How Facebook is Growing So Fast

Last Friday, Hitwise reported that Facebook received 25 percent of all page views in the US. That’s 5 times the page views that Google received. Hitwise also logged Facebook as receiving 3 percent more web visits than the search giant. And this all excludes mobile traffic.

And while Hitwise’s competitor, comScore, still has Facebook trailing the search giant at 151.13 million U.S. uniques in October compared to Google’s 173.3 million, they also peg Facebook as a leader where it counts. Just the week before last, comScore reported that more than 23 percent of all US online display ads in September appeared on Facebook. That’s more than twice as many as any other publisher and nearly 9 times Google’s share of only 2.7 percent of online ad displays.

So just what exactly is happening here? How is Facebook catching up to Google so quickly? Well, it has a lot to do with human nature.

Human Nature and Digital Media

Facebook’s edge over Google is based in the fact that it facilitates natural human behavior. Google, on the other hand, is merely a band aid solution to a temporary problem.

You see, Google offers a solution to an artificial problem — namely, how to sift through the vast quantities of information on a system that’s man-made and arbitrarily designed. Facebook, however, offers a way to take available technology, adapt it to natural human behavior (ingrained over 3 million years of evolution), and enhance that behavior.

Facebook doesn’t need the web, Google does

This is why Americans spend 906 million hours a month inside of social networks, but only 138 million hours a month searching (Ad Age Article). Human beings are inherently socially creatures, so any utility or media or app that can complement or enhance our social experience is going to prove incredibly popular (at least until new technology finds a better way to enhance that experience).

With search, however, the entire user experience is built around sending users away. The web is big and imperfect and hard to sift through, so we go to search engines that help us make sense of it and once we find what we want, we move on. In fact, the better a search engine is, the less time we’ll spend with it because the more quickly and easily we’ll find what we’re looking for.

And if the web is dead, then Google is in that much more trouble because we’re just not going to need it as much or as often. After all, search is all about finding content, but if apps are giving us new ways to aggregate content that’s relevant to us, then we’re just not going to rely on search nearly as much as we used to.

Social media, on the other hand is more about creating content and sharing content and interacting through content. And apps can help us do both that, and aggregate (based on our social graph) all the content that lies beyond our immediate social network.

So it’s not even like Google is going to be swallowed up by a new Leviathan. Rather, it’s being picked at, piece by piece, by a swarm of tiny piranhas in the form of apps and the users who use them.

Homo Digitas

Digital, interactive media are in a very early stage. It’s kind of like a gene mutated only recently, and it’s going to take several more generations for that mutation to stabilize into several new candidate species. In the process, many species are to represent rogue offshoots that dead end on the family tree.

So while Google has proved to be incredibly successful in the immediate ecosystem that first spurred this genetic to mutation in the media, its fate could be sealed by how it might have it deviated too far from the core gene pool. Basically, if the search giant doesn’t develop some sufficiently social characteristics, it’s going to be unable to compete in an ecosystem dominated by social creatures.

About CT Moore

A former Staff Editor here at, CT Moore is a recovering agency hack with over a decade experience leveraging search, social media, and content marketing to help brands meet their business goals online. He currently provides digital strategy consulting to start-ups, SMBs, enterprise level companies through his consultancy Socialed Inc.. CT is also an accomplished blogger and speaker who educates groups and companies on how they can better leverage different online channels.

Twitter: gypsybandito

8 Responses to How Facebook is Growing So Fast

  1. great article – well written and just long enough to read while I'm on hold – calling a client to talk about using social media to engage their member base…

    I found it via a relevant facebook link; so it goes to show that content will always do a better job of finding me, rather than me being smart enough to find the content I might find relevant.

    • CT Moore says:

      You have to let me quote you on this: "content will always do a better job of finding me, rather than me being smart enough to find the content I might find relevant. "

      Glad you enjoyed the read.

      • jeffmolander says:

        This is actually an older quote… or paraphrase from, I believe, Doc Searles. Awesome write-up CT.

  2. Alistair says:

    I'm surprised by the fact that anyone is surprised that Facebook have 5 times the pageviews of Google. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that by them having 'only' five times the pageviews is actually a sign of weakness (so to speak).

    Consider, Google has a goal of delivering a user the perfect set of search results first time, regardless of their query. If they are doing their job, they deliver 1 pageview per session on Google search. On the flipside of the coin, you have Facebook, where a user is driven to stay on the site and interact. The other thing that this doesn't take into account either, is the fierce use of AJAX on Facebook, each request counting as a pageview in the eyes of Hitwise and comScore.

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