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BizReport : Social Marketing : March 15, 2007

Niche sites growing stronger in social networking

MySpace continues to be the dominant social networking site, but smaller sites are growing in popularity in a rapidly increasing rate. That, according to a study from Hitwise, which shows visits to social networking sites increased 11% from January to February.

by Kristina Knight

According to the report, MySpace holds roughly 80% of the social network market share, but smaller networks are beginning to make inroads into that dominance.

"Sites like Buzznet and iMeem are succeeding in building communities around music and other media" said LeeAnn Prescott, director of research at Hitwise. "The social networking category will continue to grow as new sites emerge with unique offerings."

Both Buzznet (up 148%) and iMeem (up 145%) showed the most growth from January to February, even though they are still relative unknowns, each holding less than 1% market share. In comparison, with their 80% share MySpace showed 10% growth in the same period.

Other, larger, social networks are also showing growth in the category which indicates an increase in awareness and participation in social networking. Facebook, the number two social network, holds a 10% market share and showed an increase of 9% January to February. Other fast growing networks include Hoverspot (19% growth) and Bebo (17% growth).

Despite the doom-and-gloom naysayers, this research shows that social networks aren't going anywhere. There is an increasing number of Internet users who choose social networking sites as their platform of choice. Advertising on those networks and even setting up a company or marketer's own page could increase awareness of that product. Social network ad spending is expected to exceed $850 million this year.

Tags: MySpace, social marketing, social network advertising

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