While the buzz about social networking has shifted to the hot new thing, mainstream consumer adoption and usage of social networks is exploding.
“There is no doubt anymore that social networks, reaching more than 50% of the total US Internet audience, are an essential part of the Internet experience,” said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report “Social Network Demographics and Usage.”
The research points to broad usage of social network among all demographic categories and continued expansion in the market. eMarkerter forecasts that two-thirds of Internet users will participate on social networks every month by 2014. Williamson comments that “the connections and interactions that social networking makes possible didn’t even exist a few short years ago.”
An analysis of the growth in Facebook‘s US users since this past January underscores the robust growth in the social networking category.
iStrategyLabs has been using Facebook’s ad targeting system to track the growth of key demographic cohorts on the service for the past couple of years. In 2009, for instance, US users of Facebook gained 145% — an incredible explosion.
I was curious just how strong growth was in 2010 and went to the ad targeting system to update the iStrategy figures.
In the first five months of 2010, Facebook’s US users gained 22% to more than 125 million. The rate of growth is remarkably strong, following the explosion of the past year.
Usage continues to grow more rapidly among adults, with the 25 – 34 cohort increasing 23% over the past five months, and the 35 – 54 cohort increasing 25%. Interestingly, the number of adults 55+ appeared to decline over the past five months. The net effect of these trends is that the average age of a Facebook user continues to increase.
The service is remarkably mainstream. And, as the usage data that Facebook shares indicates, remarkably utilized.
Facebook reports as of the end of May that is has more than 400 million worldwide users.
Half of Facebook’s users log in every day. They interact with 130 friends on average and are connected with 60 pages, groups and events. Each user is creating more than 2 pieces of content a month: a photo upload, a status update, a link share, a comment.
This is a truly social phenomenon.
Let’s consider, for a moment, the potential impact for marketers and media brands.
If each user has 130 friends, that means that their first degree of influence is 16,900 friends…the friends of their friends. Their second degree of influence is 2.2 million friends …the friends of the friends of their friends.
Each time a user interacts with a page, or a group or an event, that interaction is broadcast to her 130 friends. The interaction can be clicking the “Like” button, or becoming a member, or commenting on an update, or sharing a photo or a post. If one of the 130 friends then interacts with that page or group, that interaction is broadcast to his 130 friends. The multiplying effect of interactions with content expand with every Facebook user. Each of these instances of sharing are a moment where a brand inserts itself, within the context of each users identity, into the awareness of other users.
This is part of the power of marketing on social networks. The skill is in creating instances of content that people interact with. Remember, the interaction isn’t just about “engagement.” Clicking a Like button or sharing a piece of content is just as powerful as leaving a comment.
The Facebook universe is one powerful indicator of the mainstream character of social networking, and the dynamics of user activity underscore how potent this new marketing platform can be for large businesses, small business and media brands.