social media researchWhen you hear that Facebook is yanking Yahoo from its ranks and inching up on Google’s traffic throne, you can’t help but pay attention.

And if you work for a business or own one, it’s likely that social media marketing is on your radarMore and more marketing dollars are beginning to shift toward social media marketing and this trend only continues to climb.

Here are 5 studies that show how Facebook is undoubtedly a leading online social contender and a key tool that is continually changing the landscape of online engagement and fan loyalty.

#1: Average American Spent 7 hours on Facebook in January

According to recent findings by Nielson Company, Facebook has officially become a favorite pastime for many (but we’ve known that for a while now!).  However, the findings are pretty astounding when you really break it down:

The average time users spend on Facebook is 7 hours per month (a 10% increase).  To put that into perspective, Yahoo! is in second place, but with only 2 hours 28 minutes per month. The fact that people are spending more than 4 hours extra on Facebook compared to leading sites like Yahoo! and Google is information marketers should note when creating their social media campaigns.

This chart shows the breakdown of user time spent on the major sites:

#2: 44% of Social Sharing on the Web Is Driven by Facebook

With the surge of social networking over the past year, we have seen social traffic begin to rival search traffic—and the major players, including Google, are paying close attention to this trend.

TechCrunch recently looked into the services on the web that drive the most sharing and reached out to Gigya for some stats.   What’s Gigya?  Gigya is a company that powers sharing widgets on more than 5,000 content sites, including major players like and Reuters. As TechCrunch explains, “Consumers can click a share button on these sites and send an article link, photo, or video via a menu of different services including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and AOL. Over the past 30 days, people have shared almost a million items over the Gigya network.”

Based on Gigya’s data, here’s the distribution of shared items on the web:

  • Facebook: 44%
  • Twitter: 29%
  • Yahoo: 18%
  • MySpace: 9%

This pie chart, courtesy of TechCrunch, shows the breakdown of social sharing on 4 major sites:

In addition, some other interesting stats from Gigya include:

For share of authentication via news sites, Facebook took 31% while Google was close behind with 30% and Yahoo at 25%.

With entertainment sites, Facebook was the major leader with 52% (Google was second with 17%, Yahoo with 15% and Twitter at 11%).

As we have seen with the popularity of social sites, people like to share links with multiple people at one time, versus just one-on-one via email. Because real results are strongly tied to the amount of online traffic you’re able to generate, it’s important to break down the sources of this traffic when considering where to spend your time and marketing dollars.  These stats shed light on where the action is really happening.

#3: Facebook Yanks Number 2 Spot From Yahoo

According to a report, there has been a changing of the guard in the online world. Facebook has surpassed Yahoo, now taking its place as the number-two most popular site in the U.S.  Facebook drew nearly 134 million unique visitors in January 2010. According to the site, “It’s been two full years since we’ve seen a shakeup at the top—In February 2008, Google overtook Yahoo as number one and never looked back. Is Facebook’s next conquest the Google traffic throne?”

Here’s a great chart that shows Facebook’s climb to the coveted #2 spot:

But as we all know, the real dollars are in the engagement—and says it best: “Facebook is second to none.” In January, 11.6% of all time spent online was spent on Facebook (compared to 4.25% for Yahoo and 4.1% for Google).  Facebook is in it to win, to say the least!

#4: “Faking It” on Facebook Is Rarer Than Previously Imagined

The findings from a recent research study conducted by the journal Psychological Science, show that instead of “faking it” online, people are much more likely to reveal their true selves online and not the idealized image of who they want to be.

A largely held assumption (supported by analysis) suggests online profiles are less than truthful when looking at true personalities of the users, and the researchers in this study set out to test that hypothesis. “There has been no research on the most fundamental question about OSN (online social networking sites) profiles,” notes the report. “Do they convey accurate impressions of profile owners?”

The conclusion of the report was very surprising to most. The report states, “These results suggest that people are not using their OSN profiles to promote an idealized virtual identity. Instead, OSNs might be an efficient medium for expressing and communicating real personality, which may help explain their popularity.”

The study focused on both MySpace and Facebook; however, the popular site Read Write Web stated that the “real personality” results were more likely to been seen on Facebook than other social sites. They pointed out that because it only allows the use of your legal name and due to its long-standing privacy controls, Facebook “provided its users with a sense of safety, security and comfort—they could be themselves—their real selves, flaws and all, without the world watching.”

#5: Facebook Boosts Sales and Customer Loyalty

The Harvard Business Review recently featured a new study from Utpal Dholakia and Emily Durham of Rice University.  For their study, they asked the question, “How much do businesses really influence consumers when they launch pages on the site to attract ‘fans’ and pepper them with messages and offers?”

