The Facebook application platform took the social networking scene by storm for the past few months. But with MySpace (the largest social network in the US by a magnitude of 3) now on board with OpenSocial, it’s essentially everyone against Facebook. How will this impact the social networking sector overall? We took a look at the heavy users of Facebook, Myspace, and the top 5 OpenSocial partners (as of last night), to see how each site’s core users compare, and what sort of applications may have the most success in the context open social.
Across all social networking domains, heavy users tend to use the web as an extension of their profile. However, where and how they use the web outside of their network varies greatly. The chart below shows what heavy social network users do outside of their respective network, based on affinity*.
Heavy Facebook users have a strong affinity for sites at the edge of Web 2.0, as well as those that power its more popular applications.
- This group has a very strong affinity for Twitter.com, which is both a new platform for communication and a Facebook application.
- Heavy Facebook users tend to shop at trendy online retailers, and are seven times more likely than the average internet user to visit apparel sites like AmericanApparel.net and "social" t-shirt site threadless.com
- These users also tend to keep tabs on the Silicon Valley scene and geeky humor, visiting xkcd.com, and valleywag.com at more than 8 times the average internet user.
- Unlike their Open Social peers, Facebook users tend to use applications (and their respective sites) to do everything from image editing to dating.
- Outside of Facebook, power users have an extremely high affinity for the Greek9.com social network, but relatively little interest in others.
While Heavy MySpace users perform many of the same actions as Facebook users, they do so in dramatically different ways.
- Beyond the use of AOL instant messenger (assumed by the high affinity for AIM pages) MySpace users prefer Meebo.com for instant communication.
- This group tends to shop at Youth oriented retailers, being more than 4 times as likely to visit Journeys.com and Hottopic.com as the average internet user.
- The lack of applications forces MySpace users to look outside for some things that Facebook provides within it’s application platform. Projectplaylist projects music, imageshack hosts their images, flirty youth sites allows them to date, and imikimi.com gets their photos to sparkle.
- MySpace users also rely heavily on third party layouts sites to customize their profile pages. There are literally hundreds of layout resources, many of which receive visitor counts in the hundreds of thousands.
There is an obvious international skew among the other OpenSocial partners, a function of Orkut and Hi5’s large international presence.
- US members of these sites seem to have a strong connection to India and Latin America (showing strong affinity to sites like Shaadi.com). Interestingly, this group is also 9 times more likely to visit USCIS.gov, which deals with the immigration process (not shown).
- In general, heavy users of smaller OpenSocial partners behave much more like MySpace users than Facebook Users. In fact, the users of these smaller networks often show strong affinity for some of the same layout template sites that appeal to Myspace users.
New App Opportunities?
So given OpenSocial partner’s (including MySpace’s) user preferences, what should application developers tackle first? There are plenty of way’s to build on the successful Facebook applications, but deeper in the affinity data, there are some needs that earlier developers have failed to meet.
- GOOD quote generation: Across all social networks, members can help define their persona through favorite sayings"¦usually (and ironically) created by someone else. As a result, across all three groups of users, there is a strong affinity to sites that provide large quote databases such as thinkexist.com.
- Lyrics search / lyrics integrated music players / lyric tagging: Similar to Quotations, members across all networks use lyric related sites heavily. The ability to search (or simply see) lyrics within a standard format, and then tag lyrics that help define one’s online self would be — according to affinity data — a very valuable tool for the social web.
- Social shopping: Kaboodle (sort of) already does this, but most users won’t join another network specifically to shop. Given diverse personal preferences, ease of communication, an affinity for ecommerce among social networks, and the ability to "crowd buy" due to a massive number of users, this sort of application could be a hit.
Facebook may be in the clear regardless of whether they join the OpenSocial party or not, at least for the short term. The site attracts a very different group of core users than its competitors, and a large part of this group is now heavily entrenched in Facebook. It will be difficult for this group to leave, and questionable as to whether they would even want to. Either way, the Facebook staff has a tough decision (and possibly road) ahead.
For this post, “Smaller OpenSocial Partners” included Orkut.com, Friendster.com, Hi5.com, Plaxo.com, and and Ning.
“Heavy Users” were defined as a user visiting the social network more than 15 days in the month of September