Just for fun I thought I’d use Google Trends to compare the leading social networks in terms of how much traffic they’re getting from UK web users. This first chart shows that Bebo and MySpace both declined at a fairly similar rate over the past 12 months, while Twitter has been steadily climbing.

What’s interesting is that all of these sites seem to have levelled out over the past couple of months at approximately the same volume of visitors – between 110k and 150k unique visitors per day. Obviously there are some clear long term trends here, so it will be worth revisiting this graph in a few months time to see how things have changed.

Now let’s see what happens when we open the door and let the big hairy Facebook gorilla into the room…

That puts things into perspective a little, doesn’t it? But when we look at the trend, it seems Facebook has been stuck on a plateau of around 2 million unique daily visitors for the past 12 months. If anything, the trend seems to be drifting ever so slightly downwards.

There are a couple of caveats to this. First, this data is based on Google’s own estimate of website traffic, rather than the sites’ own analytics – although I’d argue that if you were going to trust any third-party estimate of traffic volume, Google’s would be the most accurate.

Secondly, these are visitor numbers, not user numbers. Facebook’s UK user numbers have increased over the same period (although they seem to have levelled out recently too) which could indicate that users are visiting the site less.

Another issue with these stats is that they are likely to miss a large chunk of regular Twitter users who do not use the site through their browser, but through third party tools like TweetDeck. Some analysis puts the number of users who access the service via such tools at 68%, so that’s a potentially huge volume of Twitter users who aren’t accounted for in this graph.

This would put Twitter far higher up the chart than Bebo and MySpace, but still nowhere close to Facebook.  Despite a clear upward trend, Twitter still has a long way to go before it can compete with Facebook in terms of audience size.

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