With the introduction of news feeds, non-college registrations, and a mobile service, Facebook has been through significant changes over the past six months.
Though some initially enraged the site’s core audience of college students, these changes have ultimately widened Facebook’s appeal. A 23% traffic increase in April highlights the peak in a period of rapid growth since September.
But who is actually driving this growth?
The chart below illustrates the number of Facebook visits by state, for the month of April where a dot in the map represents 2500 visits.
The North East loves Facebook! Users in MA, NY, RI, and CT, NJ are the heaviest users of the site. Facebook believes in manifest destiny: usage becomes much less dense farther from the east coast (and water in general). While much of this usage is a function of population density, states with an abundance of post-secondary schools typically have above average Facebook usage, indicating that, despite an open registration system, Facebook users are still mostly college students.
How does Facebook’s growth fit into the overall social networking scene? The chart below shows the top 20 social networks, ranked by attention* , for the month of April. Looking at this measure of how much time users spend on a site, compared to the number of total people who use the site, gives a clear indication of successful engagement.
Surprise! News Corp's (NASDAQ:NWS) MySpace still dominates the pure social networking genre. However, its growth has been slowing dramatically for several months, with a meager 1% M-0-M change in attention in April. While classmates.com yields over two-thirds the visitors of Facebook.com, it captures less than 5% of the attention of Facebook. The top 20 pure social networking sites have grown a slight 3% in attention April.
With the ability to comment, create profiles, and communicate with other members becoming a staple of any new web property, the big players in the social networking category need to evolve or lose audience. While it may occasionally stumble along the way, Facebook’s offering is doing just that; and they have the attention to prove it.