3 min read

Facebook Utterly Dominates Web Referrals

There is a large, developing industry looking to bring social networking to the enterprise.

There is a large, developing industry looking to bring social networking to the enterprise. Superficially, you'd think they're all just Facebook behind the firewall. There's more to them than that, but the Facebook hints are all over the place and it's easy to see why. Facebook completely dominates social networking.

It's an indirect measure, but according to Net Applications (the people who are most famous for measures of browser usage share), almost two-thirds of all referrals on the Web from social networks in November came through Facebook:

Facebook constituted almost two-thirds of all Web referrals in November according to Net Applications. Twitter, Google+ and others barely registered.

Surprising? Yes, to the extent of Facebook's dominance, but no, the pathetic numbers for supposedly big players like Twitter and Google+ are not surprising. Well, maybe nobody really thinks of Google+ as a major player, but it still goes to show just how hard it is to move people from one social network to another. I really am surprised at Twitter, which generated just a half of 1%. When I go to Twitter these days it seems most of what I see is links. I guess nobody is clicking on them. Even LinkedIn has more than three times as many referrals as Twitter. I have suspected for some time that Twitter is, for many, a "write-only" social network.

You might quibble with the choice of sites on the list. Is StumbleUpon a social network? Is YouTube? I would probably argue these choices, but they don't change the overall picture.

There are several other measures on the chart, generally having to do with the quality of the reference. They're interesting, but not so much for my point. Enterprise social people in companies will say that one of the most basic measures of the success of a deployment is that the system is popular and used heavily. But in an enterprise system it could be that one person follows a link and it's a big success.

How much does the stickiness effect--that it's hard to get users to move social networks once they've settled into one--matter for enterprise social networks? Some, but nowhere near as much as in the real world. After all, users don't officially get a choice of which social networking system they will use for work, but if the system stinks users might decide to use another one off the reservation. Some of the service-based enterprise social networks operate this way.

What the resemblance of enterprise social networks to Facebook really shows is that they're trying to duplicate the love and loyalty people have for it. Will people love it as much in a business context? It's way too soon to tell.