Facebook has had quite a week. If it is true that there is no such thing as bad publicity then this week has been a windfall for the social networking giant. I have even read some conspiracy theorists who believe that the whole terms of service ‘incident’ was intended. I’m not sure I can go there but to be honest it does make some sense. The amount of new traffic and new visitors compared to those who may have de-Facebooked themselves is probably significant. Many fence sitters may have gotten curious enough to finally check it out while those who left had grown weary of it in the first place. It’s the classic case of so many theories and so little time.
It appears as if the Facebook publicity train has run out of steam, though. I say that because today’s WSJ ran a story of people who have decided that giving up Facebook for Lent is their big sacrifice. I realize that may sound a bit absurd thus my saying that this train may have run out of steam. It does, however, give some insight into just how deeply embedded social media can get in anyone’s life and makes it so attractive to marketers of just about anything.
The article talks about adults taking this journey not just the younger set that have grown up with Facebook. The amount of uncertainty, hand wringing and preparation of excuses in case of slips is both amusing and disturbing at the same time. The Pew Research Institute places the daily usage for 18-24 year olds of social media like Facebook and MySpace at 50%. That’s a strong number from any perspective but marketers want a piece of that audience for sure. Only 13% of the rest of Internet users have the same habit but they buy stuff too, right? One of those 13% is a 39 year-old electrician who says he updates his Facebook status about 20 times a day. I hope he doesn’t cross any wires in the process.
The most telling account may have been given by a college student and her experience with walking away from her social media habit (in this case Facebook) for 40 days.
College students who have abstained from Facebook for Lent in recent years say it was brutal, but valuable. Whitley Leiss, now a junior at Texas Christian University, slipped up only once, on her birthday, when she was desperate to see the well-wishes posted for her. She asked a roommate to log into her account and read them aloud while she averted her eyes from the screen. When Lent ended, she logged on to find dozens of messages waiting and strangely little desire to answer them.
“I saw all that I had missed,” Ms. Leiss said. “And I realized I hadn’t missed anything.” She also learned, she says, who her true friends were — those who would take the radically retro step of calling or emailing to stay in touch.
Since the Marketing Pilgrim crowd rates very high on the social media usage scale it begs the question “If you chose to step away from social media for 40 days what impact would it have on your life? Could you or would you even attempt to do it? If you do we’ll make sure to e-mail you while you’re away.