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Facebook Grows with Age Diverse Members

comScore released the results of a study on the member visits to Facebook.com, which showed the site grew to 26.6 million unique visitors in the U.S. in May 2007, marking an 89 percent increase versus the same month last year.

The dramatic growth comes on the heels of the decision in September 2006 to open up Facebook registration to the general public -- a change from the previous policy requiring a valid email address from a university or a selected group of other schools and businesses. In the months prior to allowing open registration, the Facebook.com traffic hovered at approximately 14 million visitors per month.

Meanwhile, the number of pages of content viewed at Facebook.com in May 2007 increased to 15.8 billion, up 143 percent versus May 2006. Visitors averaged 186 minutes at the site in May 2007, which marked a 35 percent increase versus the same month last year. Interestingly, engagement levels peaked in February 2007 at 200 minutes per visitor, then leveled off slightly as the influx of new visitors (who tend to begin as lighter users) tempered the average.

Once a social networking haven for college students, Facebook's decision to open registration has helped attract new visitors from outside the 18-24 year old age segment. In fact, the 38 percent increase among 18-24 year olds was the lowest rate of growth of the age segments represented in the study. The most dramatic growth occurred among 25-34 year olds (up 181 percent), while 12-17 year olds grew 149 percent and those age 35 and older grew 98 percent.

"Given its roots as a college networking site, Facebook has historically shown very strong skews toward the 18-24 year old age segment," said Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of comScore Media Metrix.

"However, since the decision to open registration to everyone, the site has seen visitors from all age groups flood the site. As the overall visitation to Facebook continues to grow, the demographic composition of the site will likely more closely resemble that of the total Internet audience."

I have clients that showed an interest in building a market development strategy that utilizes word-of-mouth engagement on MySpace, and I have recommended Facebook instead. Granted, if a marketer is in the media or entertainment space, then MySpace may be a better fit for a campaign. Otherwise, the Facebook platform has virtually no ad clutter -- compared to MySpace -- and that's a major benefit.

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