MySpace v. Facebook: Competing Addictions

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MySpace and Facebook have become addictions in our society. Similar to people who are dependent on drugs or alcohol, social networking junkies count the minutes to their next profile fix, checking their computers multiple times per day to see how many shout-outs, virtual drinks or new friends they've acquired. But recent data has indicated a slowing in growth for MySpace while Facebook has continued to accelerate. Is a new king on the horizon for the social networking space? Or can two very different social networks co-exist?

According to Hitwise, as of last week, the MySpace domain is one of the most visited domain amongst U.S. Internet users, accounting for 4.92% of all Internet visits. At its peak in June of this year, the site accounted for 7% of all Internet visits. Meanwhile, Facebook has been increasing steadily, currently taking the position as the ninth most popular domain in the U.S., accounting for 1% of all Internet visits. Even though both sites — being within the top 10 of all Internet domains — are somewhat ubiquitous, demographic and psychographic data on users indicates that there are some unique audience components to each service.

On a per capita basis, MySpace has 4% more women visiting its site than Facebook. Facebook users tend to be more affluent, with its users skewing towards households earning over $60,000 per year, while MySpace users skew toward lower income levels, with 12% more of its users earning under $60,000 per year. Using the psychographic system Mosaic to track U.S. Internet users, it's clear that there's a class distinction between users of the two social networks. Facebook's most predominant group of visitors in Mosaic is "affluent suburbia," a group that Mosaic describes as "the wealthiest households in the U.S., living in exclusive suburban neighborhoods enjoying the best that life has to offer." The predominant group for MySpace, on the other hand, is "struggling societies," or households that are primarily single parent, single income, raising families on lower incomes and tight budgets.

Another way to understand the difference between users of the two sites is to examine where people go after leaving their MySpace or Facebook page. MySpace users count multimedia and photography sites (such as YouTube, Flickr and Photobucket) as the most common sites visited after dropping by the site. Facebook visitors have a similar pattern, visiting sites like Slide, YouTube and Flixter. The one stand-out difference between the two is that, owing to Facebook's heritage as a social network for college students, 5% of those leaving the Facebook domain continue on to websites within the educational category. The most fascinating point lies in the traffic patterns between the two networks. For last week, of those visiting, 20% visited MySpace immediately afterwards, up from 10% a year ago. And the most visited site after is... Facebook, accounting for 4.7% of all visits leaving the biggest social network.

This pattern is an indication that beyond the unique demographics for each site, many users choose to use both, and that users have a threshold for more than one social network. The addictive nature of both sites should serve them well for future growth.

Hi, my name is Bill and it's been 2 hours since my last Facebook login.

Bill Tancer is general manager of global research at Hitwise. He also has only 124 friends on Facebook and even fewer on MySpace, so if you're in the neighborhood please search for him and send a friend request.