To gauge the effectiveness of Facebook fan pages, the study used one company’s page to measure the effect on customer behavior. For the experiment, the researchers partnered with Dessert Gallery (DG), a popular Houston-based bakery and café chain. They first emailed over 13,000 customers from their mailing list to gather store evaluations and information on shopping behavior. Then they launched the fan page and invited the mailing list to the page.  Over the course of three months, the company “updated its page several times a week with pictures of goodies, news about contests and promotions, links to favorable reviews, and introductions to DG employees.”

Three months after that, they resurveyed the fans and here’s the overall result: Facebook changed customer behavior for the better.

Those who had replied to both surveys and had become fans stood out as their best customers. Here’s the breakdown of the findings of their new fans:

  • Store visits per month increased after people became fans.
  • The new fans generated more positive word of mouth than nonfans.
  • They went to DG 20% more often than nonfans.
  • Fans gave the store the highest share of their overall dining-out dollars.
  • They were the most likely to recommend DG to friends and had the highest average Net Promoter Score—75, compared with 53 for Facebook users who were not fans and 66 for customers not on Facebook.
  • DG fans also reported significantly greater emotional attachment to DG—3.4 on a 4-point scale, compared with 3.0 for other customers.
  • Fans were the most likely to say they chose DG over other establishments whenever possible.

“We must be cautious in interpreting the study’s results,” Dholakia said. “The fact that only about 5% of the firm’s 13,000 customers became Facebook fans within three months indicates that Facebook fan pages may work best as niche marketing programs targeted to customers who regularly use Facebook. Social media marketing must be employed judiciously with other types of marketing programs.”

But overall, Dholakia stated that the results indicate that Facebook fan pages offer an effective and low-cost way of social media marketing.

Your insight and opinion matter!  What is your opinion of the “power of Facebook”? Do you agree or are you not seeing the same success rates as these studies suggest?  Do you favor another social media tool over Facebook?  I want to hear your insight, so be sure to share here!

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  • Like to see how FB will exploit all this, or shoot themselves in the foot.

  • Ponaam Ball

    I can see how FaceBook fan pages add value in the context of B2C marketing. This aspect is fairly well known and has been well demonstrated in your article. However, how does it work and add value for B2B marketing? If I am trying to sell enterprise software for identity management, how can FaceBook fan pages help me? Trying hard to get the fan base going, but even if we have around 1,000 fans, this is not leading to increased sales as such. Where is the ROI?

  • I’m developing an e-newsletter article about how to create a Facebook business page, and this info will come in handy. The main challenge for many Facebook users who want to create “fan” or business pages is that you have to have a personal profile in order to start a fan page, and the two are linked. As a result, business owners regularly receive “friend” requests from people who actually intended to become a “fan” of their business page. Has anyone found a good workaraound for this?

  • I find it really interesting that everybody is being honest on social networking.

    It lends to the theory that people really turn to the internet and Facebook in particular to gain a voice, not to show a front.

  • dee

    They’ve already blown a few toes off. Facebook hasn’t addressed privacy adequately. They want everyone on Earth to read your profile. It’s data mining. No trust; no loyalty. When a cooler alternative comes along, people will choose it.

  • Exactly, I think thry have no competition right now and are moving and growing to fast and are starting to make stupid chooses.

    I agree that people stay on FB because all they have, and no one wants to Myspace no

  • The Social Web has arrived. I’m keen to see where gowalla and foursquare will be a year from now. I’m concerned about their security measures, but excited to see where sharing goes via social/facebook/etc

  • You’re right Laura, this IS great info to have! As for the friend / fan issue, the only thing I’ve been able to think of is to get a”yourname” fan page and direct traffic there and/or to also make weekly posts with a link to the fan page and ask friends to fan you as well. You can also fan yourself and invite friends to become a fan as well, all convoluted solutions – but not many other options as you mentioned.

  • Thanks, Yvette – those are good suggestions. The issue some of my clients have (the company I own manages social media for businesses) is that they want to reserve their personal Facebook profile for interacting with family and close friends. Some of them don’t even want a link to their business on their personal Facebook profile. That makes it extra challenging to build a fan base for their business page.

  • I think it is brilliant and I jumped right on the boat awhile back… I love Facebook and it has been a major source of business for my Real Estate. I have also gained many new friendships and reconnected with old friends. Kudos to Facebook!!!

