Social media, as we have discussed here in the past, can take on many different forms. There are things like social bookmarking, micro-blogging, and social gaming, for example.
It is important to keep in mind that social networking is a very specific type of social media platform. It also describes a specific set of behaviors – actually interacting and engaging with others as the main value add of the platform.
While I have drawn lines in the sand between the various types of social media, I thought I’d take some time today to look at which services are tops in the social networking arena.
Social Networking Sites: Ranking Methodology
Anyone can choose a list of social networking sites and provide an arbitrary, opinion-driven assessment of which ones are tops. That’s the easy way out.
I decided to comb the web in search of attempts to rank. Based on what I found, the following are the most typical metrics I’ve found for cobbling together a list of the top services:
- Total number of global users
- Total number of US-based users
- Total volume of traffic measured in visits
- Total volume of traffic measured in pageviews
- Global rank of traffic volumes (a’la Alexa)
- Total volume of updates (status, picture uploads, etc.)
- Total interactions (likes, comments, replies)
- Manual ratings based on reviews of features and functionality
Among all of these options, the best rankings I found were based loosely on the metrics described in point 5 and point 8. Let’s look at these two methodologies to see how they line up.
Review-based Ranking: TopTenReviews.com
TopTenReviews.com offers a 6-dimensional scale for benchmarking social networking sites against each other mathematically. The six dimensions measured are:
- Networking Features
- Legitimate Friend Focus
The six dimensions are then blended to come up with an overall rank, calculated on a scale of 1-10. By this measurement, the top 10 social networking sites are:
These rankings were pulled together recently. However, a quick glance shows that it is not an exhaustive list of social networking services.
It’s a great methodology if expanded widely, but there are some very important players missing from the list altogether. Almost makes me wonder if this is a pay-to-play site. Chime in with a comment if you know any more about this.
Global Traffic Volume Rank: EbizMBA.com
EbizMBA just released a fresh list of the top social networking sites in October 2012. They used the combined rankings from Alexa and Compete to compile their list, and went a bit deeper by ranking the top 15 overall. Here is the list:
- Ning (A social network that lets you build your own social network)
Okay, NOW we’re talking. This is more representative of the list I expected to see, and I really can’t argue with the placement of any one of these services.
The only real surprises for me are DeviantArt ranking so high, and services such as Pinterest, Ning, and Meetup ranking so low.
We all know thatAlexa is a good benchmark but in no way scientifically accurate within a tight standard deviation, so some small anomalies are to be expected.
For More Information
This post is focused on figuring out the right methodology and analyzing what the top services are within the chosen measurement system. Give a look to this Wikipedia page if you want to find a more exhaustive list of available social networking sites.
I also provided my own take on what the top social media sites are by country back in June.
Although that had its own different methodology from the above (based on the inexact metric of total users), it was a useful exercise nonetheless. Note that it goes beyond just social networking and covers any and all social media.
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