
    And now my addiction has enlarged ~ I have MySpace, and Twitter, and am flirting with FLICKR. Some days I just can’t get out of the computer chair ~ SIGH
    In answer to your original question – IS FB a “gateway” – YES ! YES !! I can’t HELP it !!
    (but it IS fun ! )
    Barb in MS

  • Nice words- and YES, Praise FB! ~ For I too am an ADDICT ! Really, it started out SMALL~ just a FEW little posts, maybe a photo of last weekend ~ THEN~ I found myself logging in more than ONE time a day, two, three, updating my status. Next thing I knew – it was a full-blown BOOKMARK, and it was the SECOND thing I checked every morning right after business email! AAAhhh – FACEBOOK -Aaahhhh THERE is my page – THERE are my friends ! Let’s put some more OLD photos up for the FB world to SEE ! Worse thing, is I’ve gotten my FAMILY involved ! Oh the SHAME ! – now I have Sisters, Sons, and Nieces, Nephews, COUSINS for heaven’s sake ! WHERE will it STOP! My Mom’s SISTER who is 84 years OLD!?!? Can it have even snared HER ! Oh Poor Auntie!
    And now my addiction has enlarged ~ I have MySpace, and Twitter, and am flirting with FLICKR. Some days I just can’t get out of the computer chair ~ SIGH
    In answer to your original question – IS FB a “gateway” – YES ! YES !! I can’t HELP it !!
    (but it IS fun ! )
    Barb in MS

  • What’s most interesting is how quickly the audience is growing and evolving, and how it’s shaping discourse.

    Much like AOL was, for years, how people thought of the Internet, and was a gateway drug to IM, I’m inclined to think the same between Facebook (AOL with an API) and Twitter. Facebook gives a highly structured experience to people, putting Twitter’s ecosystem of API-based sites and applications into a common architecture.

    For most, the way Twitter works best still seems too abstract for people on the Facebook platform. Using Twitter from the Web is a completely different experience (and less fulfilling for the current FB user) than it is from a desktop application or even browser plugin.

    What fascinates me most is that Facebook’s growth in the past six months has not come at the cost of the MySpace or Twitter audiences, where there seemed to be an ebb and flow between the platforms just a year ago. Rather, Flixster and Tagged appear to be drawing on the MySpace numbers for older users by offering a slightly more structured path towards self-expression that is still not as locked-down as Facebook.

    But I think the question still remains: now that everyone and their mother is on Facebook, where will the teens go next? With Twitter’s median age as high as it is, it seems unlikely as a next step. Maybe a platform that pivots from FB connect or the Twitter API in its own, “more private” context?

  • What’s most interesting is how quickly the audience is growing and evolving, and how it’s shaping discourse.

    Much like AOL was, for years, how people thought of the Internet, and was a gateway drug to IM, I’m inclined to think the same between Facebook (AOL with an API) and Twitter. Facebook gives a highly structured experience to people, putting Twitter’s ecosystem of API-based sites and applications into a common architecture.

    For most, the way Twitter works best still seems too abstract for people on the Facebook platform. Using Twitter from the Web is a completely different experience (and less fulfilling for the current FB user) than it is from a desktop application or even browser plugin.

    What fascinates me most is that Facebook’s growth in the past six months has not come at the cost of the MySpace or Twitter audiences, where there seemed to be an ebb and flow between the platforms just a year ago. Rather, Flixster and Tagged appear to be drawing on the MySpace numbers for older users by offering a slightly more structured path towards self-expression that is still not as locked-down as Facebook.

    But I think the question still remains: now that everyone and their mother is on Facebook, where will the teens go next? With Twitter’s median age as high as it is, it seems unlikely as a next step. Maybe a platform that pivots from FB connect or the Twitter API in its own, “more private” context?

  • Great post. I agree that FB is a “gateway drug” of social media, because it provides enough features to appeal to the masses. If you’re only interested in connecting to view other people’s photos, you can do it on FB. If you want to see other people’s status updates, you can do it on FB. If you want to play games with friends, you can do it on FB. Email, etc, Etc, etc. FB has a comprehensive feature set that will keep it the dominant platform for social media.

    I think twitter is interesting because it will never be nearly as popular as FB IMO. What would be interesting data to see is what % of FB users update their status. Could serve as a proxy for how big twitter market might be.

  • Great post. I agree that FB is a “gateway drug” of social media, because it provides enough features to appeal to the masses. If you’re only interested in connecting to view other people’s photos, you can do it on FB. If you want to see other people’s status updates, you can do it on FB. If you want to play games with friends, you can do it on FB. Email, etc, Etc, etc. FB has a comprehensive feature set that will keep it the dominant platform for social media.

    I think twitter is interesting because it will never be nearly as popular as FB IMO. What would be interesting data to see is what % of FB users update their status. Could serve as a proxy for how big twitter market might be.

  • Millie

    I think you are right on. I was an avid Facebook ‘hater’, but I started an account a couple of weeks ago. Now I have this itch to see what Twitter is all about. Great post!

  • Millie

    I think you are right on. I was an avid Facebook ‘hater’, but I started an account a couple of weeks ago. Now I have this itch to see what Twitter is all about. Great post!

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    Facebook is the Gateway Drug of Social Media [link to post] http://friendfeed.com/e/1857d358-d65f-47ed-bde7-18cc1cddd9bf – Posted using Chat Catcher

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    Facebook is the Gateway Drug of Social Media [link to post] http://friendfeed.com/e/1857d358-d65f-47ed-bde7-18cc1cddd9bf

    – Posted using Chat Catcher