Social media? Booming. Social media advertising? Not so much.

neilsen fresh faces2 Social networks are growing like kudzu in August. You knew that already; now the Neilsen Online folks have made it official. According to its Global Faces and Networked Places report [PDF], Netizens now spend more time on social networks than they do inside their email inboxes. (Though, given that most social nets have their own internal email systems, that’s surely an oversimplication.)

The time people waste spend on social networks is growing three times faster than the overall Internet. Facebook time alone increased by a whopping 566 percent. (I knew I’d been frittering away too many hours on there lately; apparently I’m not the only one.) And though the Neilsen report features fresh young 20-somethings on its cover, Facebook is booming most among the boomers. The biggest growth is among the beer belly and cellulite crowd, aged 35 to 49. Meanwhile, nearly twice as many 50 to 64 year olds signed up for Facebook than those under age 18.

In other words, Facebook is no longer cool, rad, bitchin, gnarly, or whatever the kids are calling things they like these days. (Somewhere, my 12 year old is groaning.) It’s for old farts like you and me. The youth have moved on to hipper social networks, and it will be a frosty day in Hell before they tell us which ones they are.

But the real story is social network advertising, or the lack thereof. Despite solid revenues, advertising isn’t clicking with social media users, or vice versa. To wit:

Whilst a few billion dollars of ad revenue can’t be wrong, the prevailing wisdom is that the current level of advertising activity on social networks isn’t consummate with the size – and highly engaged levels – of the audience. The social networks and advertising industry haven’t quite yet found that magic formula to make this happen.

Why? Check out this amazing graphic, which is buried on page five of the report. According to Neilsen’s “BuzzMetrics,” the word most closely associated by Internet users with advertising is “false.” It’s right at the bullseye. The words least associated? Deal, price, and quality.

neilsen false adv graphic - cropped

People don’t trust ads. They don’t like ads. They don’t really want to see ads, but they’ll put up with them if they have to. (Which is one of my big objections to ZillionTV; giving you a choice of what ads you’d like to see is like giving you the choice of what dogshit you’d like to eat. Would you prefer the chocolate cinnamon dogshit or the raspberry swirl? In the end, it’s still dogshit.)

For the rest of this post (slightly neutered) visit my Computerworld blog, Culture Crash.

3 Responses to “Social media? Booming. Social media advertising? Not so much.”

  1. on 11 Mar 2009 at 12:54 pm charting

    I think you need to rewrite this, just a bit. The way I read the graphic, the *word* “False” is in the second ring. The *term* “False advertising” is the bullseye… but, we do ‘get the picture’…
    It is a rather amazing graphic, no question about that.

  2. on 11 Mar 2009 at 1:41 pm dan tynan

    gotta say, your eyes are much better than mine. but you’re right, “false advertising” is the bullseye. nice catch.


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