Tag Archives: Social Media Motivations

Facebook Usage Down. Why This is Not The End–Yet

14 Jun


Figure 1 – April-to-April increase of user time per month on Facebook

The latest user research on Facebook indicates the dominant social media site is losing some of its luster.   A series of recent data sets indicates Facebook engagement is maturing and users may be losing a sense of the novelty that once came with the social networking site.

New research from the web analytics firm comScore Inc. shows that unique visitors to Facebook in April rose to 158 million, an increase of only 5% from the year before.  Its growth rate was down 24% from April of 2011 and 89% from April of 2010.

ComScore’s data obtained by the Wall Street Journal also shows a slowdown in growth rate of time spent on Facebook.   In April, users spent a little more than 6 hours a month on the site, an increase of 16% from the year before.  That compares to a 23% increase in April of 2011 and 57% in 2010.  (Figure 1)

Additional research from Reuters and Ipsos indicates 34% of Facebook users were spending less time on the site than they did just six months ago.   The phone survey of more than 1000 participants represented recall and was perhaps not as accurate of a measurement as the analytics study generate by comScore.

Nevertheless, they all tap into an insight that the fascination with Facebook may be peaking.

Among Facebook’s core users of young adults 18-35 there are mixed reviews.   Allysa Sajady is a 20-something grad student who still uses Facebook, but admits not as often. 


Jackie Randall is a dentistry student who no longer has the time to constantly update her friends.


The waning fascination with Facebook is easily explained with a nearly 100 year old psychological model known as the Wundt Curve. (Figure 2)

Figure 2 – Wundt Curve

Wilhelm Wundt created the model to help explain the newness of an idea or product.  In the model, the X axis (vertical) represents enjoyment, and the Y axis (horizontal) represents stimulus intensity or newness.  The curve portrays rising enjoyment as an idea or product is new and then falling enjoyment as the product becomes overly familiar.  The primary lesson from Wundt is that sustainable relationships are created when a familiar product is changed just enough to make the experience new again.  In other words, the optimum position on the curve is slightly outside the X & Y intercepts.

That’s exactly what Facebook has attempted to do by creating the new timeline feature and by acquiring the photo sharing application Instagram.  With those two moves Facebook is staking its claim on sustainable side of the Wundt Curve.   Yahoo and MySpace have floundered deep inside the curve.

For all of its sudden criticism, Facebook is still a behemoth brand.  ComScore notes that Facebook has already collected 71% of all 221 million U.S. internet users.  They spend more than six hours a month on Facebook far exceeding the four hours a month they spend on all of Google’s sites and the 3.5 hours they spend on Yahoo sites according to comScore.

For those who make a living following social media trends, Facebook is far from dead.

“Absolutely not,” said Dan Antonson of S-M-C Pros of Minneapolis.  “I think technology is always going to trend, it’s always going to change. And I think what we’re seeing is a shift, absolutely a shift in behavior.  But that shift doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook isn’t working,” said Antonson.


In fact, for Antonson Facebook is working.  “I mean, when you look at some of these recent reports of one-in-five page views on the internet being Facebook, it’s hard to say it’s going away anytime soon.”

It may not go away, but the challenge for Facebook is to keep changing the experience enough to keep it new to the user.

GM and Ford — A Case of Two Facebook Strategies

7 Jun

General Motors recent announcement to stop buying advertising on Facebook may have been the backfire heard in agencies around the world.  GM didn’t just turn off the engine, it slammed the breaks with such force that it had the advertising industry and social media world bouncing off the air bags.  That tends to happen when any brand cancels a $10M buy.  GM argued the Facebook ads and were simply ineffective.

To be sure, social media is a constantly shifting platform that challenges brands in finding a cost effective way of using multiple social channels to target customers.  But as a customer engagement platform, is GM really using Facebook effectively to drive conversations with its customers?

Figure 1 – Ford’s Facebook Cover Photo

Figure 2 – GM’s Facebook Cover Photo

Let’s start with a simple look at the Facebook cover photos of both GM and Ford. (Figures 1 & 2)  One of these pages immediately tells the user its company is about people, the other is about objects.  At its core, social media is about having relationships with other people.

Extensive research on social media engagement indicates a strong correlation between seeking gratification and fulfilling psychological needs.  Louis Leung found a significant draw to social media by people who needed recognition and empowerment.  Brand new research from the University of Boston shows that Facebook use is motivated by the need to belong and a secondary need for self-presentation.  Additionally, John Eighmey and Lola McCord established how the need for entertainment is vitally important to maintaining an online relationship.  But among the most important insights for brands comes from Mihaela Vorvorneanu at Purdue University whose research found a desire for consumer interaction with corporations on Facebook only if it gives them a badge of personal identity, or a tangible reward such as a discount on products or services.

Figure 3 – Ford’s Car Giveaway

On the later point, Ford seems to deeply understand these motivations.  During the final week of its American Idol sponsorship on Fox, Ford ran a Facebook post inviting viewers to enter the Ford Video Music Challenge and have a chance at winning a new car.  (Figure 3)  Another engagement strategy by Ford is asking its followers to contribute their own ideas on topics such as designing their own Ford Fusion or what they’d do with the gas money they’d save if they owned an electric car.

Figure 4 – GM’s May Sales

GM’s Facebook page tends to look more like a corporate newsroom site.  One recent posting trumpeted May’s sales growth. (Figure 4)  Another linked to a CNN.com interview GM CEO Dan Akerson.   While it all defends and defines the corporation, it’s not exactly the kind of content that invites a personal dialog with the brand.  In fairness, there are some moments of truly cool engagement, such as the picture it recently posted of the new top-secret Chevy SS prototype. (Figure 5)  The posting builds intrigue and anticipation at the same time serving as a sneak-peek reward for any GM Facebook follower.

Figure 5 – Chevy SS Facebook Post

The one thing GM has going for it is its social media maven, Mary Henige.  She is a walking, talking, one-woman evangelist for General Motors.  Henige has more energy than a fully charged Chevy Volt and is not afraid to use Twitter and various other channels to engage customers in the GM brand. (Follow Henige on Twitter @maryhenige)  One good example is the Facebook page for Chevrolet.  It uses more of the follower-involving content utilized by Ford to draw people into a relationship with the brand.

It could be reasonably argued that GM’s core customers have stronger emotional bonds to their individual car brands than to the corporation behind them.   In that regard it could make sense to let the GM Facebook page be more of a corporate PR blog.  But that’s not what social media is about, and GM may be missing an opportunity to make true relationship drivers of all of its social media channels.

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