Facebook And Its Many Audiences

Facebook is considering ways in which it could openly grant access to children under the age of 13, currently the minimum age for a Facebook user. The company acknowledges that it has many young users; 7.5 million according to Consumer Reports. And many parents already know that their young kids are on the site. Microsoft Research found that 36 percent of parents it polled knew their kids were on Facebook and even helped them with their profile.

So the idea is to put parental controls in place that would allow these young users to be monitored more closely by parents and avoid privacy issues.

Besides staying on top of technological advancements, Facebook has to closely analyze the ways in which it’s reaching different target audiences. The pieces of information we’re getting from the media and the company itself offer a few details about what Facebook is considering and why.

Allowing young children to openly participate on Facebook would open doors to a new market, a point that GalleyCat’s Jason Boog made this morning during our Morning Media Menu podcast. “Formally opening the site to children would allow Facebook and its partners to target a fast-growing market for children’s games that is dominated by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.’s smartphone platforms,” The Wall Street Journal points out.

But Facebook has already run into trouble with gathering and using consumer information, there’s an upcoming Federal Trade Commission review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 to think about, and various advocacy organizations and regular people are concerned about the Pandora’s box that would be opened if more kids were on Facebook. A recent infographic showed that people around the world are concerned about oversharing. Many think if kids go online with their parents knowledge, problems can be avoided. But kids manage to get into a lot of trouble, even when they’re being supervised.

An Ad Age story from last week dug a little deeper into the reasons why GM decided to discontinue its $10 million in Facebook advertising. According to sources, “GM asked if it could take over a page. It was told no.”

The story goes on to analyze the tension between Facebook and marketers. Facebook is struggling to find ways that brands can have a bigger presence on the site without being “disruptive” to users. When you have polls showing that Facebook ads aren’t making much of an impact with users, it adds to the pressure Facebook execs are undoubtedly feeling about its offerings to marketers.

Finally, Facebook now has investors and analysts to be concerned about. The company’s stock price is down again today, trading between $26 and $27 this morning. The stock price has fallen seven of the 11 days since the IPO. This is certainly not something that stockholders want to hear.

Facebook provides a case study in communicating and serving the interests of many audiences. On the one hand, Facebook has to maintain the standards of usability that drew in the 900 million-plus people who are on the network. On the other hand, as a company grows, so does the number of stakeholders. Everyone needs their fair share of attention.

Especially now that it’s a public company, Facebook needs to keep the information flowing to its various constituents. Where there are questions, there must be answers, even if those answers leave room for further information once the information available. We’re all muddling our way through this, trying to find what we like and what works best.