Facebook users get more love than they give

The average Facebook user gets more from the social network than he or she gives. This is because some people on Facebook are power users who contribute significantly more than the average.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

The average Facebook user gets more love from his or her friends on Facebook than he or she give to his or her friends. How is this possible? Facebook has "power users," who specialize in different Facebook activities and contribute much more than the typical user does. It turns out all the power users haven't left Facebook for Twitter and Google+ after all.

The findings come from a Pew Internet phone survey about the social and civic lives of social networking users. The findings were originally reported in a June 2011 report titled "Social networking sites and our lives" but not everything was included. During the phone survey, 269 of 877 original respondents gave Pew permission to access data on their Facebook accounts. Pew then partnered with Facebook to match individual responses from the survey with profile information and computer logs of how those same people used Facebook services over a one-month period in November 2010 that overlapped when the survey was in the field.

That's how the power users were discovered. The typical Facebook user in the sample was moderately active during the month of observation, in their tendency to send friend requests, add content, and Like their friends' content. Some 20 percent and 30 percent of the users (depending on the type of activity), however, were power users who performed the same activity at a much higher rate: daily or at least more often than weekly.

The average Facebook user thus receives friend requests, receives personal messages, is tagged in photos, and receives Likes at a higher frequency than he or she contributes them. Furthermore, power users tend to specialize: some 43 percent were experts in at least one Facebook activity: sending friend requests, pressing the Like button, sending private messages, or tagging friends in photos. Only 5 percent of Facebook users were power users on all of these activities, 9 percent on three, and 11 percent on two.

Here are the results:

  • On average, Facebook users in the sample get more friend requests than they make: 63 percent received at least one friend request during the period, but only 40 percent made a friend request. It's not clear if spam friend requests were included in the numbers.
  • It is more common to be Liked than to Like others. The postings, uploads, and updates of Facebook users are Liked more often than these users Like the contributions of others. Users in the sample pressed the Like button next to friends' content an average of 14 times per month and received feedback from friends in the form of a Like 20 times per month.
  • On average, users receive more messages than they send. During the surveyed month, users received an average of nearly 12 private messages, and sent nine.
  • People comment more often than they update their status. The sample made an average of nine status updates or Wall posts per month and contributed 21 comments.
  • People are tagged more in photos than they tag others. Some 35 percent of those in the sample were tagged in a photo, compared with just 12 percent who tagged a friend in a photo.

There's more. Pew also concluded the following:

  • Women make more status updates than men: in the sample, the average female user made 21 updates to their Facebook status in the month of observation, while the average male made six.
  • Facebook users average seven new friends a month: some 80 percent of friend requests that were initiated were reciprocated during the study period. This leads to problems like this one.
  • Few unsubscribe from friends' feeds: Facebook users have the ability to unsubscribe from seeing the content contributed by some friends on their News Feed, but less than 5 percent of the sample did so.
  • Facebook fatigue doesn't exist: last but not least, there was no evidence among the sample that length of time using Facebook is associated with a decline in Facebook activity. On the contrary, the more time that has passed since a user started using Facebook, the more frequently he or she makes status updates, uses the Like button, comments on friends' content, and tags friends in photos. Similarly, the more Facebook friends someone has, the more frequently they contribute all forms of Facebook content and the more friend requests they tend to send and accept.

At first, I found the results surprising but as I read them over in depth, it made sense. Obviously those who use Facebook more make it a better place for the average user. It's the 1 percent rule: the minority of a group generates the majority of the activity, and thus, the majority of the group is on the receiving end.

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