Sep
27
2011

Facebook: where we reach out when life happens

For members of the “Facebook Generation”, Facebook has become the de facto conduit for communication when something important occurs in our lives. Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg revealed further design upgrades at the annual f8 Conference, including “Timeline”, which will be a form of digital biography of our lives and encourages users to see Facebook as a digital home.

In the past, we’d run to a specific person when something big happened in our lives and the world around us – now we have networks of hundreds of people we rush to with news big and small. In March of 2010, Facebook became the largest website by market share of visits and, combined with the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s research that the average adult Facebook user has 229 Facebook friends.

Typically, Facebook’s market share of visits peaks on Saturdays and Sundays according to our data.
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But that pattern varies with the occurrence of major news events. Indeed, peaks in traffic to Facebook tend to correlate with major news events and, concurrently, peaks in the News and Media category’s upstream traffic from Facebook. The chart below illustrates the dates over the past nine months when Facebook’s market share of visits had the greatest positive difference in comparison to the average for each weekday.

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Peaks in positive variance correlate to major events like “Snowmageddon 2011” (2/2/11) and tornado outbreaks in the US (late April). There are less newsworthy peaks, like New Year’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, the 4th of July and Labor Day weekend; evidently web-users were less inclined to visit news sites after their New Year’s Eve festivities.

Though some jumps in the News and Media category’s upstream from Facebook are merely a natural increase resulting from an increase in Facebook’s market share of visits (e.g. holidays), other peaks in upstream from Facebook further illustrate the site’s success as a major communication channel for web-users during important events.

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When examining the peaks in variance for News and Media’s upstream traffic from Facebook alone, the nexus between Facebook and key incidents becomes evident. Weekends may be when Facebook’s share of traffic generally peaks, but when major events happen, web-users turn to Facebook to share information with their communities. As a result, news organizations need to be prepared to capitalize on the influx of new traffic to their sites when major events occur and marketing organizations as a whole could benefit from recognizing that their Facebook ad campaigns may have a wider reach during said time frames.

Thanks to Margot Bonner, Analyst on the Custom Data & Insights team for helping with today’s analysis.


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