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The Canadian Facebook experience

I was really quite surprised two weeks ago at VON to find myself in a room full of Facebook skeptics.  These folks were no luddites either.  They were "la creme" of the technology industry.  The vast majority of them, however, expressed disbelief at the value of Facebook in a business setting, and concern over privacy.

Fast forward to today, where I've received email from John Reid, President of CataAlliance, the Canadian Technology Association.  In it John writes:

We have a team integrating “conversational networks” such as Facebook, Plaxo and LinkedIn, into the CATA B2B Platform as part of expanding our business networking and outreach capabilities. Some of the largest work networks on Facebook (www.facebook.com) now include: Ernst & Young, Johnson & Johnson, Morgan Stanley, British Telecommunications, Sun Microsystems, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Shell Oil, Bank One, and National Health Service.

One of our selection criteria for choosing third party Networks is Privacy. Note that Facebook leads the industry in giving people tools to control the information they share and with whom they choose to share it. Facebook is TrustE certified.

He then goes on to encourage CATA members to join the CATAAlliance Facebook group.

What a dramatic difference from my experience in Boston a few weeks ago.  Why?

Just before VON I wrote about how Canadian Facebook penetration is dramatically higher than US.  Nearly one in four Canadians use Facebook, versus just 7.3% of folks south of the border.  The differences become even more dramatic, however, when you map penetration to specific age demographics, as the chart below shows.

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In the core Facebook age demographic — 15 to 24 — over 80% of Canadians are Facebook users, versus just 39.7% of Americans.  More tellingly, however, that core group accounts for 76% of US Facebook users, but in Canada it's less than half.  More Canadians in more age categories use Facebook, proportionally, than in the US.  51.1% of young workers have a Facebook account in Canada, versus just 8.5% in the US.  19% of Canadians in the mid-career age bracket – 35 to 44 – are Facebook users versus 1.6% of Americans in the same age bracket.

Facebook is ubiquitous here, and has started to weave itself into the fabric of our society.  It hasn't yet reached the same level in the United States yet, which explains the reaction I experienced at VON.  Where Canadian business people are increasingly inclined to view Facebook as a valid part of their workplace toolkit, Americans aren't yet ready to do so. 

It's fascinating.  If I were the Facebook team, I'd be looking for as many ways as possible to understand what's going on in Canada.  It's likely a predictor for how US adoption will go.

Data compiled from Facebook Ad platform and cross referenced to standard US Census groupings.

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