11/04/2014 05:17 EST | Updated 01/04/2015 05:59 EST

What Happens When Social Media Landscape Leaders Fight For Dominance

In business and technology, it is common to see the underdogs suddenly rise up and knock the incumbent out of the top spot which, in turn, shakes up the industry and changes consumer perceptions and the business landscape. This Fast 50 shows Pinterest, Apple, Microsoft and Alibaba all making moves, some game changing and disruptive, jostling for a top position.

Connecting with eCommerce and a focus on original visual content has become critical for Social Platforms as we deep-dive into Pinterest's meteoric rise in the social market; this demand for original content delivers a surge in creative and content jobs; Apple breaks what appeared to be Android's unshakeable dominance with the launch of the iPhone 6; and Microsoft appears set for a resurgence; as everyone is left asking, "What has happened to eBay? What will we expect to see from Alibaba?"

This quarter's Fast 50 has seen data scientists review 295,259 online jobs showcasing the global trends affecting businesses and pulling apart what is driving their budget decisions. The Q3 results have been dominated by massive increases in Social Media jobs, up a collective 63 per cent on Q2. A plethora of product releases pitched squarely at eCommerce advertisers, including an expansion of the long-awaited Promoted Pins, has seen Pinterest jobs skyrocket. Meanwhile, the launch of the Apple iPhone 6 has finally ended 7 consecutive quarters of Android dominance -- but will it last? CEO Matt Barrie weighs in:

In business and technology, it is common to see the underdogs suddenly rise up and knock the incumbent out of the top spot which, in turn, shakes up the industry and changes consumer perceptions and the business landscape. This Fast 50 shows Pinterest, Apple, Microsoft and Alibaba all making moves, some game changing and disruptive, jostling for a top position. As a result, business owners are changing perceptions and shifting where and how they invest to grow their businesses.

Pinterest's meteoric rise is shaking up social networks and what they mean for business

The visual bookmarking platform is finally making moves to monetise through the expansion of Promoted Pins, and the results have been astounding - a massive 1065% increase to 1480 in related jobs, as eCommerce advertisers see encouraging results. Key product releases in the last few months, pitched squarely at small business advertisers, include an overhaul of their analytics platform, self-service ads, a news tab to push out fresh content, search-prioritised Rich Pins and more.

What started out as a platform many critics dismissed as an unremarkable site for scrapbooking has managed to build itself up into one of, if not the major player in the social media arena. While Pinterest's user count is relatively low at 70 million, its user base hits a lucrative niche -- 80 per cent of Pinterest's user base are women. But the secret sauce that has advertisers salivating is engagement of its user base -- the average Pinterest user spends 98 minutes per month on the platform.

Drilling down the stats even further, the numbers grow to astronomical proportions. Pinterest users have created more than 750 million boards which include more than 30 billion individual pins, with a staggering 54 million new pins being added each day. If you needed any more convincing of Pinterest's power, during the holiday season in 2013, Pinterest accounted for nearly a quarter of all social sharing activity. Pinterest is second only to Facebook among social networks when it comes to driving traffic to websites.

They've also just hired one of Google's high profile media partnership managers, Robert Macdonald and have ex Facebook's Director of Monetization (2006-2010) Tim Kendall on board. Kendall, a key figure in Facebook's highly successful monetisation strategy, has bullishly claimed Pinterest will be bigger than Facebook and Google. We expect the amount of Pinterest-related work, from image production, to ads, to community cultivation to be a mainstay in the Fast 50 for many years to come.

Google+ has also enjoyed a dramatic resurgence thanks to the need for original content

Job are up by 532 per cent from 269 jobs to 1699 jobs this quarter and Google AdWords has had a smaller yet still significant increase of 22 per cent to 1238 jobs. This is related to the release of their Partner Playbook that acts as a best practice reference for their 'partners' to get a lot more engagement using Google's platforms.Social has generally had an exceptional quarter, with Social Media Marketing up 96 per cent to 3755, Twitter up 56 per cent to 3662 jobs, Facebook Marketing up 20 per cent to 8571 jobs. The general trend towards visual, engaging and original content has driven strong growth in the visual design arena, with Photography up 24 per cent to 1521 jobs, Photo Editing up 29 per cent to 2199 jobs, Photoshop up 29 per cent to 13374 jobs and Illustrator projects are up 22 per cent to 4730 jobs. 3D content is also continuing to feature, with 3D rendering up 20 per cent and 3D Design up 14 per cent to 3731 and 1224 jobs respectively.

The focus on original content has been formalized by Google, and this has delivered a surge in jobs for the content industry. The 'little or no original content' section of Google's Webmaster Guidelines has been updated, forcing site and blog owners to embrace more relevant and original content. Producing unique and relevant content takes strategic planning and creative talent, and in relation to this, we've seen the demand for original content generation increase across the platform. Book Writing is up 30 per cent to 1314 jobs, Photography is up 24 per cent to 1521 jobs, eBooks are up 21 per cent to 1318 jobs, Editing is up 21 per cent to 244 jobs and Blogging is up 15 per cent to 4290 jobs. People are caring more about what gets published versus just reposting and scraping content. This means a better and more engaging experience for all.

Apple breaks 7 consecutive quarters of Android dominance with the launch of the iPhone 6

Ever the expert (and aggressive) marketer, Apple has successfully drummed up global hysteria with the release of the iPhone 6 and their first foray into the phablet space with the iPhone 6 Plus. After months of hype building, consumers have flocked to purchase the smartphone in such numbers, Apple has been forced to delay deliveries just to control the demand. Even after the U2 iTunes hijack, Apple is still flying high.

Businesses have been drawn into believing that iOS is the operating system they should be investing their budget in as they build apps and products to tap into the Apple consumer market, but is this new device enough to allow Apple to dominate? The International Data Corporation's numbers don't think so. From April to June in 2014, 301 million smartphones were sold across the world -- a record quarterly figure, but a monumental 85 per cent of these were Android. In fact, Apple's global market share dropped from 13 per cent to 11.7 per cent in the same period.

While the Fast 50 numbers don't show a significant increase in the demand for iOS vs. Android development, both iPhone and iPad development are up by over 11 per cent to 10161 jobs and 2856 jobs respectively, and Android is up 9.1 per cent. What is certain from this is that the race is still close. With Apple clearly following trends set by Samsung, HTC and friends, it indicates that consumers are potentially going to be a lot less loyal to one platform and they may shift as new hardware is released.

Is Microsoft set for a resurgence?

It seems like the Microsoft stack is really heating up. Both SQL Server and are up by 259 per cent and 179 per cent to 1076 and 1935 jobs respectively. Has the appointment of new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, with his focus on cloud computing, reinvigorated the company seen by many developers and consumers alike as old-fashioned and out of touch? In July 2014, he sent around an internal memo detailing his vision for the company's future, highlighting his vision for a Microsoft that focuses on "Productivity and Platforms" -- is his vision starting to take hold?

What has happened to eBay? Alibaba?

Is the online trading powerhouse feeling the pressure after Alibaba's strong debut? With the dust still settling after the record-breaking Alibaba IPO, eBay has announced that they are spinning off PayPal debt-free. At the same time, eBay jobs on have dropped 14 per cent this quarter. Does eBay have structural or brand problems? Has eBay stopped innovating? Is the eCommerce titan about to hit an iceberg, with PayPal fleeing in a lifeboat?

Alibaba's IPO has formalised the rise of a new eCommerce titan and presented a stark challenge to incumbents eBay and Amazon. Stay tuned -- 2015 could herald one of the greatest business battles in history. Can eBay survive the Crocodile on the Yangtze and The Everything Store?