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The Great Social Divide: Twitter, Facebook Traffic Surges, Myspace Fades

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Recently, Facebook announced that it had surpassed the 300 million user mark. According to Experian HitWise, Facebook accounted for 58.59 percent of all U.S. visits among a custom category of 155 social networking Web sites in September 2009. This is an interesting stat and I would love for Experian HitWise to send the full list over, so that I can also analyze the playing field for new, emerging, and declining players across the board.

The report noted that Facebook’s growth was the highest among all social networks, with U.S. visits increasing 194 percent between September 2008 and September 2009.

Market Share of U.S. Internet Visits to Top Five Social Networking Web Sites


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But then, there’s our “social” darling…Twitter. Twitter had the largest percentage gain in market share of visits among the top five visited Web sites, increasing 1,170 percent compared to the previous year. In fact, 2009 is “The Year of Twitter” as documented by the traffic and reach of at Alexa and Compete.

According to the report, U.S. visits to all social networks was up by 62 percent from September 2008 to 2009. Except of course, at Myspace and myYearbook. From 2008 to 2009 each experienced a significant erosion in visits by -55 percent and -40 percent respectively. The good news for MySpace however, is that the network topped the charts for average time spent in the network. And, as engagement is a key metric for social media, this data is critical to the future of MySpace engineering, innovation, and the ecosystem it creates moving forward.  But, that engagement level is slipping, as it reflects a 12 percent loss of attention year-over-year.

As you’ll see in a report I will soon publish, Twitter is starting to appeal to the youth who have powered MySpace in the past and still do today. Fusion and integration are key at the once dominant social network.

Average U.S. Time Spent Among Top Five Social Networking Web Sites (in minutes and seconds)


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Note: Data is based on the average U.S. time spent from the Experian Hitwise sample of 10 million U.S. Internet users. Experian Hitwise measures more than 1 million unique Web sites daily, including subdomains of larger Web sites. Experian Hitwise categorizes Web sites into industries on the basis of subject matter and content, as well as market orientation and competitive context.

Looking at the data, you’ll notice that Twitter also experienced a loss in engagement time among visitors. From September 2008 – 2009, Twitter actually lost a whopping 31 percent of visitor attention span. I believe that many will say that the shift in numbers stems from the migration of those who previously interacted on and now engage via third-party clients such as TweetDeck, Seesmic, CoTweet, HootSuite, et al. I will have these numbers available for you shortly…

Nielsen also released interesting numbers that corroborated with my recent findings that emanated from my research into the demographics behind the most popular social networks. As a result, CNN postulated as to whether or not your social class determined your online social network.

Breeanna Hare of CNN asked if a class divide exists online.

Research suggests yes.

Nielsen Claritas conducted an online panel of more than 200,000 social media users in the United States in August. The study found that people in more affluent demographics are 25 percent more likely use Facebook, while the less affluent, 37 percent, are more likely to connect on MySpace.

Users with household income above $75,000
Facebook — 41.74 percent
MySpace — 32.38 percent
LinkedIn — 58.35 percent
Twitter — 43.34 percent

Users with household income under $50,000
Facebook — 28.42 percent
MySpace — 37.13 percent
LinkedIn — 17.34 percent
Twitter — 28.36 percent

Female users
Facebook — 56.33 percent
MySpace — 56.69 percent
LinkedIn — 48.11percent
Twitter — 53.59 percent

Users aged 18 to 24
Facebook — 10.27 percent
MySpace — 15.46 percent
LinkedIn — 3.99 percent
Twitter — 9.51percent

Users aged 35 to 49
Facebook — 31.54 percent
MySpace — 29.09 percent
LinkedIn — 43.64 percent
Twitter — 34.02 percent

According to Mike Mancini, vice president of data product management for Nielsen, “MySpace, users tend to be in middle-class, blue-collar neighborhoods. They’re on their way up, or perhaps not college educated. Facebook goes off the charts in the upscale suburbs.”

Nielsen also found a strong overlap between those who use Facebook and those who use LinkedIn.

Honestly, categorizing human behavior and activities in social networks by financial status appears incomplete and almost insular. If we are learning anything in the study of and participation in social networks, it’s that individuals are forming networks that traverse across multiple social networks – and, they will continue to do so, forming one larger, expansive human network in the process. We’re bound by context and interests and it’s why psychographic data overcomes demographics when assessing how to best reach, engage, and galvanize the people who define our communities online.

This is why, in social media, digital anthropology, sociology, ethnography, and psychology prevail…

Please also read the psychology of Twitter with Dr. Drew and in Social Media, Women Rule

Connect with Brian Solis on:
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40 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The Great Social Divide: Twitter, Facebook Traffic Surges, Myspace Fades”

  1. Nick Shin says:

    Another nice overview and insight into the top social networking sites. The household income as it relates to linkedin is not surprising as well as the large difference in the age groups between myspace and others.

