ComScore Sees a Boom Year Globally for Social Nets

Social networking Web sites enjoyed “dramatic” growth during the past year, with yearly increases in total visitors skyrocketing as much as 774 percent, according to a new study.

Conducted by comScore, the study looked at MySpace, Facebook, Hi5, Friendster, Orkut, Bebo and Tagged. The researchers studied the number of unique visitors and average daily visitors at the five sites, comparing this June’s levels to those documented in June 2006.

While comScore found to be the fastest-growing site of those it studied with a 774 percent growth rate, MySpace continues to lead the league, according to the report. The study showed MySpace had more than 114 million unique visitors this June, a 72 percent increase over the 66 million visits of June 2006.

Coming in at second-place was Facebook, with about 52 million unique visitors this summer. But, as comScore noted, Facebook’s pace of growth was significantly better than that of MySpace during the past year. In June 2006, Facebook had about 14 million visitors. By June, that number had grown 270 percent, according to comScore.

All that growth means social networking sites are a big part of the fabric of the Internet and should not be considered a passing phase or fad, said comScore EVP Jack Flanagan, and that advertisers are right to be scrutinizing the channel for opportunities — even if campaigns placed on social nets so far have an uneven track record.

“In terms of the size of audiences, certainly social networking has hit the mainstream,” said Flanagan. “Typically we see that, whenever that happens, advertisers will follow the eyeballs.”

While those eyeballs were initially owned by mostly young people, social network interaction by adults is on the rise, said Flanagan. “Certainly, where it started off with the younger demographic, what we have seen in the past year is that… people of all age groups are using social networking sites. It’s not a genre restricted to a demographic as much as an overall function being used across the Internet.”

ComScore’s figures represent visitors of at least 15 years of age. The researchers focused on social networking sites that had at least 10 million visitors and experienced growth rates of at least 50 percent year-to-year.

While the sites studied by comScore are of “particular significance to the North American region,” the company said it will focus future studies on sites that are popular worldwide. The researchers noted that both MySpace and Facebook, while continuing to expand globally, get about two-thirds of their audiences from North America. In Europe, Bebo enjoys “a particularly strong grasp,” attracting almost 63 percent of its visitors from that continent. In Latin America and Asia, Orkut is “firmly entrenched,” and Friendster gets 89 percent of its visitors from the Asia-Pacific region, said comScore.

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