Social Apps: What You Can Learn from the Best

Written on
Jun 13, 2014 
Suhail Doshi  |

ADOTAS – Everyone knows that staying afloat in the Social world is rough — in a landscape littered with the abandoned Friendster and MySpace profiles of yore, running a social app can be an intimidating challenge. In order to beat the competition, it’s necessary to know not just what they’re doing, but how well they’re doing it. We’ll be addressing the latter by establishing benchmarks by vertical.

Which states are the most social?

In the United States, we found that the largest cohort of social network users came directly from California, followed by Texas, Florida, and New York. This pattern isn’t particularly revealing, as it makes sense given the states’ respective populations. Where things start to get interesting is in states that are extremely active on social networks in a manner that is disproportionate to their populations. For example, Colorado and Pennsylvania have near-identical usage volumes, but Pennsylvania’s population is more than twice that of Colorado. There are many reasons why this might be the case, though at this juncture they’re largely speculative. For example, social network usage may be linked to population density: there are 283 people per square mile in Pennsylvania, compared to just 48 in Colorado. Perhaps the more people there are around you, the less time you spend building relationships online. Other factors might be income and age: Colorado residents are slightly better off than Pennsylvanians, with a median household income that’s $6,000 higher. Pennsylvania’s population is also a little older — 16% of Pennsylvanians are 65+, compared to Colorado’s 11.8%. This cohort is less likely to use social networks (or mobile apps in general), which may contribute in some small part to Pennsylvania’s modest data usage.

Faves: Mobile

Social users are a largely mobile bunch — nearly 99% of data was generated by smartphones, compared to just 1.4% from desktop. While we’ll concede that this may have something to do with our customer base, it also speaks to the way people social-network now. Gone are the nights of computer-lit clicking and scrolling; these days it’s natural to check in on a social app while in line at the bank or between courses at dinner (we’re not saying it’s polite, but that’s a different article).

To be clear, this is not to say that all usage is coming from mobile apps — mobile browsers are also the source of a lot of activity. Leading the way is Chrome, which contributes about 36% of browser-based social activity, with Safari following its lead. Interestingly enough, Android’s browser is nearly 16% of activity, beating out Firefox overall.


Just as a social life is only as fun as the friends you have, social apps only get more engaging with more connections and increased user-generated data. While getting people through the door is one thing, making sure they come back — and continue to make connections, add information, and get value out of an app — is the harder part. Retention will tell you just how you’re doing: we found that on average, 42% of social app users returned a week after their initial visit, but that number dropped to just 35% of the original cohort by week 4.

That said, the first week for social app users is an active and consistently engaged one: 53-58% of users come back every day.


Earlier this spring, we introduced a new metric, Addiction. Addiction tells you how frequently a person is engaged with your app, whether on an hourly or daily basis. We found that people using social apps were loyal and thoroughly addicted, with 53% of people using it for more than one hour in a day and 18% for upward of 5 hours per day. On a weekly scale, it’s clear that successful social apps are becoming part of the daily routine: 40% of people will come back and engage with their networks on more than one day out of the week.

Suhail Doshi is the co-founder and CEO of Mixpanel, an advanced analytics platform for mobile and the Web. More than 1,800 mobile apps and websites use Mixpanel to analyze more than 17 billion actions every month. Follow him @suhail.

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