How Do The "Big Four" Stack Up?

In light of Facebook recently announcing that that they are now cash flow positive, we felt it was important to look at how the “Big Four” of social networks are stacking up these days. In Internet Retailer’s August publication* profiles for Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter were compared on the basis of everything from unique monthly visitors to time spent by visitors on the social networks, to how many of the Internet Retailer Top 500 companies were using them. The results were a bit surprising!

Unique monthly visitors


In terms of unique monthly visitors, YouTube and Facebook swept MySpace and Twitter. The great appeal that YouTube and Facebook command is likely as a result of the mass appeal strategy that they have both mastered.

YouTube started mainly as an amateur home video and performance video platform. Since then though, YouTube has allowed businesses into the party too, letting them post their branded video content, training videos, commercials, and more.

Similarly, Facebook started off with a base of just college students. Eventually they expanded to allow high school students as well, and now people of all ages can join the site. They then went a step further, inviting businesses to create a profile, build a fan page, and use all of the applications and features offered.

MySpace never really embraced all users. They didn’t ban businesses from joining, but they didn’t make it easy for businesses to set themselves apart from teens looking for friends and bands trying to gain exposure. The result was a poor user experience for business owners and very little perceived return.

Twitter is letting businesses do their thing, but it has only been around for a mere two years compared to Facebook’s five years and YouTube’s four years, so we don’t really know what it can do yet. There have been rumors that Twitter may be rolling out “premium accounts” for businesses looking for a more business-specific experience on the social media platform. We shall see!

Avg time spent


In the category of average time spent on the social network, Facebook took a commanding lead over MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter. Facebook is therefore, the “stickiest,” meaning that users will spend a considerable amount of their free time on the site each day.

With online video viewing exploding so fast, this statistic may surprise you! The key to understanding why users spend so much more time on Facebook and MySpace than they do on YouTube and Twitter is knowing what each service is providing.

Facebook, for instance, offers tons of applications, photo uploading and tagging, Twitter-style updates, email-style messaging, and more! YouTube, on the other hand, offers video viewing- that’s it. Twitter only offers quick 140 character updates. You’d probably have to watch 10 videos on YouTube or tweet almost incessantly throughout the day to match the time it takes to upload enough pictures to fill a photo album on your Facebook profile and tag your friends and family.

Top 500


Which social network is the most important in the business world? Based on the above information about consumer appeal and stickiness, it shouldn’t be too hard to guess- that would be Facebook. Businesses go where the people are to get the most exposure. Not only are more people going to Facebook than any other social network, but they are also spending more time there than on any other social network. As a business owner would you rather have your message in front of 10 people for one minute or 50 people for five minutes? It’s a pretty easy decision to make.

The importance we give to these social networks is very closely associated with whether or not businesses favor them because business users pay the bills. That is one of the reasons MySpace has declined so quickly recently- many businesses are pulling their dollars out of MySpace and investing them into Facebook ads and applications. In the end, the longevity and popularity of a social network is highly dependent on whether or not businesses will back it.

-Kate Pierce eCommerce Specialist

*Siwicki, Bill. “The Big Four” Internet Retailer Strategies for Web-Based Retailing. August 2009. (Pages 47-52).

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