It seems like an easy question: How fast have the major social media sites grown over the past four years? The answer is neither clear nor easy to obtain. Based on information gathered from Facebook, The Huffington Post, Mashable, Penn Olson, Tech Crunch, Twitter and Wikipedia, the table below presents an estimate of total unique users for each of the sites investigated. The numbers are not assumed to be accurate, valid or reliable – they are as presented: estimates based on the best available public information. Data was collected for three social media sites and two blog hosting sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress.com and Tumblr. Estimates for the latter two represent the number of bloggers using the site (not the number of site visits or blog postings, which are much higher numbers).
The Compound Annual Growth Rate (GAGR) is calculated using the free Investopedia Compound Annual Growth Rate calculator available on their website (data from 2006 was not used in the CAGR calculations presented above for Twitter or Tumblr). The average CAGR for the five sites is 202.09 percent ranging from 74.98 percent to 478.23 percent.
When examining the charts individually, the growth patterns look nearly identical. Discernibly, the 2008-2009 period is when social media exploded into the mainstream and cleared the innovator and early adopter stages of the diffusion of innovation model, moving into the early majority stage.
When charted together, the dominance of Facebook’s growth in the social media world is apparent. Although leading the pack in 2008, Facebook’s growth dramatically outpaced the growth of the other sites for the 2008-2009 and the 2009-2010 periods. Thus, although the pattern of their growth trends appear similar when examined individually, Facebook’s rapid expansion stands out when comparing growth collectively.
The final graphic presented is my favorite: social media share of voice. The inner ring contains the data from 2006 and the outer ring presents the data from 2010 (to date). One can easily see the expansion of social media sites and the rapid growth in importance of both Facebook and Twitter.
Marketers have to be excited about the opportunities that advertising on Facebook and Twitter present. While Facebook has launched its advertising platform, Twitter is still in the process of developing how advertising is going to be incorporated into its site.
To ignore the trend towards online advertising using social media sites places marketers and their companies at the risk of becoming irrelevant. Thus, prudent marketers must be cognizant of the increased impact of inbound marketing tools and techniques and utilize them for their marketing campaigns. The art of marketing requires a blending of old-school and new-school approaches. Companies mastering the blend will enjoy a distinct competitive advantage over competitors who do not.
updated/corrected 11 September 2010