Like most other modern human beings (and I’m including you in this), I’m naturally bad at prioritising my life. There are all sorts of psychological processes that — while nicely suited to living in the early hominid moment — aren’t much use when it comes to mid- and long-term planning in the modern world. Wikipedia maintains a handy-dandy list of the resulting cognitive biases that’s worth perusing from time to time.
Obviously these cognitive biases affect my work; but nowhere more than when it comes to thinking about the relative size and importance of the various social media platforms. In my experience, people who work in emerging areas of the market suffer from neophilia: a tendency to prioritise the new over the familiar and stable — we’re sensitive to change. And this means that we tend to talk a lot about things like Vine, or Jelly – asking ourselves questions like “what does this mean for our business?” before growing bored and moving on to the next new thing.
This doesn’t make us bad people; but it does mean that — once in a while we should relax, step back, and take a look at the whole market.
A few months ago (and prior to Twitter’s IPO), I published a version of this chart over on SMG London’s blog, titled ‘The one chart about Twitter that you’ll never see‘. In the accompanying post, I noted that:
Twitter enjoys a happy coincidence; politicians, business people, athletes, performers and celebrities are living out a greater proportion of their lives publicly on Twitter; and those tweets are tidily packaged to be picked up and quoted by any journalist. Likewise, Twitter is an excellent source of the vox populi; the immediacy and convenience of the service means the first material that a newsroom under pressure to report a story can put out will often be “Twitter reactions.”
Twitter’s inherent newsworthiness means that it is more often mentioned by the news media than any other social platform; and this can create for the outside observer a misleading impression of its scale, leading to side-by-side financial comparisons with Facebook that are neither warranted nor useful.
Thinking about that chart today for a new presentation, I decided to use last month’s comScore data for a new viz. Taking a look only at the social platforms in the Top 100 Properties list (not that many, when it comes down to it), I plotted average monthly visits by average length of visit. I’ve kept Google in there partly in recognition of their Google Plus platform, and partly for scale, and the same for Tencent. The size of each bubble reflects the mean Daily Active Users (DAUs); a measure both of reach and that old web metric, “stickiness.”
Not everyone’s checking into LinkedIn every day, so their mean DAUs are around 10% of their MAUs; and Twitter’s in more or less the same place with 13%. But Facebook and VK see their MAUs return on average ten days each month, while Google & Tencent are stickier still (DAUs are around 40% of MAUs.)
For most of the world (China and Russia excluded), Facebook should be seen as having the same role in our marketing communications planning as Google. Together, Facebook and Google are the twin engines that drive discovery for the average web user. Everything else is fresh and interesting, but sometimes we have to prioritise.