Media

Facebook Remains Leader in Social Media, Pinterest Surges

Douglas A. McIntyre

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) remains the leader in social media use. As has been the case for several years, two or three other social media continue to jockey behind it. The service that has come on the most strongly in terms of use over the past year is Pinterest, a sign that social media preferences remain very fluid. Additionally, this fluidity means the value of the largest companies in the sector is changing rapidly.

A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that 42% of adults online use more than one social medium. Facebook’s use figure is 71%, up from 67% in 2012. LinkedIn Corp. (NYSE: LNKD) takes second place at 22%, up from 20% last year. Pinterest follows at 21%, up from 14% last year. Twitter Inc.’s (NASDAQ: TWTR) figure is 18%, up from 16%, followed by Instagram at 17%, up from 13%. If the data show anything definitive, it is that the surge of the use of social media continues — and that clear leaders, beyond Facebook, have yet to be established.

The use of social media varies widely, based on the demographics of users, Pew points out:

While Facebook is popular across a diverse mix of demographic groups, other sites have developed their own unique demographic user profiles. For example, Pinterest holds particular appeal to female users (women are four times as likely as men to be Pinterest users), and LinkedIn is especially popular among college graduates and internet users in higher income households. Twitter and Instagram have particular appeal to younger adults, urban dwellers, and non-whites. And there is substantial overlap between Twitter and Instagram user bases.

And it is indeed convenient to review the information and say that the social media world is still not entirely formed. While that is true, it is equally true that the market has not sorted out the values of these companies, at least in terms of assigning value. Facebook has a market capitalization of $131 billion, followed by Twitter at $33 billion and LinkedIn at $26 billion. LinkedIn claims it should be assigned the most value among these companies because it has more than one source of revenue, and its user base tends to be “older” people with jobs. Twitter critics often claim that it has not found a model that will allow it to drive consistent and profitable revenue. The tremendous fluctuation of its share price recently shows that debate continues to rage.

Pew’s research tells one thing for certain. The social media business has a long way to go in terms of determining which sites will have the most use, and loyalty, among people who use any or all of them, and whether the use patterns will make any of the major social media financially valuable over the long term.