Some surprises this year included the launch of Google+ (which acquired 25 million users in less than 30 days), Pinterest which grew at more than 512% and Tumblr (the microblogging platform) which is now approaching 50 million unique users a month
Mobile social networking and geo-location services such as Foursquare continue to make their impact felt and have not gone away despite the threat of Facebook “places”
Today 1.2 billion people worldwide access social networks and it is redefining the web.
Social Networks “were” Superficial but are Now Serious Business
Social networks that emerged from seemingly superficial motivations and activities driven by teenage hormones and dating and flirting are now becoming mainstream and are rapidly being adopted by business.
Brands have realized its marketing power and are rushing to learn how to harness its leverage.
The Internet will never be the same as it is increasingly becoming smart, self learning, social and mobile.
comScore recently released a report that provides a comprehensive summary of where we are with the social web and its implications.
Here is a summary of the report and my analysis.
1. Social Media is the World’s Most Popular Online Activity
According to comScore social networking sites reach 82% of the world’s online user population. What is more telling is these two facts.
- In 2011, social networking accounts for 19% of all time spent online.
- In 2007 it was only 6%
It is now an integral part of the global online experience and has taken market share from email and instant messaging .
2. Social Networking Transcends and Reflects Regional Differences
Social networking has grown in every single country transcending cultural and religious differences.
Some examples of the penetration of social networking
- China – 53%
- USA – 98%
- Australia – 96%
In Latin America , Europe and the Middle East (3 very culturally different regions) social networking accounted for at least 24% of all time spent online.
People in Israel average the most time online on social networking sites at 11.1 hours per month per user, followed by Argentina at 10.7 hours and Russia at 10.4 hours.
3. Facebook’s Importance Cannot be Overstated
To fully understand Facebook’s significance and domination of the social networking segment here are some facts to put it in perspective.
- Facebook is the third largest web property behind Google’s and Microsoft’s sites
- It reached more than half of the world’s global audience (55%)
- It accounts for 3 in every 4 minutes spent on social networking sites
- One in every 7 minutes spent online is on Facebook
Despite its dominance it doesn’t lead in every country but is the category leader in 36 of the 43 countries in the comScore study.
The 7 markets where Facebook doesn’t dominate are Brazil, China, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam.
4. Micro Blogging is a Disruptive Force
Twitter began its spectacular climb in popularity in the spring of 2009 and now reaches 1 in 10 Internet users.
Twitter has grown 59% the past year and is a significant real time news platform whenever a major news item breaks such as Osama bin Laden’s death.
Some micro blogging sites that are snapping at its heels with significant growth are Tumblr (172% growth) and Sina Weibo (the leading Chinese microblogging site which is now the world’s 10th largest social network) with growth of 181 per cent in the last year.
These two are the fastest growing of the top 20 social network sites.
It does seem that Microblogging is here to say and will continue to evolve
5. Regional Global Networks are Going Global
Local Social Networks are making their presence felt in other countries with LinkedIn (US based) having 27.2 percent penetration in the Netherlands. VKontakte the Russion social site (which is the world’s 7th largest social network) attracts 43% of its traffic from outside Russia
6. Social Networking is for “Everyone” – not just the young
MySpace was one of the first social networking sites and has helped perpetuate the myth that social media sites are only for the young. In the last couple of years the older generations use of social networks has accelerated and users aged 55 and older is the fastest growing segment in social networking usage.
7. Communications is going Social
The teenagers of today have grown up with computers and the Internet as part of their DNA. It isn’t surprising to find that 15-24 year olds use social media as the defacto means to communicate, leading to diminished use of instant messaging and email. It is possible that social networking communications could become the most important communication channel across all age groups over time!
8. Social Media Advertising needs to be taken Seriously
Social network sites advertising makes up one in four of all display ad impressions in the USA. Despite this the share of advertising dollars lags in revenue with only a 15% spend of all US display ad dollars.
In the third quarter of 2011, Facebook delivered 28 percent of display ad impressions – more than the other four major portals combined. Facebook’s success is tied to the fact that it made it easy early on for smaller advertisers to use its self serve ad platform. Twitter is still to produce an easy to use advertising platform and it till it does it will continue to struggle monetizing its network.
9. The “Next” Disrupters are still being Decided
In 2004 Facebook emerged and no one would have guessed that it would “disrupt” the current default social network MySpace. Today Facebook dominates but during 2011 Google got serious and launched Google+ which became the fastest growing social network in history and reached 25 million userss in less than 30days. To put that in perspective Facebook took 36 months and Twitter 33 months to reach that number.
Three other social networks to watch are Tumblr (172% growth), Sina Weibo (181% ) and Badoo growing at 64% in the past year. One dark horse to watch is Pinterest.com which is a visual image pinboard which has grown by more than 512% in the last 6 months
Will Google+ or some other social network emerge as a “disrupter”… time will tell!
10. Mobile Devices are Fuelling Social Addiction
Social networks and mobile smart phones have combined to turn people into mobile social web addicts. Here are some numbers to highlight the synergy of mobile and social.
- The UK showed the highest social networking penetration among mobile users at 35 percent
- 64 percent of smartphone users reported accessing social networking sites once in the previous month
- Nearly40 percent reported doing so almost every day
- 22 percent of smartphone users also reported using location-based check-in services, such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, compared to only 10 percent of all mobile users in the U.S.
The other factor that is driving mobile and social is the emergence of the mobile “tablet” since Apple announced and launched the iPad.
Could the popularity of tablets and other web-enabled connected devices further encourage social networking on-the-go?
We are indeed seeing the birth of a totally connected generation! Multimedia rich information, anytime and anywhere!
This report highlights two key factors that will continue to drive the web and will impact marketing, business and people’s lives and change behaviours.
It is the emergence of a “mobile” and “social” web that will become self learning and even predictive because the social graph with its explicit and implicit data will know more about us than we even know about ourselves.
Scary or exciting? What do you think?