Facebook fatigue and niche networks

fb110 Social networking site Facebook saw its first drop in UK users in January, according to research from Nielsen Online as reported by the BBC.

Users fell 5% to 8.5 million in January from 8.9 million in December, according to data from Nielsen Online.

This was the first drop in user numbers since July 2006 when Nielsen began compiling data on the site, says the BBC report.

While I don’t think anyone should draw any meaningful conclusions from a numbers decline for just one month, it does reflect, anecdotally at least, what I hear about a lot among many of my online friends – Facebook fatigue.

I’m suffering from that. Indeed, these days I check in to Facebook maybe once or twice a week, that’s all. And I don’t use it as a primary business communication channel.

What an about-turn from just seven months ago.

And the place I frequent more than any other? Twitter. That’s my online social network of choice where I find like-minded people that I want to connect with.

It’s not better than Facebook, it’s just different. And no pokes, vampire bites, movie quizzes or even virtual beers. That suits me just fine.

One particular aspect of the BBC’s report is worth paying attention to, which is expressed in this quote from Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst at Nielsen Online:

[...] real growth potential lies in the niche networks – those based on a particular lifestyle or interest, such as travel, music, wealth or business.

I agree. And you can still be in a vast network like Facebook, if you want, as well as in a small one that meets your relevant and specific interests or needs. Or in multiple smalls ones, as I am.

I don’t think Facebook will suddenly become unpopular. But I do think we will see many more niche networks springing up as long as there are people who want to connect with other people.

And not just online, either – take a look at the Social Media Cafe which is an embryonic social network that is a hybrid: online and in the flesh.

The best of both worlds.

About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.