The last two quarters have seen some interesting trends in the big four Social Media services. The most obvious is the leveling off of growth of Facebook and Twitter, but of greatest interest is the clarification of who is using the Social Media tools.
Despite the plateau reached during the last two quarters, Facebook gained 100 million unique visitors per month over the same time last year and now stands at 590 million unique visitors per month. Twitter is the runner-up at 97 million unique visitors. To put Facebook’s Internet presence in perspective, the combined daily circulation of the Wall Street Journal, USAToday, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the New York Daily News, and the New York Post equals only 36% of the average daily unique visitors (19 million) of Facebook.
LinkedIn remains stagnant with no growth over the last five quarters and MySpace can claim the most significant trend as it continues its death spiral. It dropped from 80 million unique monthly visitors a year ago to 34 million at the end of the 1st quarter of 2011. This has all happened in a year where the owners of MySpace, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, made desperation efforts to re-invent the service, along with massive layoffs to cut costs, in hopes of selling it. So far, their attempts to prop up MySpace and sell it have failed.
FACEBOOK – Don’t Hate Them Because They’re Beautiful
Facebook has remained at an estimated unique visitor count of 590 million for in the last two quarters. This has caused some Social Media naysayers to proclaim that Social Media is dead. It’s amusing and sad at the same time. It’s like a used car salesman saying that new car sales are dead because they’ve leveled off for two quarters.
Facebook is and will continue to be the way that individuals communicate, inform, and influence others for the foreseeable future. A more reasonable growth during 2011 should be anticipated with Facebook ending the year around 610 to 625 million.
The return of female users on Facebook continues. I say ‘return’ because female users were at 60% at the end of the 1st quarter of 2010 and dipped in the middle of the year. The percentage of women users stood at 57% the end of the 3rd quarter 2010, 59% at the end of the 4th quarter, and is now at 61%.
There has been no significant change in the age groups using Facebook during the last three quarters. This would indicate that Facebook users are becoming more stable and identifiable in terms of demographics. Seventy-two percent of users are between 25 and 54, and dividing those into ten-year spans (25-34, 35-44, and 45-55) results in near equal distribution among the three age groups.
CONCLUSION: Facebook is used primarily by adults of both sexes, but significantly female, in the prime of their active professional careers for social interaction.
TWITTER – The Scoop on Real-Time Events and Discussion
Media ‘Experts’ continue to try to figure out how to ‘monetize’ Twitter and come away with programs that annoy people and are rejected by Tweeters. When they offer dismal ROI (return on investment) figures to their client they shrug their shoulders and declare Twitter is a fad and useless. Then a major world event happens and Twitter becomes the most important information tool on the planet.
Twitter is an acid test on whether a person ‘gets’ Social Media or not, because it is one of the most powerful Social Media tools on the web, but it is not a space for advertising or marketing. This makes Twitter one of the most envied and hated Social Media tools by traditional marketing and media people, but one of the most loved by those who are believers.
Twitter has been hanging just under 100 million unique users per month since the 2nd quarter of 2010, but did dip down to 89 million at the end of 2010. Since then Twitter has jumped back up to finish the 1st quarter of 2011 at 97 million. The jump in the 1st quarter of this year is likely due to the world political events in north Africa and the earthquake and tsunami in Nippon.
Women use Twitter more than men, but like Facebook, there was a dip in the middle of 2010, when female users dropped from 60% at the end of the 1st quarter. By the end of the 4th quarter female users were at 55% and that has grown to 57% at the end of 2011’s 1st quarter.
Age demographics for Twitter also haven’t changed significantly during the last three quarters. Twitter users skew towards the young professional age group with 54% of the users falling in the 25-44 age group. At the end of the 1st quarter of 2011, only 18% of the users fell in the 45-54 age range compared to 26% of Facebook users.
CONCLUSION: Twitter is used by primarily young professionals of both sexes, but significantly female, to discuss current, real-time issues including world events and business-related topics.
LINKEDIN – Social Media for Head Hunters and Salespeople
Many people don’t realize that LinkedIn (launched in May 2003) predates Twitter (July 2006) Facebook (February 2004,) and MySpace (August 2003). Despite its seniority in the Social Media world, it has failed to catch fire with a larger audience. It is sometimes thought to be a Social Media tool for business, but this is almost always proposed by someone who is an employment recruiter or a sales and/or marketing person.
Because LinkedIn specializes in giving a person a format to publish their resumé it is the ideal network for those seeking employment as well as those who make a profit off of people seeking employment. The irony is that at a time of record unemployment, the unique users per month have stayed flat, alternating between 41 million and 38 million for the past five quarters, ending at 41 million this past quarter.
The reason LinkedIn lacks a higher level of interaction may be due to users who have an agenda (selling themselves or their services,) which is annoying to most Social Media users. It is an inherent flaw in the premise of LinkedIn that will always keep it from broader acceptance and usage by Social Media users who like interacting, but loath selling and advertising.
LinkedIn also creates barriers to forming connections by asking “How do you know ____ ?”, and in some situations will require a user to prove that they know the person by providing their email address. While you can work around these barriers fairly easily, it inhibits people from making new connections with someone who may have similar interests.
Regarding the male to female user ratio, male users have been at 55% for the past two quarters, which is up from the 50-50 split in the 1st quarter of 2010. The users also tend to be older professionals with the 35-54 age group making up 61% of the users at the end of the 2010, and 62% at the end of the 1st quarter of this year. Those percentages were up from 56% one year ago, indicating that LinkedIn users are skewing towards the older professional.
CONCLUSION: LinkedIn is used primarily by older professionals of both sexes, but significantly male, to market themselves and their services.
MySpace – 2011 R.I.P
It is time to accept that MySpace is no longer relevant as a Social Media tool. It seems to have been abandoned by all but, 1) independent bands who use it to advertise themselves, 2) law enforcement agencies who pose as 13 year-old girls using images of tweens in bathing suits to lure in child predators, 3) real teenagers saying that they are 19 or older to bypass the security restrictions on minors, or 4) females who are seeking to attract men and women to their adult site. That is oversimplifying it, but it is difficult, if not impossible to find anything about MySpace that would make it competitive with other Social Media tools like Facebook or Twitter.
In addition to the largely objectionable user base, the site is slow and requires a log in with each visit, rather than accept the cookie identification from the returning users’ computer like most other Social Media services.
News Corp seems to have made a major error in purchasing MySpace at a time when it needed massive updating and redesigning for a more sophisticated user. Instead they tried to dress it up last year as a music-based Social Media service and sell it off without investing the money needed to save it. It is now so dysfunctional that the best thing that could happen is to shut it down, build a new and better program from scratch, and launch a new service that competes with LinkedIn or finds a new niche.
It is rather pointless to discuss the age or sex demographics of MySpace because while the statistics for the last two quarters may indicate that the users are 68% female, false profiles seem to be so rampant on the service that nothing can be believed.
CONCLUSION: MySpace is used primarily for nefarious, hormonal, and/or deceptive reasons for purposes that tend to exploit or expose unsuspecting users.