Social Networking helps in influencing public opinion and decisions, act as a bridge between individuals and businesses and provides an effective medium for reaching target audience with ease. The use of social networking sites has doubled since 2009, which clearly indicates the high growth of social networking market. Most social network services enables users to interact over the Internet through services such as e-mail and instant messaging, photos sharing. Online community services are usually group-centered service whereas social network service is usually an individual-centered service. However, with the motive of increasing the number of user base, online community service are offering features of social networking. Therefore, online community services are also occasionally considered as a social network service. Social networking sites allow users to share activities, ideas, interests and events within their individual networks. According to eBizMBA Business Guide (eBizMBA, Inc.) the top 15 social networking site globally with their ranking are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus+, Tumblr, Instagram, VK, Flickr, Vine, Meetup, Tagged, Ask.fm, MeetMe, and ClassMates.
Most of the social networks are free for the users, which allow marketers to reach target audiences at a very low cost, which is a major driver for the growth of social networks. Moreover, the ease of use, user friendly interface and instant information sharing features of the social networks are the major drivers for the social networking market. However, concern over the identity thefts and security of personal information remains the major challenge for social networks around the globe.
While Facebook was leading and continuous to lead the group in terms of number of active monthly users (1.36 billion (as of October 2014)), Google+ was quickly gaining steam in late 2013. To the fact, in late 2013, it became the social network with second highest number of monthly users (343 million). However, with the introduction of video calls by Facebook, the popularity of Google + hampered. The market also witnessed drastic change with the acquisition of Whatsapp by Facebook, Inc on February 6, 2014. The acquisition led Facebook to retain its increasing revenues till today.
With the advent of many social networking platforms, the industry has seen increase in an average time spend by user on various social networking sites. This has opened up new opportunities for marketers to promote various brands and products through social networking sites. Also, businesses are integrating their content strategy with the social media platforms, and are witnessing its positive impact in terms of referral traffic, lead generation, and revenue. This has propelled the opportunities for social media advertising industry, content management companies, Social Media Strategist and full time social media managers among others. For instance, Pinterest, a social networking website is continuing its popularity among women. According to Nielsen, in 2012, average Pinterest user spends around 90 minutes per month on the website in 2012. This has aid business and marketers with women brands to increase its revenue by promoting their products.
There has been consistent trend of sharing among social networking users through image and video, rather than text-based content. Visual content is becoming important piece of any solid content strategy. Within last few years, market has seen increasing number of social networks such as Instagram, SnapChat getting enormous popularity. Due to this, image-centric networks and solutions for these networks are anticipated to have high demand as against others in the near future.
Increasing penetration of internet connectivity and proliferation in the smartphone has boosted e-commerce industry. To drive customer experience, many e-commerce players are adopting data analytics techniques which in turn are driving the demand for data analytics and data mining companies.
Internet of things (IoT) has led many dreams to come alive. Due to which, major players such as Facebook, Inc. are focusing on increasing its portfolio through acquiring the companies dealing with various technologies which can be integrated with the social networking sites. For instance, Facebook, Inc. acquired Oculus Rift for US$ 2 Billion in March 2014 with a belief that virtual reality would be the next mammals after mobile. After a year of research, Facebook, Inc. is currenlty planning to launch VR app, which will enable users to create VR content and share it along with their photos, videos and status updates. Very few industry experts are optimistic about Facebook with VR; however, if this attains the expected success, it is further going to pay wave for new business opportunities for players offering solutions and services related to social networking.