  • whistlerheather

    I read these articles frequently and try to apply all the advice… while time consuming it is important to do as much as you can right away… I didn’t understand the secret code method of establishing your account on gigya???? These people need to realize not everyone is a techy… some of us are just “Social”..
    Thank you for the great advice… and todays chores…

  • Our company sets up Facebook and Twitter pages for businesses. The numbers, graphs and other selling points you’ve mentioned are even more food for thought. Thanks Amy for all the great info!

    JetM Mobile Marketing

  • It’s not hard to hide personal profiles for a public persona, just create a second FaceBook account for the public — and set their personal account’s privacy so only friends can see Wall postings or Photos.

    Also in Privacy Settings/Contact information change “Add Me As a Friend” to Friends of Friends and “Send me a Message” to Everyone. This way if someone wishes to friend Bob they can at least send a message– and if it is a business contact Bob can easily forward the message to Robert his public profile.

  • Nice article, I will be sharing it. I would like to point out that #2 is not accurate.

    I recently wrote about how Tynt Insight technolgy (being used on 400,000 sites) debunked TechCrunch’s claim:

    In reality 70% of social sharing is done via email, whereas Facebook accounts for 25%.

    It gets even more interesting when Tynt shares which services are actually delivering traffic.

  • I sure wish my company/school would open up to allowing the employees to interact with our students through Facebook and Twitter. I see it as being a really good way to talk about the school, it’s mission and goals outside of the manufactured Twitter/FB “communities” they have made

  • Hi Laura,
    You can actually create a page without a profile linking to it, check out this article here…
    Hope this helps.


  • Elyse

    There is no doubt that Facebook is a social media powerhouse, but I have to say that I wish they had more support for their business users. There are certain Facebook features that can be a drag for businesses – like the fact that it’s difficult to figure out how to create fan page that is not linked to your personal profile or not having the ability to change the name (or the URL even) of a Fan page. What happens if your company is bought or merged and you have a brand name change? Right now, you are S.O.L. – your only option is create a new fan page and try to encourage your fans to switch to the other page. Too bad you worked so hard to get all of those fans…

    I do think that Facebook has tried to become more business friendly – but I also think that there is a ton of room for improvement. If Facebook made the Fan page process a little more smooth for businesses, I would imagine it might lead to more businesses feeling comfortable spending advertising dollars with the site.

  • Thanks, Lara. Very helpful!

  • Hey Ponaam. From my experience, FB Pages is not a great platform for B2B. One of the reasons is that the viral factor is dependent on a users friends through ‘Page Suggestions’ and ‘Invitations.’ These don’t translate well for B2B businesses because your solution is usually unique. So for example. If I became a fan of your Page and I have the average 150 friends. The ability for your message to spread is dependent on the percentage of my friends that your solution would be relevant to times the conversion percentage. No matter how you slice it, the Viral Score is very low. Feel free to contact me on twitter @davidchu if you have any more questions.

  • I usually recommend my clients to create a personal profile primarily for their business. There’s a couple of advantages to this. One is that most people usually want to separate their business and personal lives. The second is that one of the best strategies to get exposure through FB is to host and event and to tag photos. In order to send invites directly to individuals or to tag photos, you have to be connected to them through your personal account. If you need more info, feel free to twitter me at @davidchu

  • I’d argue that it depends on the medium. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter almost require that you take an un-corporate attitude to be successful. Platforms such as Linked In function in the opposite way.

  • have enjoyed the post from the social media examiner & the comments from everyone. I have enjoyed FB but wish there was a way to be notified when a person becomes a fan on one of my fan pages.

  • I’m also a bit confused by the data on sharing on Facebook. From my experience, I usually see more sharing done on Twitter. The main reason that I feel sharing is lower on FB is the Social Backlash factor of FB. If anything, I would guess that this data is skewed from all the FB Applications that try to take advantage of FB user’s feeds.

  • I definitely don’t advise on using FB as the central piece of your marketing strategy but as a way to amplify successful campaigns that you are running. This is more pertinent to small brands than big. One reason is that you will never own you page on the FB platform and there is little incentive for FB to improve the Page functions beyond ‘good enough.’ Right now advertisers are flocking to FB without thinking if using FB is the right strategy for them so there is little pressure for them to focus on improving their Pages.

  • Thats actually unlikely – When it comes down to it. Facebook has more users than any other social network ever created. It is simply a leader in the industry and ultimately has created something that could be considered a monopoly. Its a network for everyone and for that reason it will continue to have appeal.

    As soon as Facebook sees a new tech startup trying to gain their ground, they’ll mimic their ideas. Look at foursquare – They have generated tons of buzz but as soon as FB launches their location-program ; its a fish out of water.

