The latest figures are bullish on social media as a sustainable revenue-producing platform as indicated by Facebook's own performance. Reuters reports revenues reached $1.6bn for the first half of 2011 with net income at $500m, while Goldman Sachs claimed Facebook revenues totaled $1.2bn for the first three quarters of 2010 with net income of $355m.
The billion-dollar question for brands looking to build their own business model on Facebook: how to attract the right type of Facebook fans? And what are they looking for?
Hitwise estimates that each new Facebook fan generates on average 20 additional visits to a retailer’s website, citing UK retailer John Lewis’ efforts to attract and engage fans on its Facebook page.
One tip for retailers on Facebook: Author Facebook posts on Wednesdays, according to a new report from Buddy Media. If they do, they’ll reap 8% more engagement than from other days, a change from last April when Sunday was the best day.
Short posts apparently perform best, with messages longer than 80 characters (the Twitter effect?) garnering 40% lower engagement, and too many posts also decreasing engagement. Brands posting three or more messages daily had 25% lower like rates and 42% lower comment rates.
As for how consumers interact with brands on Facebook, a new study by Constant Contact and research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, reveals that for the most part, people “Like” a brand on Facebook because they are a customer (58%) or they want to receive discounts and promotions (57%).
77% of consumers interact passively by reading posts and updates from brands, while a mere 17% actually share experiences and news stories with others and only 13% post updates.
Their joint study also reveals that:
• 56% of consumers said they are more likely to recommend a brand to a friend after becoming a fan on Facebook
• 51% of consumers said they are more likely to buy a product since becoming a fan on Facebook
• 78% of consumers who “Like” brands on Facebook said they “Like” fewer than ten brands.
Many of those users, of course, are accessing Facebook on their phones. Nielsen’s head of social media and advertising analytics, Radha Subramanyam, comments that Facebook’s biggest mobile users are between 25 and 34. “Boomers are at the forefront of change because they use social media like everyone else and in the context of the larger economy they are the ones that have kept their jobs and are better off so they can afford smartphones.”
Nielsen's latest social media research finds that May usage of Internet users 55+ grew 109% from a year earlier; that demo is active on sites such as LinkedIn; and one-third of mobile app downloads are by users 45+. Overall, Americans spend more time on Facebook than any other U.S. website.
Social media accounts for 22.5% of American’s online time versus 9.8% online games and 7.6% for e-mail. Facebook now reaches 70% of active U.S. Internet users in the United States of whom 62% are women.
Facebook’s large margin as network of choice, 53.5 billion minutes on facebook.com from computers at home and work in May, is due to the simple fact, “It’s an incredibly fun way to spend time,” said Subramanyam.
Social sites that trailed Facebook in May: Blogger, at 723.8 million minutes; Tumblr, at 623.5 million minutes; Twitter, at 565.2 million minutes; and LinkedIn, at 325.7 million minutes.
Further gender drill-down from Nielsen about mobile users of Facebook’s app is that it's now about 81% female versus 69% male, while Google+ is more popular with male Android users at 15.8% and women 7.2%.
Google Maps has the highest reach among male Android users at 77.1%, second to only Android Market, while Twitter, Words With Friends and Kindle apps are favored by female U.S. Droid users, and overall, weather programs are the most popular Android apps.
Other key findings from Nielsen on the state of social media:
• Close to 40% of social media users access social media content from their social media phone
• Social networking apps are the third most popular among US smartphone owners
• 53% of active adult social network users follow a brand
• 32% of active adult social network users follow a celebrity.