The Future Growth of Social Media

Last month saw a series of big landmarks being reached by three of the major social networking sites. July seemed to be an especially good month for the various services with Facebook revealing that they had passed the 500m user mark, Twitter announcing 20 billion tweets, and Foursquare passing 2m users.

Impressive as these statistics are, something that seems more interesting to me is the rate that these sites are growing (or continue to grow in the case of Facebook). Facebook's latest milestone was reached one year after announcing that they had 250 million users, and just five months after reaching 400 million users. Similarly with Twitter, it took four years from Twitter's inception for 10 billion tweets to be sent, but following that milestone it took just three months to reach 15 billion tweets and then a further two months to reach 20 billion. The Twitter blog reported that over the last year the number of tweet sent daily has grown by over 1400%. Foursquare, although not dealing in quite as large numbers, has seen equally impressive growth. After taking one year to amass 1 million users, it took just three more months to gain another million.

For sometime now Facebook has had a population greater than that of the USA, meaning that if it were actually a country it would be the third most populated on earth. Despite slowing growth rates in the UK and UK and claims by some that Facebook may be nearing saturation point in these nations, it is still growing at a great pace in other areas of the world, for example over 1 million new users were added in Indonesia alone throughout June. At present less than 1% of the worlds two most populated nations, China and India, are represented on Facebook, demonstrating the remaining potential for massive growth. Twitter too is still expanding across the world, with this year's football World Cup helping numbers grow, and Foursquare clearly has great room and potential for expansion.

Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg has said that it is almost guaranteed that Facebook will pass the 1 billion user mark within the next few years. If the average rate of growth from the last five years could be maintained then we can expect to see Facebook become the biggest nation on earth, boasting a population bigger than that of China or India within the next three years. If the other networking services can maintain their rates of growth, and users continue to operate across multiple platforms, it is entirely possible that in the future we could have an online social population greater than that of earth.

Paul Shepherd

I've worked in digital communications for around 15 years, and specialised in social media for the past three. Passionate about new technologies, media, and the impact it has on businesses bottom line, I try to bring that passion to every campaign for every brand we work with.