  • If there was an option to turn it on and off – I agree. But always being notified would become annoying for high volume pages.

  • HowieG

    I have major issues with the first topic. If I have Facebook up on a tab in my browser and stay logged in for 24hrs yet actually spend 10 mins browsing the home page. What does Facebook record? 10 mins? or 24hrs? So that number is a fib. Secondly while the rest of the info is nice we all know in 5 years Facebook will be an also ran. That is a fact. Just ask Friendster, Myspace, Tribe. Remember when Yahoo was worth $250bil and owned search. Or Netscape owned browsing. Facebook is great for connecting and sharing but it is horrible for group discussions and conversations. And since 33% of FB users are conversationalists something will replace it and suck away users. Remember posting comments is not a conversation.

  • CoolestCool. That is an awesome picture you got there!

  • I wonder how Google will step up efforts to attract users for Google Buzz. So far I’m not impressed with GBuzz. Let the games begin! This story was trending on Twitter today. I covered it on my show

  • The most interesting question is whether Facebook will be able to unseat Google as the top website. Even though Facebook has 3x the average time on site, Google still has a significant lead in unique visitors. Perhaps Google sees the writing on the wall, which is why they are pushing Buzz so hard. At the rate Facebook is growing, we may not have to wait long to find out.

  • Well, Facebook did unseat Google for the number one spot. That’s not what I’m finding interesting. What is interesting is the increased amount of relevant ads I’m seeing on my profile. I knew this was coming, but it’s here.

    As an agency, an executive from FB called our office to see if we had anyone who could benefit from FB ads. I am already using FB ads, with mixed results–sometimes OK, sometimes gangbusters, but went over a need for agency tools, an MCC (like Google, Yahoo and Bing) for multiple accounts, but for the most part they are moving in the right direction.

    Do know that if you are using FB ads, the targeting is great, but it is still and interruption based method of advertising as opposed to someone who is searching for a solution to an immediate need.

    Facebook is not something to be ignored as a business owner or a marketer, but it is still evolving and different, so don’t break the trust of your audience with cheesy content… 🙂

  • Joe Momma

    I agree with this comment and a number of the others. FB is still largely irrelevant in the real business world and in attracting real customers, etc., but it obviously has big numbers. It is also likely that its decline is inevitable and has probably begun.

  • calvinjmitchell

    Great post, Amy, great stats too. And as of last week, Facebook has yanked the number 1 spot from Google. Truly a (marketing) powerhouse. I recently read a post on the opportunities provided by the social gaming pace on Facebook , would love to see you explore that topic.

  • I have no problem with first 4, as they are based on real numbers (may be not very true for #1). I do have a BIG disagreement with the claim in #5:

    “But overall, Dholakia stated that the results indicate that Facebook fan pages offer an effective and low-cost way of social media marketing.”

    This is the hight of generalization from one experiment 🙂 The real question is “is this repeatable”? Do yuu really see FB users becoming fans of all the local stores they go to and participate in their fan page. Since all this is “new”, there is an excitement around it, and that may drive people to participate, if you try another experiment in the same population you will surely get a better picture 🙂

  • Carl De Lucia

    Mark my words. Facebook will go down as a Fad !!
    Ever heard of a website called Myspace ?
    You heard it here first, Facebook is next.

  • Carl – Your words have been formally marked. I hope you’re prepared to eat your words if you are wrong 🙂

  • I agree that facebook nowadays is the number one social networking site as well as it is becoming a marketing powerhouse more than any other networking sites.

  • newsconsumer

    Social media is great for B2C businesses, but I have yet to see it work for B2B.

  • Fbaly

    I would have to agree with many of your comments Elyse. The process of making changes to your brand is very difficult on business fan pages. I recently had to go through a migration of my fans from one page to another and I am not even sure all my old fans migrated to my new page. The other issue is that there are not very good reporting tools to let us know about the statistics of our fan pages. I am eager to see what Facebook will do to address those issues for businesses.

  • Olivia Jade

    Thanks for the post Amy! I’m still wondering if I should make a Facebook page for my product and I guess it would do no harm in trying it out, especially because of the low costs involved. I also came across some simple tips on how to utilize Facebook well for marketing or branding at

  • Dina Lima

    Excellent information! Thank you!

  • Scott Crider

    I have a new, easy to use Facebook application that has proven results growing “Likes” by over 600% and generating sales ROI in excess of 1000%. Contact me for details.

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  • 44% of Social Sharing on the Web Is Driven by Facebook. What a powerful %

    Facebook has truly harvested the power of sharing and their growth will continue eventually connecting billions of people. WOW !!

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