The 15 Most Influential Social Media Websites (Mathematically Ranked)

Originally, I was going to write a blog post with simply my opinion of the most influential social media websites, but that didn’t seem very…objective. I mean, my personal opinion of the impact of any particular social media website would be skewed just like any other individual.

So I decided to do this mathematically – Which social media websites is the Internet world talking the most about? Which one has people’s attention?

So I created an excel spreadsheet with several factors that I believe affect the “influence” of social media websites. The factors are as follows:

  1. # of active visitors (via compete.com)
  2. Growth rate (in the last year, via compete.com)
  3. Age (how old the site is)
  4. Average Visitor’s Time on Site (via compete.com)
  5. # of new articles (last month, via Google News)
  6. # of blog articles (last 3 months, via Google Blog Search)
  7. Inbound links (# of links towards its homepage, via SEO Pro)
  8. My personal ranking

I explain more about my math at the end of this post, but just know that the highest score a website can gain is an 8. And yes, I know my math isn’t exactly scientific – I don’t claim it is. I just claim that it’s an interesting indicator of the influence of a social media website. With that, here are the top 15 most influential social media websites, in reverse order.

15) FriendFeed (0.75 points) Friendfeed

Why? – FriendFeed does not score high in this analysis, but it’s mostly because of its freshness. The lifestreaming service, launched this year, has seen tremendous growth. Being able to see you and your friend’s YouTube favorites, Twitter tweets, blog posts, and diggs in one location is apparently a winning model. FriendFeed may not have millions of users (yet), but it does have all of the buzz and it will continue to generate astronomical growth and attention.

14) Reddit (1.03 points) Reddit

Why? – Reddit, although nowhere near as influential as large or as powerful as Digg or StumbleUpon, is still a long-standing social news website that drives traffic to many blogs and websites. Its funky alien and active community were enough for Condé Nast (Wired, Vogue, GQ, the New Yorker) to acquire them in 2006. Reddit’s recent move to go open-source and allow others to create their own mini-Reddit communities may pan out to be a game changer. We just have to wait and see to know.

13) Yelp (1.47 points) Yelp

Why? – Yelp isn’t mainstream yet, but in most major metropolitan areas, it is the place to go for information on restaurants, movie theaters, clubs, bars, gyms, and local businesses. Reviews continue to pile in and businesses have begun to react, some by improving their businesses and some with annoying blogs against Yelp. In the end, though, local businesses will simply have to develop strategies to improve their ranking on Yelp or miss out on future customers.

12) Last.fm (1.48 points) Last.fm

Why? – Last.fm is the social network of music. Okay, so MySpace still rules that domain, but Last.fm’s unique radio and social networking features makes it a must-have for any audiophile. Discovering new music has never been easier, as last.fm “scrobbles” your playlist to determine new music that fits your unique tastes.

11) StumbleUpon (1.76 points) StumbleUpon

Why? – One of the goals of almost any website is to gain traffic. StumbleUpon is one of the best ways to do just that. The social bookmarking toolbar and website continues to gobble up new users who stumble through websites and articles. StumbleUpon is the ultimate time-killer. And all the while, it drives thousands upon thousands to new and interesting websites.



10) LinkedIn (2.12 points) LinkedIn

Why? – LinkedIn may not be the largest of social media websites, but it is absolutely one of the most influential. LinkedIn is a must-have for almost all tech professionals. Finding new recruits, checking out the history of current ones, or searching for a new job has been changed by the LinkedIn system of degrees and contacts. It now has a valuation of over a billion dollars and it has some of the highest ad rates in the business. LinkedIn is only going to get bigger, not smaller.

9) Twitter (2.33 points) Twitter

Why? – Twitter has had a meteoric rise in the last year. The microblogging service has grown over 1300% in the last year. People clamor to gain new followers and to be conversation starters. Its API has spawned hundreds of external applications that can analyze internet trends or “tweet” from your desktop. Twitter’s downtime and architecture issues, however, have created a deep wound that has opened up a hole for competitors or could even spell the end of the microblogging era.

8) Flickr (2.49 points) Flickr

Why? – Just as YouTube revolutionized video, Flickr revolutionized photos. Only beaten by Facebook in the sheer number of photos (over 2 billion), Flickr is not only a photo hosting website, but a photo community. Flickr made it easy to send your digital photos to all of your friends or to share your work with other artists. It allows you to get critiques and it helps bloggers and website publishers find creative commons photos to reuse for the enjoyment of others. Flickr’s contribution to photo and image sharing cannot be understated.

7) WordPress (2.58 points) Wordpress

Why? – WordPress‘s influence goes well beyond WordPress.com – the WordPress software is installed on millions of websites. Many companies and influential bloggers use the service and its plugins to run their blogs and speak to an audience that can go up into the millions. Blogger may have made blogs popular, but WordPress made blogs better.

