Facebook Remained Social Media’s Chief in Q3

1Executive Summary

Social media and real-time technologies — what we call NewNet — produced mostly consumer-oriented activity in the U.S. during the third quarter of 2010. While cloud computing services delivering ERP and collaboration functions adopted NewNet-style user interfaces, most of the action in the sector was in consumer services.

With widespread social media adoption in the U.S., advertisers started opening their pocketbooks again. Forecasters project $2 billion in near-term spending but few marketers are actually exploiting the unique characteristics of the medium. Many are still buying audiences cheaply. Facebook’s advertising sophistication is already separating it from the pack, while Twitter and others scramble to catch up.

Among those scramblers are the traditional online and technology leaders. Google’s NewNet strategy is blurry but it launched key initiatives this quarter. Apple built a walled-garden social network that hints at the future of social commerce. AOL made some acquisitions but the company is pretty squarely rooted in the traditional online media space.

While location-based services remain a minority activity, they’re still getting a lot of attention. They got even more this quarter, as Facebook launched its Places product. Will that grow user awareness of the category, or just kill off the competitors? Early indications point to the former.

Three social stalwarts did site re-launches with varying degrees of success. Digg and Twitter both aimed to expand their audiences to more casual users, while Foursquare mostly tweaked its interface and promised more real-world connections.

Social gaming reached critical mass in the U.S. When that occurs, new business models often emerge. Gaming as advertising is still nascent but sale of virtual goods is becoming a billion-dollar business.

Each quarter the industry bemoans the fact that so much innovation and control seems to come from so few companies. The third quarter was no different; Facebook remains the chief beneficiary of this centralization and seems to cause panic even when it doesn’t introduce something. Say, a phone, for instance.

Relevant Analyst
P1040724

David Card

VP Research Gigaom Research

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