Facebook Moves Towards World -- Not Just Social Networking -- Domination
But I'm not talking about Facebook kicking MySpace to the curb some time ago, or Facebook's user base being much larger than Twitter's.
I'm talking about Facebook vs. Google. Social networking vs. search engine-ing.
In the last few weeks, I've seen a preponderance of data pointing to a few ways Facebook is ruling -- in ways I never thought it would. Read the following two examples, and allow your brain cells a few seconds to coalesce around it. Then we'll continue:
- Facebook, not Google, is the principal traffic driver to major sites. According to Compete, it provides 7.73% of the traffic to Yahoo, and 7.55% of the traffic to Google. All told, 13% of traffic to the major portals came from Facebook.
- Facebook far outstrips every other site in terms of the time people spend with it and is responsible for more time spent online than every other major site combined. According to January numbers released by Nielsen, Facebook users spent more than seven hours on the site during the month; on the next closest competitor, Yahoo, users spent two hours and nine minutes - in other words, less than a third of the time. On Google -- a different type of site, certainly -- they spent just under one hour and 24 minutes per month.
Of course, these stats are even more pertinent because of last week's launch of Google Buzz. No wonder Google doesn't feel it's enough to be Google. If Facebook is becoming Google, then Google better start becoming Facebook, or else. OK, oversimplification there, but in terms of being a dominant force on the Web, Google and Facebook are now officially rivals, in case anyone doubted it.
The Facebook vs. Google rivalry aside, the ramifications of this shift in online behavior for marketers, content providers -- and, hell, everyone who does business on the Web -- is massive. For one, if you've been operating under the assumption that Google was responsible for driving people to your content, and ignoring Facebook (and other social nets), think again. While Google is still the main driver to sites further down the long tail, Facebook's influence is growing there, too. If you want traffic, you'd better think of both sites as you strategize, concerning yourself as much with what I'll call SNO (social networking optimization), as with SEO.
And, if you're an advertiser, the statistics above put more of a premium than ever on producing shareable content and on taking your Facebook page at least as seriously as your Web site, if not more so. It's also time to ponder what it means to advertise on a site where people spend lots of time, as opposed to one where people dive in and then back out.
You may read this column and think I'm declaring Google over. It isn't, even if Buzz is a dud. There is plenty of room on the Web for both search behavior and social behavior. What we're seeing is the triumph of social networking activity in being as least as important as search. It's time to realign your efforts around that fact.