6) Blogger (3.02 points) Blogger

Why? – Blogger is actually the oldest website on this list, started in July of 2000. The reason I believe Blogger ranks so high on this list (higher than even WordPress, which I think is superior code-wise) is because it was a founding father of blogging. Or at least it was key to the rise of the blog. Its simple and easy-to-use interface has attracted millions of writers and millions of readers. The influence of those writers are the backbone of Blogger. It’s part of why Google bought the web service.

5) Digg (3.07 points) Digg

Why? – Digg cannot be discounted by any blogger, website owner, or company. Its millions of users flood user-added websites and articles, sometimes even knocking them out of commission. But the traffic driver can make or break bloggers, it can bring your website attention beyond all of your expectations, and becoming popular on this social media website assures that others like Reddit or StumbleUpon will follow.

4) Facebook (3.84 points) Facebook

Why? – One of the world’s hottest tech companies, Facebook has become not only an integral part of every college student’s life, but it has become an innovation leader. Its release of News Feed sparked a wave of lifestream services. Its release of the Facebook Platform forced social networking competitors to build their own platforms for applications before they were left behind. It continues to grow at a fast pace, especially internationally. Facebook seems destined to overshadow MySpace, but will another social network uproot Facebook from its perch?

3) Wikipedia (4.58 points) Wikipedia

Why? – Information has been fundamentally altered by Wikipedia. Where would you learn about World War 2 before? From a textbook or from Encyclopedia Britannica. How about now? From Wikipedia. Or you could search for Sonic the Hedgehog, or George Lucas, or Michael Arrington. Information is no written and distributed by a few, but by the masses. Even if it sometimes drops in accuracy, it makes up for it by the sheer amount of information Wikipedia has brought to our lives.

2) MySpace (5.12 points) MySpace

Why? – This one shocked me slightly, but after a brief moment of disgust, I realized that MySpace does deserve such a high ranking. Why? Because it still has the largest audience of all social media websites. Because millions upon millions of impressionable kids and teenagers use it as the center of their social lives. Because those impressionable kids stare at that website for over 20 minutes per day. Because those kids are our future.

That’s a scary thought. But it remains that MySpace has been central in the lives of the Internet generation, and its influence cannot be discounted, even if it is in decline.

1) YouTube (5.53 points) YouTube

Why? – YouTube revolutionized video as we know it. Think back to ten years ago. Video basically didn’t exist on the web. People used camcorders just as a placeholder for families. The only way you could have your own show was by millions of dollars and a television station that accepted your pilot and series. No candidate feared having a “YouTube” moment.

Now? Billions of videos have been exchanged. We post funny or amazing clips everywhere. We can start our own TV show and gain a following with just a camera (i.e. Gary Vaynerchuk). Video is fundamentally different, TV is fundamentally altered, and the political, social, and economic landscapes have been shaken at their foundations by the rise of online video sharing. YouTube is the master of that domain, which is why I believe it gained the #1 ranking on this list.

—————————————————

I welcome you to argue against my rankings in the comments. Who did I forget? Who is way too high on the list? What would your list be?

—————————————————

My Mathematical Calculations

So you really needed to know the math? Don’t trust it? Well, don’t worry, I don’t completely trust it either.

I used eight different metrics which I outlined at the beginning of the post. For each one, I made the highest score a “1”, which I gave to the site that won in that category.

  • For size, I took the compete # of people, saw that MySpace won out, and divided every other website’s visitor count by that number (60,267,059).
  • For Growth, I divided all of the number’s by Twitter’s 1300%.
  • For age, I calculated out the # of months it has existed and divided it by 96, the # of months Blogger has been around.
  • For time, I divided time on site by 20:27, the average time per day a user is on MySpace.
  • For News articles, I found the # of articles that mentioned the website and divided it by 22,428, the # of mentions YouTube has had in the last month.
  • For Blog articles, I found the # of articles that mentioned the website and divided it by 1,464,715, the # of mentions Digg has had this year. Yes, I know that it’s completely skewed because Digg is basically a bookmark link on every website, which is why A) I made sure to not include the domain in the search (-“digg.com”) and B) why I think Digg deserves the top rank for blog articles. Digg clearly has a disproportionate influence on blogs and traffic and that should reflect in these rankings.
  • For inbound links, I took the # from Alexa (nowhere near ideal, but most online inbound link checker tools can’t handle the sheer data involved) and divided it by about 110,000, Wikipedia’s inbound linking number.
  • Finally, to add the human element, I ranked all of the websites from 15 to 1 (15 best, 1 worst) and divided them all by 15.

Each section thus had equal weight, and thus the possible total was 8.

If you really want to know more, here’s the excel spreadsheet I used to do these calculations. I would love to redo these calculations in the future, so email me suggestions at ben@benparr.com