Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

Facebook vs. MySpace: 2007 West Side Story

July 4th, 2007 by


It is hard to forget Rupert Murdoch reaction when asked whether newspaper readers were drifting off to MySpace. His reaction was: “I wish they were. They’re all going to Facebook at the moment”. While it is certain that facebook growth has a lot to do with myspace users moving inside, it can be suggested that social network users are not loyal to only one network.  According to Parks Associates online surveys “40% percent of MySpace users keep profiles on other social networking sites such as Friendster and Facebook. Loyalty among the smaller social networking sites is even lower, with more than 50% of all users actively maintaining multiple profiles” (results were gathered by 2 online surveys: survey of 1,000 heads-of-Internet households in the U.S., where 402 social networking users were identified and a second survey of 2,000 Internet users in the U.S. age 13 and up where 475 myspace users were identified).
Another explanation to the recent fast growth of Facebook can be attributed to the strength of an elite brand opens up to the public. While Myspace was always an open to all platform, Facebook enjoys the desirability of a network initiated by Harvard students.
Danah Boyd, a PhD candidate at Berkeley, doing research on blogging and social networking has recently published an essay where she reviews the development of each of the social networks (via: core77). Danah suggests that MySpace and Facebook are new representations of the class divide in American youth. These two social networks reflect the split between educated “good” teens to the “bad”, uneducated off stream ones. While conducting an ethnographic research on social network sites since 2003, Danah analyzed over 10,000 MySpace profiles, spent over 2000 hours surfing and observing what happens on MySpace, formally interviewed 90 teens in 7 states with a variety of different backgrounds and demographics. She uses ethnographic techniques to observe teens behavior: ride buses, hang out at fast food joints and malls, talks to parents, teachers, marketers, politicians, pastors, and technology creators. During her investigations, she was informed about the switch to facebook: teens started telling her about how they were leaving MySpace to join Facebook or joining Facebook as their first social network site.
At the end of the post you can find a short version for Danah Boyds’ observtions.
Reading Danah’s’ extensive review, I do wonder what would the future bring to the homes for the bad and the good guys. Will this West Side Story scenario not be resolved? Should there be a split between education and talents? Main stream and off stream?

Understanding the nature of social networking behavior, where users have multiple profiles it can turn out that the split will not occur between users but within users: why not put our serious parts in facebook (business profiles for example) and dedicate our dreams, talents and desires to myspace?

More research on social networks: pewinternet, iprospect

short version for Danah Boyds’ observtions:

1. Historical perspective: 2003-2007

  • When MySpace launched in 2003, it was primarily used by 20/30-somethings The bands began populating the site by early 2004 and throughout 2004, the average age slowly declined. It wasn’t until late 2004 that teens really started appearing en masse on MySpace and 2005 was the year that MySpace became the “in thing” for teens.
  • Facebook launched in 2004 as a Harvard-only site. It slowly expanded to welcome people with .edu accounts from a variety of different universities. In mid-2005, Facebook opened its doors to high school students, but it wasn’t that easy to get an account because you needed to be invited. As a result, those who were in college tended to invite those high school students that they liked. Facebook was strongly framed as the “cool” thing that college students did. So, if you want to go to college (and particularly a top college), you wanted to get on Facebook badly. Even before high school networks were possible, the moment seniors were accepted to a college, they started hounding the college sysadmins for their .edu account. The message was clear: college was about Facebook.
  • For all of 2005 and most of 2006, MySpace was the cool thing for high school teens and Facebook was the cool thing for college students. This is not to say that MySpace was solely high school or Facebook solely college, but there was a dominating age division that played out in the cultural sphere.
  • When Facebook opened to everyone last September, it became relatively easy for any high school student to join (and then they simply had to get permission to join their high school network).

2. Observations: socio-economic divisions

  • “good” kids are now going to Facebook: These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.
  • MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

switching to Facebook?

  • For the hegemonic teens in the midwest, there wasn’t a MySpace to switch from so the “switch” is happening much faster. None of the teens are really switching from Facebook to MySpace, although there are some hegemonic teens who choose to check out MySpace to see what happens there even though their friends are mostly on Facebook. Most teens who exclusively use Facebook are familiar with and have an opinion about MySpace. These teens are very aware of MySpace and they often have a negative opinion about it. They see it as gaudy, immature, and “so middle school.” They prefer the “clean” look of Facebook, noting that it is more mature and that MySpace is “so lame.”
  • Teens from poorer backgrounds who are on MySpace are less likely to know people who go to universities. They are more likely to know people who are older than them, but most of their older friends, cousins, and co-workers are on MySpace. It’s the cool working class thing and it’s the dominant SNS at community colleges. These teens are more likely to be interested in activities like shows and clubs and they find out about them through MySpace. The subaltern teens who are better identified as “outsiders” in a hegemonic community tend to be very aware of Facebook. Their choice to use MySpace instead of Facebook is a rejection of the hegemonic values (and a lack of desire to hang out with the preps and jocks even online).
  • Class divisions in military use
    A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. Danah suggest that the  division in the military reflects the division found in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. Facebook is extremely popular in the military, but it’s not the SNS of choice for 18-year old soldiers, a group that is primarily from poorer, less educated communities. They are using MySpace. The officers, many of whom have already received college training, are using Facebook. The military ban appears to replicate the class divisions that exist throughout the military.

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12 Responses

  1. nun3 Says:

    tanks a lot Tally (and Danah Boyd).
    very interesting post. it really answered myspace/facebook questions i had, and “organized things” for me.

  2. Steve Says:

    Wow, what a great read. I had never thought of MySpace and Facebook in terms of socio-economic division, but reading your article has brought the clear differences into focus for me. Thanks!

  3. Alguspunkt Says:

    […] MySpace vs Facebook ja natuke muudki – Trendsspottingus. […]

  4. The Social Net » Social Networking July 4, 2007 6:03 am Says:

    […] Facebook vs. MySpace: 2007 West Side Story According to Parks Associates online surveys ???40% percent of MySpace users keep profiles on other social networking sites such as Friendster and Facebook. Loyalty among the smaller social networking sites is even lower, with more than … […]

  5. Lior Says:

    Taly a little question I got for you. I am just interested, don’t get offended by this question. Do you also use the services you examine like every other user in their community or do you make your conclusion by numbers that you get from your tools?

  6. talyweiss Says:

    lior: thanks for your comment. I do have my profile on most of the communities I review, I try to take an active part on most of the trends I spot.
    Though, I don’t yet own an iPhone..

  7. Niv Calderon Says:

    extremely helpful information, thanks

  8. » Blog Archive » 10 tools to make meaningful (instant friends Trendsspotting) Says:

    […] Much has been said about the Facebook vs. MySpace trend: the different design, the emotional effect, the viral effect, the social effect, the? overall? potential. […]

  9. Bob Smith Says:

    Wow! I never thought of the social division between the two big networking sites…


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