The rise and rise of Facebook

It seems that Facebook is in the news on a daily basis, whether it’s new functionality for users, new opportunities for advertisers, or new concerns regarding privacy and data. In fact even this week Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has joined the debate, criticising Facebook and other social networking sites for limiting the web’s openness.

At the same time, more and more commentary focuses on Facebook’s potential threat to Google’s dominance of the internet. With Facebook’s user base expected to top 30 million in 2011 here are some stats from Hitwise* which demonstrate how far Facebook has now developed:

1. Facebook is the second most visited website in the UK after Google, accounting for 6.89% of all visits from UK Internet users in September 2010
2. Facebook is by far the biggest website in the UK for page views. 16.40% of all page views during September this year went to a Facebook page.
3. Facebook now accounts for 1 in 6 page views in the UK – twice the number of page views received by Google.
4. Facebook is not surprisingly the most popular social network in the UK, accounting for 55% of all visits to social networks.
5. Facebook is also the number one search term in the UK. 3.69% of all searches typed into Google, Yahoo! and Bing are for ‘facebook’.
6. Taking into account variations of Facebook with abbreviations and misspellings such as ‘facbook’, ‘fb’ or ‘facebok’ this figure increases to approximately 6% of all searches in search engines being for facebook.
7. Facebook accounts for 9.58% of all upstream traffic to other websites in the UK.
8. Nearly 10% of Internet visits come immediately after a visit to Facebook, making it second only to Google in traffic generation.
9. Visits to Facebook have quadrupled in the last three years. Facebook has grown by 17% in terms of UK Internet visits in the past year
10. Facebook has also increased its downstream traffic to online retail sites by 12% in the past 12 months

These numbers, together with some smart acquisitions and partnerships, not to forget the development of multiple revenue earning opportunities certainly support the widely held view that Facebook is a very real commercial threat to Google’s dominance. Google’s trump card is still its dominance in the search space – so it will be interesting to see whether Facebook’s collaboration with Bing can cut any ice in the search market.

I’ll be having a closer look at some of the opportunities Facebook can offer businesses in the coming months.

*Source: Experian Hitwise October 2010

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