College Students: Facebook Only Game in Town

College Students: Facebook Only Game in Town

Facebook has been rated the ‘coolest’ of online social networking sites by an overwhelming majority of college students, many of whom assign ‘lame’ ratings to other sites such as MySpace, Hi5, WindowsLive and Friendster, according to new research from Anderson Analytics

The firm’s 2009-2010 GenX2Z American College Student survey, which asked US college students to rate the top seven social networking sites, revealed that 82% of males and 90% of females say Facebook is ‘cool.’ All other social networks are deemed ‘lame’ by significant percentages of both men and women users. In particular, MySpace was considered ‘lame’ by the largest portion of college students (31%).

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The results, according to Tom H.C. Anderson, managing partner of Anderson Analytics, reveal that Facebook is not only the overwhelming favorite social networking site among college students, it may rapidly be becoming the only social network that matters.

Against the Grain?

These results are interesting in that they seem to buck conventional wisdom, given Facebook’s increasing popularity among the older adult population, including the parents and even the grandparents of college students, Anderson noted.  “Once a trend goes mainstream, it often gradually loses its ‘cool’ factor among young people, and they move on to the next big thing, he said, adding that the study clearly shows that this is not the case with Facebook.

“In fact,” said Anderson, “while the media have been predicting its decline, Facebook’s staying power among the influential age-18-25 demographic suggests that a social networking shake-out may have occurred, and as the dust settles, it looks like Facebook is the hands-down winner.”

This seeming paradox appears to be supported by the fact that college students may not be rejecting their parents preferences as much as they used to. Recent sociological research from Nickelodeon and Harris Interactive found that the expanding role of technology and the current economic climate are narrowing the generation gap and drawing today’s American families closer together, changing how children and parents regard each other.

The survey also found that Facebook not only topped the social networking landscape; it overtook Google as the #1 most popular website among both genders of college students.

Less Blog, Board Participation

In an equally important development, the study found college students of both genders are participating less in blogs and discussion boards than in previous years (down 5% and 8% vs. 2008, respectively). These results bode well for microblogging sites like Twitter, whose growth has flattened over the past few months.

Anderson suggests that this decrease in blogging and discussion-board visits may be because Facebook is quickly becoming more of a communications hub than a social networking site. He noted that its increasing variety of applications, functionality and flexibility enables it to deliver “one-stop shopping” in the otherwise fragmented digital space.

“Facebook is becoming more of a hub than just a social networking site-almost a mass medium unto itself,” he added.

More Streaming Media

Study results also suggest that Facebook will eventually make greater use of streaming media, specifically TV shows and movies. Some 70% of college students in the study say they have watched an entire television episode or full-length movie online. Streaming media website-Hulu.com-ranks among students’ 10 most popular websites for the first time since the study was first fielded in 2005.

Fan Pages and Brands

The study also revealed an interesting possible correlation between Facebook fan page members and the popularity of certain brands with college students. For example, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s rank first in their categories with both genders surveyed. Both brands also have substantially more Facebook fans for their pages vs. their respective number-two competitors. For example, Coke Facebook fans outnumber Pepsi fans by approximately 20 to one.

“Given the accelerated pace of technological advancement and changes in the way we communicate, it’s impossible to predict the future,” Anderson said. “But if the preferences of today’s college students are any indication, Facebook is here to stay. It is unlikely any of the current players will be able to challenge [it].”