Statistics often color our perceptions, and in the sphere of social networking this is most certainly true. We like to make assumptions based on the numbers. However, most often when 'pacing' is omitted from the equation, we lose our perspective as to what the numbers are really telling us. Is Facebook the dominant player in social networking or does its growth numbers tell us something more about where it will be a year from now?
According to Facebook's Press Room page on its website, it currently lists its active users at "more than 200 million," with "more than 100 million users logging on to Facebook at least once each day." However when Facebook promoted its now famous over-publicized land sale for "vanity URLs" on June 15, only 5.75 million users signed up. While this number in and of itself is substantial, in comparison to the total number of Facebook users its less than 3%. If Facebook is the social network of choice, wouldn't you have thought there would have been more registrants, particularly in fear of losing ones chosen name or identity to a cybersquatter?
From January, 2007 to the present, Facebook grew from 60 million active users to 200 million, or at a 333% growth rate. Twitter on the other hand, over the same time period saw its growth go from 2 to 32 million or a 1600% increase. So are we to conclude that if both networks continue at the same pace that Twitter will eventually eclipse Facebook?
According to Jon Gibs, vice president of Nielsen Online this is not necessarily the case. "The one thing that is clear about social networking is that regardless of how fast a site is growing or how big it is, it can quickly fall out of favor with consumers," Gibs said in a statement. "Neither Facebook nor Twitter are immune."
However, looking at Facebook's growth pattern, it's hard to see them plateauing any time soon.
So based on what's happening now, Facebook does look likes it trouncing the competition. According to a recent June report released by Nielsen, Facebook users logged 13.9 billion minutes on the site in April, 2009. That compares to 5 billion minutes on MySpace, 300 million on Twitter, and 202.4 million on LinkedIn.
According to these stats compared to April, 2008, Facebook soared 699% in growth, while MySpace dropped 31%. But the clear winner again was Twitter. because the time spent on the microblogging Web site escalated to a whopping 3712% increase since April of last year.
So based on this snapshot of findings, what do you think? Do you feel that Facebook is the dominant player in the social networking space, or is the 'little twain that could' a viable contender? Let's all check back here in a year's time and see who continues to gain ground or who is on the right track to take the lead.
In the meantime, if you or your company works in the social networking space, please comment with any additional valid statistics that may confirm or disagree on the points made here. There is not really any centralized agency gathering these types of stats in the industry, so it would be a great service to the people reading this blog if we can hear from some additional folks knowledgeable in the field.