Somewhere between Instant Messenger Profiles and Vertical "People" search engines, social networking has become a keystone of the web. And much like the beer bearing the same name, it’s cheap, facilitates conversation, and is consumed primarily by younger people. As social networking continues its rapid adoption, the diversification of the social networking sites makes it an important segment to assess.
The table above ranks the top twenty social networking sites by the amount of attention* that each site received in March ’07. What is immediately apparent is that ranking by total visitors to a social networking site gives a poor representation of a sites true popularity. Since visitors are (arguably) using these sites to socialize, more time spent on a site indicates involvement. While MySpace and Facebook are the two largest sites in terms of both UVs and Attention, the rest of the list changes dramatically.
- Bebo, a relative new player in the space, has more than tripled in both unique visitors and attention from March 2006 to March 2007. By attracting and engaging quality traffic, the site leaps from 9th rank in Unique Visitors to third in Attention.
- Reunion and Tickle which both rely heavily on pop-up and banner advertising to drive traffic, plummet from 4th and 6th in UVs to 13th and 14th in Attention.
- If one person accounted for all of the time spent on MySpace in March of 2007, he would be surfing for the next 52,214 years.
The chart above illustrates the change in monthly attention that each site has experienced from March 2006 compared to March 2007.
- MySpace, the dominant leader in the category, has grown by more than 23% during the period.
- Growth in visitors and the amount of time these visitors spend on the site has spurred growth of over 250% in Bebo’s attention share.
- Friendster, which gained popularity as one of the first social networking sites, continues to lose ground on the category, falling by nearly 50%.
As the broader internet becomes more social, the real challenge for networking sites will be visitor retention. Can any of these sites make a dent in MySpace? With sites like wink allowing for cross-site searches, a dramatic shift away from the monster of the space may be waiting in the wings… stay tuned.