Social Growth

Facebook’s phenomenal rate of growth over the past few years has meant that more than half a billion people around the world are now using the social network to communicate and engage with friends and businesses.

I was doing some research this week for a presentation I was giving at the Latitude Client Summit, and some of the social media growth stats over the past few years are absolutely startling.

Facebook Growth Curve

Simple one this. Facebook are pretty open about how many users they have, and publish the numbers widely whenever they hit another milestone. They hit 600 million users in January 2011, and will probably hit 700 million some time around June.

Facebook's Growth: half a billion users in 2.5 years
Facebook's Growth: half a billion users in 2.5 years

Growth by Gender

Over the past few years, overall growth of users has been incredible, and this has happened across genders and age groups.  This graph shows the percentage of men and women who have been active users of social network websites over the past few years:

Social network users by gender
Social network users by gender

Although these stats only cover a three year period, there is still quite a lot you can take from them.  As of the middle of last year, around 50% of women and 40% of men actively used social media services like Facebook.  This has risen from around 28% for women and 19% for men just 2 years earlier.  Acceptance of social media use has hit the mainstream and growth is likely to continue.

Growth by Age Group

Growth of social media usage across different age groups is interesting too.  Here’s a comparison of the difference in penetration by age group over 5 years:

Social Media use by Age Group
Social Media use by Age Group

Engagement in the 18-29 group is highest at more than 75%, but this has developed in just 5 years, and growth has been similar in all other demographics.

What Does this mean for Marketers?

Clearly there are different levels of engagement across different demographics, and in some cases there will be groups who are completely unrepresented within the online social media channels, however the fact that so many people are now active online means that social media is probably going to become the preferred channel for communicating.

Facebook is a channel that people typically use on a daily basis, and have relatively long sessions on.  the ability to target specific demographics and interests means that advertising can be very effective when the message is linked closely to the target user base.

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