  2. fardjohnmar says:

    Nice analysis. I would caution folks not to read the data on income levels on social nets and other tools as meaning that communities of color are not engaged online. I've said this in the past, and I'll say it again here: the digital divide is not based on race, but income. A few months back I talked about this issue during a Webinar produced the U.S. federal agency (which is affiliated with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Learn more about this presentation here:

  3. John Slevin says:

    Very interesting – as parent of teens and college children (and HH income above 75) I still do not see great participation from them on Twitter, and obviously LinkedIn. The stats here confirm this – Facebook is easy, engaging and channel of choice. Twitter has not caught on in the Midwest with that younger audience.

  4. Amanda says:

    Interesting stats, but not surprising. I always felt MySpace would lose ground while Facebook & Twitter would continue to soar. My kids do FB, as do all of their friends & relatives. None do MS.

  5. Mark Drapeau says:

    The phrase “class divide” connotes something negative. I'm not necessarily sure that, in this case, one class of people using one social network and another class using another is a “divide” – though it is certainly a noteworthy difference that deserves research and analysis. (I think that it also suggests that MySpace is “worse” than Facebook, which may be a media and tech elite bias more than anything.)

  6. kydinseattle says:

    i think this is interesting, especially in light of recent research that has highlighted the geographic differences of MySpace users. (and with 70 million of 'em still, nothing to sneeze at!) i think your point is right on – that categorizing users simply by income and education level leaves us with an incomplete idea of who they are and how they use those networks.

    “[MySpace users] largely populate smaller cities and communities in the south and central parts of the country. Piskorski rattles off some MySpace hotspots: “Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Florida.””

    “We see that most locations where national news and traditional and social media are produced get fewer than expected log-ins, while places like Louisville, Tampa and Dayton clock up twice as many log-ins as expected.”

    although i had once declared myself one of those who had abandoned MySpace, i recently found that it just serves me in a very different way than when i first started using the site. i am interested to see what the trends for use of myspace are a six months and a year from now. maybe it will have evolved further into what i think its becoming at the moment, which is a clearinghouse for artists (major label but especially independent ones) to promote and communicate with their fan base in a more engaging way than they can on twitter.

  7. dennisoneil says:

    Thanks for sharing this.
    I'd be very interested in stats listing users' social networks of choice based on education level, as opposed to just income. Was that included in Nielsen Claritas report?

  8. 47project says:

    Very refreshing to get some really valuable data/metrics all in one blog post. There aren't many good tools yet to pull all that stuff together easily into one report. 🙂

    Your last quote is one that I only think a handful of people innately get:

    “This is why, in social media, digital anthropology, sociology, ethnography, and psychology prevail…”

    The answer is already known. It's in our DNA.

  9. matt anrey says:

    Real estate is a very good business.I am really like this business.Now you can get information about reverse mortgage here.

    although i had once declared myself one of those who had abandoned MySpace, i recently found that it just serves me in a very different way than when i first started using the site. i am interested to see what the trends for use of myspace are a six months and a year from now

  10. steveellwood says:

    My son's at college in the UK; doing a computing/virtual environment course. Virtually the whole class used Facebook; he was the only one who also used twitter, posterous, and had a Wave invite. Few of them even had heard of RSS. I'd guess most of the youngsters have a fairly shallow engagement with the sort of tools many of us use – and choose the one their peers use – which is: Facebook.

  11. jack09 says:

    Thanks Brian. Amazing info. As a Canadian living in Montreal I wonder whether this data would look the same in Canada? I doubt it would in Quebec (always a profoundly different market)…

  12. Patrick says:

    Very Good anaysis, and a well written article.

    I will be following your articles much more closely going forward. This is a subject that is very close to my heart, as I have ben following it for a while. I had a book on facebook statuses ( published in April, about how when you collate these statuses together it can give you a unique insight into life in the 21st century, as people tend to be more honest when hiding behind their computer.

    You're analysis is second to none, and includes a lot of facts and figures that I haven't come across before.

    Keep up the good work mate.

  13. jnewman1 says:

    I like this blog! It stands out from all the others in this search criteria! I know a great blog when I see it. Thanks for the great information on the subject. The web needs more blogs like this one. Thanks again, and Happy Halloween!
    Tech Blog

  14. Jessica says:

    Great Info! Thanks for the post!

  15. lesliefischer says:

    This was a very interesting article, and timely, to say the least. The statistics regarding household income and users of social media were especially intruiging.

  16. lesliefischer says:

    This article was really interesting. I especially liked the statistics on income and specific social media sites.

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