Market researcher Nielsen Online (PDF) reports that the time online users spent on Facebook in April is up 700% year over year. The U.S. spent 13.9 BILLION minutes on Facebook in April 2009 alone and over 20 billion minutes were spent on social networking sites altogether.
Although it is important to adopt a range of social media platforms, Facebook’s command on the online user’s attention is certainly eye opening. Even growing networks such as Twitter and Tagged only have a fraction of the comparable attention. In other words, while it is imperative to reach your market in the communities they gravitate to, pretty much every market has gravitated to Facebook.
That said, overall social networking was up 83 percent year over year and consumer adoption increased across seven of the top ten websites. Even with a 31% decline, MySpace still commands almost 5 billion minutes of the U.S. visitors’ online attention.
Facebook Versus Google
Don’t think that Google has not taken notice. Google is rapidly adopting more social initiatives, including Friend Connect, Profiles, support for RDFa, and a rapidly expanding Gadget library, which can be incorporated into a range of other user-generated Google services.
Even though 5.5 billion search queries in Google were conducted in April 2009, growth year over year was only 7.8% in comparison. ClickZ reports that 57 million users visited Facebook in February 2009 and 105 million Americans are using social media sites altogether.
What Does This Mean for Search Engine Marketing?
Failing to have a strategy within social networking sites means leaving millions of potential searches off the table. The online user has alternative ways to find information they’re looking for.
In some case, search has become more scrutinized. As the news of poisoned search results becomes more prevalent, people turn to those they trust most; their social network.
- Millions of keyword searches can be mined in Twitter conversations every day.
- Sites such as Yahoo Answers provide for direct visibility for almost any business industry and niche.
- Groups for almost every interest are forming in social communities like Facebook, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon
While search engines certainly won’t go away, there clearly are alternative options for people to find the information they are looking for online. It’s realistic to expect Google and the other engines to make adjustments to accommodate these trends and even if search engine traffic remains the priority (for your business), social networking is bound to impact the visibility of web pages in search results more so in the future.