Has Facebook Arrived As a New Mass Medium?

Building a social media strategy for clients is like building any other PR program – you target your message to the outlets that matter to your audience and your objectives. So where you want to build social media buzz helps you identify where you get the most value, whether it is with your professional contacts on LinkedIn, or through vertical outlets such as IT Toolbox or BankInnovation.net. Of course, there are those mainstream media outlets where all clients crave coverage, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. It looks like Facebook is starting to develop the same regulation as the “must have” social media site for any social media strategy.

A recent survey by Anderson Analytics revealed that Facebook has become the coolest place on the web for college students, despite the fact it is continues to grow in popularity with their parents. The Anderson Analytics 2009-2010 GenX2Z American College Student Survey conducted this fall shows that 82 percent of college men and 90 percent of college women ranked Facebook as “cool,” and  other social media sites including MySpace were ranked as “lame” by comparison. Consider the growing number of adult users migrating to Facebook, including these college students’ parents and even grandparents, and you have a bona fide phenomenon.

“Once a trend goes mainstream, it often gradually loses its ‘cool’ factor among young people, and they move on to the next ‘big thing,’” said Tom H.C. Anderson, managing partner of Anderson Analytics. “Our data indicate this is not the case with Facebook.”

The same survey revealed that college students are participating less in blogs (down 5 percent from 2008) and discussion boards (down 8 percent), which bodes well for microblogging. Twitter continues to grow, although growth has flattened a bit in recent months.

What’s also interesting is we are seeing a media convergence on Facebook. The survey shows that 70 percent of college students had watched entire television episodes or feature film streamed online. In fact, for the first time a streaming media site, Hulu.com, ranked in the top 10 sites in the survey. And there is a natural symbiosis between Facebook and streaming media sites like Hulu and YouTube. There is a Hulu widget on Facebook and popular shows, like the Simpsons and Family Guy, are streamed on Hulu with fan pages on Facebook. The convergence is organic.

And popular brands who “get it” and understand how to engage are seeing a boost from Facebook. In the Anderson Analytics study, both McDonalds and Coca-Cola ranged first among college students, and they also had more Facebook fans than their number two competitors. (Coke’s Facebook fans outnumber Pepsi twenty to one.)

What this survey reveals is that social media in general and Facebook in particular have become a real marketing force, not just to reach college students but for all ages. Extending your marketing program with a social media presence is a cost-effective and sure-fire way to expand your brand footprint.

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