Facebook Users Mobilize to Determine Which U.S. State Page Will Be First to Reach 1 Million Fans

The latest viral trend on Facebook has informally organized millions of people around the world to participate in campaigns to get their favorite U.S. state to be the first with 1 million fans. Some state pages have become sponsored while others have out-paced official state-sponsored tourism Facebook Pages.

So far, more than 15 states have gained 100,000 fans, with many of the pages only a month old or less.

And amidst all the activity, a separate page has emerged to keep tallies on all these pages.

Texas is currently the leader with almost 715,000 fans on the aggregator page, Which state will reach 1,000,000 fans first? Launched on December 26, 2009, it currently has more than 7,000 fans and seems to be administered by students.

The info box explains that the page was created after the admins became “annoyed” with constant requests to get Texas to the number 1 spot, “I was actually curious which states were winning. Aren’t you? So, which state WILL reach 1,000,000 fans first?” Status updates have been positive in tone and the profile picture is sporadically updated with a graph indicating the states’ rankings.

Pages for each state seem to have been spontaneously generated to get into the competition, all of them geared solely towards getting more fans on the page.

Rankings on the aggregator are listed alongside the state’s population age and the results are interesting because population hasn’t been the primary determining factor in the rankings, but rather, the passion of people from those states to mobilize the ad hoc campaigns seems to win the day.

As of Tuesday the top five states on the page, in order, were: Texas (a longtime leader), Minnesota, New Jersey, Colorado and North Carolina.

According to the page, Texas at 24 millionpeople  and California with almost 37 million are the two most populous states, but while Texas’ page currently has more than 714,000 fans, California has just over 128,000. Even adding fans together from the multiple pages that have sprung up — California has at least two — shows that population alone doesn’t translate to Facebook fans.

That seems to point to some factor other than size influencing this race.

At least one reason is that, from the looks of the pages, people seem to be having fun “competing” for the top spot. Walls were a place where many people criticized other peoples’ states while singing the praises of their own, as evidenced by the above comments from one of California’s pages.

Another interesting outcome of the rush for 1 million fans is that some states, like Virginia, have acquired sponsorships. In Virginia’s case the sponsor is The Social Tee, a social media consulting company that specializes in custom t-shirts, a few of which are featured on Virginia’s fan site.

Admins of different states’ pages have taken a cue from the Which States page and started to use Facebook’s Insights data — Illinois for example — to determine which cities and countries are generating the most fans for them. On the whole, though, most pages are very basic. Take Texas’, for example, created on December 20, 2009, there’s little information on the page other than what’s on the Wall, although there are some profile pictures and user-generated discussions. Several of the pages reviewed followed a similar format.

It’s also interesting to note that, in the pursuit of pride and fun, these pages have managed to attract more fans than official state-sponsored tourism sites. A good example of this is Michigan, whose Pure Michigan Facebook page has over 26,000 fans whereas the People from Michigan Can Reach 1 Million Before Ohio or California page being counted in the contest boasts more than 50,100 — almost double.

There may be no bigger reason for the popularity of these pages and this contest other than the age old love people have for their homeland. There doesn’t appear to be any profit to be made from the contest. So what happens to these pages after the first state reaches 1 million fans is a good question. Will Facebook roll them into the states’ official pages? Will states try to obtain them and turn them into tourist or government-focused pages?

Whatever the case may be, it’s amazing to note that such a simple contest secured the involvement of millions of fans in a short period of time, that the unofficial pages outpaced official state-sanctioned ones, and that some even attracted sponsors.