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2013: When Social Got Serious

Kirsty Styles

2013 saw no less than three of our favourite digital communities make it clear that they weren’t just doing this for the love of conversation, with Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr all unveiling mobile ad placements. Native, in the form of sponsored posts, appears to have won the battle of the ad formats, while picture-led content platforms seem to be winning among consumers.

We've brought together all the juicy stats we could lay our hands on - which is harder than you think, given the smoke and mirrors around user figures - to build up a picture of social in 2013.

Facebook is still king, but is its popularity waning? It may claim young people are sick of social, flocking to OTT chat providers like Snapchat, but they have also switched to Pinterest in their millions, according to GlobalWebIndex's Q3 2013 social analysis, and even LinkedIn. We saw Facebook step up activity after Twitter bought MoPub, but are these two big players too focused on each other going into 2014?

We've focused on the biggest names in social for this piece, but we can't help but tip our hats to Quora and Reddit, quietly seeing the largest growth in active users since the beginning of 2013, according to GlobalWebIndex. Viral news sites have also come into their own, the likes of Buzzfeed, Upworthy and Elite Daily, each seemingly able to identify the content and headline format that people in their millions just can't not share. Maybe our piece should have been 'Seven Social Networks You (Almost) Couldn't Ignore in 2013'.

All figures are for Q3 unless otherwise stated. Enjoy!

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Facebook

Facebook was still by far and away the most profitable and widely used social platform in 2013. It’s also the most transparent – or just happily boastful.

Facebook use is still on the rise but growth, including on mobile, has slowed over the course of the year. Mobile-only users are currently growing at the fastest rate, while use among teens is waning.

Monthly active users: 1.19bn +3.4 per cent q/q

Monthly active mobile users: 874m + 6.7 per cent q/q

Daily active mobile users: 507m +8 per cent q/q

Mobile-only users: 254m +15 per cent q/q

Mobile ad revenue: $882m or 44 per cent of total sales – growth from $656m or 36 per cent q/q

Google+

Google+

Google came under fire when it released its users stats in October for being somewhat opaque about what the figures truly mean. Many of its ‘monthly users’ are likely to have only interacted with the platform incidentally while commenting on YouTube videos.

Its ‘monthly in stream users’ figure is more aligned with equivalent ‘monthly active users’ where people have purposefully interacted with the social network’s content feed. Many are still not happy with its on-boarding process...

Monthly active users: 540m

Monthly active ‘in stream’ users: 300m

Monthly active mobile users: The Q3 2013 global social survey by GlobalWebIndex found Google+ to be the second most widely used social platform

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Instagram

After getting bought by Facebook last year, Instagram has been working hard to maintain its independent image, as well as starting to generate some cash. It was clear ads were on the way and finally in November, we saw the first, seemingly rather successful campaign.

The app company launched 15-second video functionality in July, no doubt taking a shot at Twitter's Vine. Instagram has been hailed as the most effective social marketing platform of the year - but unlike parent company Facebook, it's not so open with its user numbers.

Registered users: 150m – growing by 50m from March to September 2013

Mobile ad revenue: 0 to date – forecast $340m in 2014

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LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the only social networks that has a paid-for element, as well as a successful business model built around recruitment, meaning it is generating considerably greater revenue than it might otherwise be.

The company also says its fastest growing demographic is students and recents graduates, with more than 30m students now signed up on LinkedIn.

Registered users: 259m (LinkedIn)

Monthly active users: 142m

Monthly active mobiles users: 98.42m – 38 per cent of unique visitors +13 per cent y/y

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Pinterest

Pinterest launched its ‘tasteful’ native ads back in October and has won accolade for becoming a source of social news to rival Facebook and Twitter, as well as driving conversions, and innovation, for brands during the festive season.

Pinterest is keeping its cards close to its chest in terms of user numbers but that hasn’t stopped analysts using the data that is available to try and work out where the company’s at. Global Web Index’s Q3 report says Pinterest is the only global social platform to have seen a rise in active users across all age groups in 2013.

Registered users: 50.6m (comScore, June, via BusinessInsider)

Mobile unique users: 25.3m – 55 per cent of total users

Mobile-only users: 18.8m – 35 per cent of total users

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter has had a busy year, including buying mobile ad network MoPub and then completing its IPO. The company was valued at around $10bn despite limited revenues and was actually beaten in Q3 by OTT messaging app LINE.

Twitter seems to have become the de facto second-screen viewing platform, at least for now, and ad dollars are starting to move accordingly. It has also experimented with and improved its mobile ads, recently announcing the launch of ad retargeting.

Monthly active users: 231.7m + 6.13 per cent q/q (Twitter)

Monthly active mobile users: 177.8m – 75 per cent of monthly active users

Mobile ad revenue: $105m – 70 per cent of ad business, up from 65 per cent in Q2

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Tumblr

‘How many users does Tumblr really have?’ asked Peter Kafka of AllThingsD back in May just after Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer announced the buyout of the microblogging platform for $1.1bn.

It’s an important question, given that the company switched on its mobile ad taps back in April, and one that isn’t easily answered. Transparent or not, Tumblr has attracted big names to try its sponsored posts over the course of 2013, with this year’s top ad going to Universal Studios.

Monthly unique views: 300m (in May cited by Marissa Mayer)

Monthly active users: 30m to 50m (industry guesstimate)

Monthly active mobile users: 15m to 25m (50 per cent of total audience figure cited by Marissa Mayer)