Facebook is the king of social media; there's very little doubt about that. But has it reached a point where it has grown so far ahead of other social media channels, that now to 'do' social media really means to 'do' Facebook? For brands, this is understandable.
You want to chase the eyeballs after all and right now (and likely for a long time to come) they're all on Facebook. Far from being just conjecture or a general comment on social media trends, stats are beginning to emerge that seem to confirm this.
Twitter and blogging plateau
Use of Twitter by brand seems to be reaching a plateau, if the latest findings by emarketer are anything to go by. When looking at trends in Fortune 500 companies for active use of Twitter and blogging - for example, posting a Twitter update in 30 days, 61 per cent of companies surveyed in 2011 maintained an active account. This has increased from 2010, but only by one per cent. Compare this to an increase from 35 per cent in 2009 to 60 per cent in 2010 and the decline in the rate of growth is quite alarming. This is also seen across corporate blogs, where the figures are certainly healthy, but show no increase at all from 2010 to 2011:
What these figures can't tell us however, is whether this is a reflection of a loss of interest in corporate blogging and Twitter, as brands choose to focus on Facebook instead, or whether this is the natural level for interest in blogs and Twitter. It seems to be at odds however, with wider trends across social media, which show a significant uptake.
Facebook isn't slowing down
To help gain an insight into how this compares to Facebook, it's useful to look at trends among investment in Facebook ads. In June 2011, IgnitionOne released data that showed spend in Facebook advertising was increasing by as much as 281 per cent year on year for new clients. The figures below show that for both new and existing clients, spend on Facebook advertising is increasing consistently:
Now while these figures are by no means directly comparable, due to variation in a number of factors (the Facebook data set isn't restricted to Fortune 500 companies, and organic activity is not directly comparable to paid activity), it does suggest that Facebook is beginning to get a larger slice of the pie, rather than it being an indication of a drop in social media adoption overall.
Facebook is THE platform
What we're seeing across corporate Facebook activity, is that more and more time and money is being invested in the Facebook platform. This is evidenced by the growth in social commerce for example, where many companies are beginning to view the Facebook page as just as significant as their ecommerce site for driving sales.
Indeed, Facebook is not only winning out as the social media platform, but is also beginning to win out as the overall platform online, successfully competing with a brand's website. The attraction is clear. Not only is it where the eyeballs are, but it is an incredibly accessible platform.
It is not unheard of for a company to invest solely in their Facebook page, in lieu of a more traditional website. Whether or not this is the right thing for a company to do is very much in contention. There are, of course, huge risks in investing so much in Facebook: not only can they change the rules on you at any time, but they begin to own worrying amounts of your - and your customers' - data.
This is not to suggest by any means that there SHOULD be one overall platform, but that the figures seem to indicate that this is the case. New formats are beginning to emerge - for example we're seeing an uplift in mobile commerce - that are beginning to attract marketing dollars, as formats such as Twitter and blogging are perhaps seen as not quite as 'sexy' as they used to be, and not where there is the most value for fans.
This is perhaps evidenced by a wider slowdown in growth on Twitter as a platform overall, separate from corporate activity. As highlighted by William Hertling, while reaching 200 million tweets per day was a huge milestone for Twitter, which they reached in June this year, when you look at the figures in more detail, it shows a slowdown in growth. The figures show an eight per cent growth month on month, which while not unimpressive, is not reaching the heights of their previous growth of 30 per cent month on month - a growth rate they were achieving two years ago. Now while you can't be expected to maintain momentum at such a rate, the dropoff is significant.
Brands are not abandoning social media overall, far from it. But what they are doing is investing more in Facebook overall, building it out as a complete website, which can host the content you might typically find on a blog, negating the need for a separate blog at all. Quite how far this trend will extend remains to be seen, and many new technologies will emerge that will grab attention. But for now, corporate use of Twitter is beginning to stall and they will need to do a lot (hello advertising) to attract new brands, and increased activity from existing brands that are on the platform.