- December 23, 2011

State of the U.S. Social Networking Market: Facebook Maintains Leadership Position, but Upstarts Gaining Traction

Comscore recently released our global social networking report, “It’s a Social World: Top 10 Need-to-Knows about Social Networking and Where it’s Headed,” which we certainly encourage you to download if you haven’t already. And while the report offers a comprehensive global view of what’s happening in social media, I thought it might also be interesting to drill down into the latest snapshot of the U.S. social networking market.

In light of recent IPO activity in this market, and rumors of more to come in 2012, it is worth understanding why the U.S. market is stronger than it has ever been before and how it’s managing to accommodate the emergence of several upstarts.

The data shown here for the leading social networking sites focuses on visitation to the primary web pages for the selected sites via home and work computers, and excludes any activity from mobile phones & tablets. While these mobile channels contribute to incremental audience and engagement – in some cases, significantly so – it is important to recognize that this data looks at each site through a similarly defined universe of computer-based web usage. Many of the social networking sites covered are household names by now, while others have gained prominence in the past year.

Facebook is still the undisputed leader the U.S. social networking market with 166 million unique visitors in November. The average user spent 6.6 hours per person engaged on the site during the month, an increase of 37% in the past year. These outsized audience and engagement numbers should not be a surprise to anyone at this point. Meanwhile, Twitter.com and Linkedin.com have been jockeying over the past several months for the #2 spot in audience size. In November, Twitter eked out the second position with 35.4 million unique visitors, just slightly ahead of Linkedin with 35 million. Myspace currently owns the #4 position with 25 million visitors, but it has seen a steady decline in audience over the past two years.

Outside of these established players, there are three upstarts worth mentioning. One of the most consistent growth stories over the past year has been Tumblr.com, which now boasts 15.9 million U.S. visitors – an increase of 131% since November 2010, with the majority of that surge happening since April 2011. What is significant about Tumblr is not just its growing audience but how highly engaged its users are, with the average one spending 2.4 hours on the site per month. Its engagement numbers are now second only to Facebook.

Just behind Tumblr is Google Plus, which has received a great deal of attention this year, with 15.2 million U.S. visitors in November. While Google Plus nearly matches Tumblr from an audience standpoint in the U.S., it does not yet attract similar levels of user engagement on its primary web pages. Importantly, these figures account for activity on plus.google.com and do not include engagement with the Google Plus toolbar or other distributed content throughout the Google network of sites. Given Google’s strategy of integrating Google Plus throughout its network, including Google Search and YouTube, it will be interesting to see if increased exposure to this extended social functionality exerts any gravitational pull towards the primary Google Plus experience.

One final social network that deserves some attention is online pinboard Pinterest.com. The site, which first came onto the Comscore radar in May 2011 with 418,000 unique visitors, has surged over the past six months to nearly 4.9 million visitors. Also significant is that, like Tumblr, Pinterest is exceptionally sticky and keeps it users engaged for long periods of time. In November, the average visitor spent nearly an hour and a half on the site over the course of the month and more than 15 minutes per visit, ranking it third on consumer engagement.

The U.S. social networking market has never been stronger, and the current dynamics suggest that while Facebook clearly remains the leader, there is room for some other players in the market to emerge and become successful in their own rights. We’ll be keeping an eye on how their audiences and engagement continue to grow as we head into 2012.