Since the late 90’s, the development of new technologies as well as the establishment of Web 2.0 have permitted the emergence of social media such as social network sites. In recent years the growing popularity of Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and in particular Facebook reveal that these sites are an important phenomenon in society. Although these companies have a large user base, their sustainability and their business success in a capitalistic economy depends essentially on their profitability. In particular, the business model and the strategies of a company are critical in terms of making a profit. The monetization approach of social network sites is frequently based on an online advertising model. However, this does not necessarily lead to business success.
The current study aims to investigate if these four American (US) social network companies are successful financially and if this success is sustainable through the analysis of various factors. A comparison between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ is also made. In addition, six in-depths interviews (qualitative data) were conducted as part of this research.
The research found that even if the monetization by the sale of advertising space is the main source of revenue for the four companies studied, results are different from one company to another. Additionally, the importances of social, psychological or technological factors are also presented, as well as the significance of new mobile devices for these social network companies. Following, the main causation of growth is explored for these four major US social network companies, such as innovation and acquisitions. Author keywords: Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, social network sites, social network companies, financial success, business success