As rivalries go, MySpace versus Facebook might rank one notch above Star Wars versus Star Trek on the nerd scale. But for learning professionals looking to formulate a social networking strategy to connect with and educate younger workers, it’s one worth looking at closely.
This video really captures – with a fair amount of accuracy – the advantages and disadvantages of each social network with caricatures. Facebook seems to be less overtly commercial and more intellectual, if somewhat tedious and uptight. On the other hand, MySpace appears to be fun and freewheeling, but also a bit artificial and unnecessarily ostentatious. Most users of each network probably wouldn’t disagree with these characterizations.
But which one is more popular?!@! Well, the numbers from ComScore suggest that Facebook is beating MySpace at the moment. It brought in 123.9 million unique visitors worldwide in May of this year, surpassing MySpace’s 114.6 million, and it boasted 50.6 billion page views compared to MySpace’s 45.4 billion.
However, MySpace has a substantial advantage over Facebook among U.S. users. It had 73.7 million unique visitors in the U.S. versus Facebook’s 35.6 million. Still, MySpace’s U.S.-based traffic is shrinking slightly, while Facebook’s is growing, also slightly.
Despite the apparent popularity of each, though, the fact is that neither network is bringing in satisfactory advertising revenues right now. And profitability aside, both have started to plateau in terms of site traffic and new users, suggesting that the biggest gains have already occurred.
The biggest growth in online social networks is taking place on sites like Orkut, which dominates Brazil and is gaining traction in India, and on niche networks that cater to individual tastes, from baking to downhill skiing. (The business-oriented network LinkedIn also has done well, with registered users increasing by more than 1,000 percent in the past year.)
So, as it turns out, neither Facebook nor MySpace is really “winning” right now. Both can point to large numbers of users, but both seem to be stagnating in traffic and revenues. The winners at present seem to be the ones that identify a particular audience and build a network around their interests. Of course, who knows what the future holds? One of the big social networks might somehow gain some decisive edge (a killer app, some clever marketing campaign, etc.) and get a critical mass of users. But for now, the market is trending toward increased granularity.
Looking at these and other social networking developments, what are the implications – if any – for you, the learning leader? Let us know!