May 18 was the day when Facebook shares were listed on the technology-oriented Nasdaq stock exchange for the first time. After just 30 seconds, more than 82 million shares had been traded. The market value of the world’s largest social network climbed to an incredible USD 104 billion. CEO Mark Zuckerberg was unruffled by the fact that throughout the rest of the first trading day the shares did not quite reach the heights that had been expected. And he is not alone in thinking that Facebook is the champion of the web: this online community was also the top choice for German internet users. Beyond Facebook, they also logged on to other social networks, albeit less often. Overall, Germans visited the ten most popular sites more than 2.4 billion times. It is by no means only young people who are using these services – older users have also recognized the merit of chat, blogs and Twitter.
Sportsmen and women share their successes with fans, the nice lady next door posts her latest recipe and a short time ago CSU party leader Horst Seehofer invited his supporters to a party in the offline world. Facebook has firmly established itself as the top social network with celebrities and non-celebrities alike. The platform, which boasts that it has around 900 million users worldwide and now also numerous shareholders, was visited by 35 million Germans in the first quarter of 2012. A further 20 million Germans have therefore decided to join Facebook within the last two years. Next in the social network rankings by a considerable margin are StayFriends, which has 11 million users, and wer-kennt-wen with 7 million registered users. These are the latest findings from the Media Efficiency Panel of GfK Consumer Experiences.
Although the top three sites in the ranking are unchanged, the second and third both saw a reduction in visitor numbers. However, not only StayFriends and wer-kennt-wen are affected by falling registrations, as meinVZ, Myspace and studiVZ have each lost three million visitors since the first quarter of 2010 and are consequently ranked seventh, ninth and tenth at present. In contrast, the situation is much better for Twitter. In the first quarter of 2012, the service with which short messages are tweeted across the world saw an increase in visitor number of one million compared with two years ago and therefore pushed meinVZ out of fourth place. The business portal Xing is also recording stable figures. Although the number using the career portal has not increased since 2010, this service rose in the rankings to fifth place. Two new entries in the top 10 reflect the fast-paced nature of the online world. The friends community Jappy, which went live in 2001, received four million visitors in the first quarter of the year and therefore overtook the old hats Myspace and studivVZ. Half as many visitors flocked to Badoo, an international community which promises to help users meet people in their area. Two million users accessed this site in the first quarter of 2012.
The choice of online networks is great, as is users’ desire for variety. For some, Web 2.0 seems to be like an all inclusive buffet where, instead of eating only the favorite dish until full, they prefer to try a little bit of everything. Almost half of Badoo users are also registered with StayFriends, a third like to post tweets on Twitter and a further 28% regularly search for old acquaintances on wer-kennt-wen. Badoo is not (yet) benefiting much in return, although 13% of Twitter users go to this site and every seventh Jappy user visits Badoo. StayFriends is popular with the majority of networkers and, in addition to Badoo followers, it attracts fans from Xing, Twitter, meinVZ, Myspace and Jappy.
However, despite the great choice of media sites, very few social networkers are able to escape the central one, Facebook. Almost all users of Myspace, Badoo, Twitter and studiVZ are also registered with Facebook. StayFriends users are the “least” likely to visit Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild: 85% of those who wish to stay in touch with friends also use Facebook. Once users are logged in to Facebook, they often spend the majority of their spare time on the site. The average time spent on the website between January and March 2012 was more than 16 hours per visitor, which is almost twice as much time as in the first quarter of 2010. Here, too, Facebook was way ahead of other sites, all of which, with the exception of meinVZ, saw the length of visits fall.
Returning regularly is something which social networkers will only do under the right conditions. Not every provider successfully attracts users to their site on a regular basis. The newcomer to the rankings Badoo registered the lowest user visit frequency. Once a quarter, 44% of users log on out of curiosity, and then prefer to focus on other services. The sites of Twitter, Xing and Myspace are only accessed once in three months by 37% of users. Of these three portals, Xing registers the most heavy users, with 18% visiting the site at least five times between January and March 2012. Once again Facebook is top of the list when it comes to the number of regular visitors, with almost two in three users visiting this site more than five times in the quarter to let friends and acquaintances into their lives. Those who click on meinVZ and wer-kennt-wen do so comparatively regularly, with almost half of those registered being heavy users.
It comes as no surprise that the colorful world of Jappy primarily attracts younger users under 20 while career portal Xing is primarily visited by career starters and working people. One fact emerges when looking at the usage according to age groups: no longer do social networks only appeal to younger people. Increasingly the generation of older surfers is using these sites to engage with others. More than one in three users registered on StayFriends to find old and new friends is aged over 50, up from 24% in the first quarter of 2010. Of those using the services of Badoo, more than a quarter are in the older category. And who would have thought that the over 60s send out more tweets than younger people under 20? Researcher Oliver Huxhold from the German Centre of Gerontology recently explained in a dapd interview why more and more older people communicate on social networks: “Especially those who are no longer able to meet up with friends in the flesh, because of health problems, are able to maintain their social contact in this way.” No wonder Facebook is popular among older users, with a quarter of those registered aged 50 and over. Aside from this, it is notable that the site has an evenly balanced age structure.
Further differences emerge when looking at the sex of users. Typical “friend sites” such as meinVZ, studiVZ, wer-kennt-wen, StayFriends and Facebook are visited by women more often than average in relation to the gender distribution of the internet population as a whole. In contrast, Badoo and Myspace, career portal Xing and Twitter are more popular among male users. The cliché of the offline world that men are more career oriented and are of few words seems to be true in this case at least.
Future of the online world
For some they are the easiest way to keep in touch, for others they are a virtual stage, news channel and discussion platform. Others however criticize the lack of data protection and dominating financial motivation. Whichever side of the fence one chooses to be on, one thing is certain: a world without social networks is now unimaginable. It remains to be seen how the situation will develop. Something which not only the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will be considering even more intently after going public.
Data Source: GfK Consumer Experiences (GfK Media Efficieny Panel, 1 quarter 2012 und 1 quarter 2010)
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