Figures out today from eMarketer estimate that in the U.S., just under 82 million consumers, or 26% of the population, will access social networks from their phones this year, rising to nearly 117 million by 2014. But if you are a social networking startup that sees that low-penetration figure as an opportunity, be aware that at the moment Facebook has all but cornered the market, and that the market is slowing down. Facebook today accounts for 85% of all mobile social networking activity, and that proportion is only growing: eMarketer projects that Facebook will account 87.4% by 2014 — or four out of every 10 mobile users and nearly two-thirds of smartphone users.
Meanwhile, growth in social network on mobile is slowing right down, from 50% in 2011 to 18% by 2014.
Basing estimates on a variety of survey and traffic data from research firms and regulatory agencies, historical trends, company-specific data, and demographic and socioeconomic factors, eMarketer analysts found that smartphones are completely dominating social networking activity in the U.S. at the moment.
Some 95.5% of all users are checking and updating on their statuses on higher-end devices, it says. In other words, the different efforts we’ve seen from the likes of Twitter and Facebook to make their services friendly to lower-end devices are almost certainly mainly being utilized outside the U.S. Overall, in a separate piece of research, eMarketer notess that 116 million people in the U.S. will own and use a smartphone monthly this year, 43% of them Android devices.
EMarketer projects that by 2014, the percentage of people in the U.S. using social network sites on their phones will remain a minority activity, with 36.2% of users accessing sites (among the mobile population, the number is about 10 percentage points higher, at46.3%) . This shows that while the figure is growing, and indeed needs to be a consideration for companies like Facebook, PC-based access will continue to account for the majority of use in the U.S.
Indeed, eMarketer estimates that the number of Facebook mobile monthly active users this year will be around 70 million people. That works out to less than half of the 186 million MAUs that Facebook reported for June 2012 in the U.S. and Canada (Facebook’s worldwide MAU figure for June 2012 is 955 million).
Although we are still at a relatively young stage in the market, the landgrab for social mobile might at the same time be closing off: eMarketer notes that growth is slowing down by quite a lot in the next few years.
In 2011, it was growing by 50%; this year that will come down to 40%, and by 2014 “the number of mobile social networkers will increase by just 18%” although it does point out that this is “still in the healthy double digits.” It notes that mobile Facebook usage (as it dominates the space) “will have a similar growth trajectory.”