What is immediately apparent is that ranking by total visitors to asocial networking site gives a poor representation of a sites truepopularity. Since visitors are (arguably) using these sites tosocialize, more time spent on a site indicates involvement.
Attention on a site is driven by three elements – the people count of the visitors to the site, the frequency with which they return to the site and the average stay when they visit. Those elements are each provided through SnapShot at http://snapshot.compete.com. Arrayed in the table below, these elements provide some interesting insights:
• The frequency of visitation is declining on all three sites. Are new users less engaged in social networking?
• The average stay is declining for MySpace. Along with its decreased frequency of visits, are there cracks in MySpace’s growth path?
• Bebo’s average stay has grown a lot in a year and its average stay now rivals MySpace. The combination of big growth in people counts and longer stays is drive the attention to Bebo. Now it Bebo could just get its people to come back more often…
• The average stay on Facebook is about half of its two big rivals, but at least it’s growing a little.
This is a really nice look at some of the more important variables to look at when gauging the succes of a community. This is especially true if you are running a smaller community. If your PVs aren’t high, it does’t mean your community is not successful. You should rate your community by features that define it as a community – attention, dedication, interest level, audience engagement.
When thinking about online communitites and their characteristics and worth, it is often helpful to think of the same situation in an offline setting. I made a reference to sort of thing in danah boyd’s blog the other day, in regards to monitiored communities for younger audiences.
I have been working with and thinking about online communitites for almost a decade, so this is an easy habit for me. Now that there is an industry built around communities, I see making this distinction as a critical path to take for any one serious about digging deeper and making this a career. There is a business aspect of social networking and communities, but there is also a human side of it. Realizing both is crucial for an individual’s and the industry’s success.
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