No Slow Down For Online Social Networks – The Numbers Are "Staggering"

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When traditional Journalists use words like "staggering" to describe something, my ears always perk up. It’s like when someone starts a sentence by saying, "it’s incumbent on us…" I always feel like what comes next is something I should be paying attention to. I was checking out the news on Mediaweek and saw this article: Study: U.S. Web Users Visiting Social Nets In Staggering Numbers.

Here is some of the insight:

"In less than five years, nearly half of all U.S. Internet users will visit at least one social networking site on a monthly basis, as will more than 80 percent of all teenagers – a demographic that is fueling the growth of the category by making it a core part of their Web surfing experience."

And what that means for us in the Digital Marketing space:

"Despite all the recent controversy to hit the still red-hot space – including Facebook’s ill-received introduction of its Beacon friend-referral product – advertising spending on social networks is expected to soar in 2008. eMarketer predicts that dollars will go from a mere $920 million this past year to $1.6 billion in 2008, an increase of nearly 74 percent."

With all of these Users engaged in online social networks and the money that eMarketer is predicating the online advertising community will toss at it, both MySpace and Facebook still dominate the landscape in the U.S. (same as Canada). According to this news item, MySpace and Facebook hold about seventy percent of those advertising dollars for themselves.

Even with global communities, I’m constantly fascinated that the popularity of specific online social networks is still geo-centric. What’s popular in Canada is different from South America and Europe, Korea, etc… My thinking is that the next Facebook killer will be able to break that specific barrier.


  1. At the risk of biting the hand that feeds (in this case, your hand Mitch…the food being your thoughts, opinions, and knowledge), I have to take issue with this.
    First of all, no one can see 5 years into future. Unless you’ve perfected your crystal ball.
    Second of all, it’s easy for everyone to stand up and say “look how huge social networking is right now! And this is only the beginning!”
    This is *not* the beginning for social networks. I have no intention of attacking how cool they are, nor how useful they can be. But, social networks simply aren’t new. Not even close. What’s new is that businesses have taken notice.
    Generally speaking, when big business takes notice of a trend it probably means that trend is nearing its peak. But I digress..
    The real problem is that as marketers we like to see numbers, and then extrapolate from those numbers some form of a prediction. So, we like to see sudden and huge spikes in user stats, and then we like to imagine that that will continue to some highly profitable future.
    In reality, what happens with everything online is they are part of some larger trend. If you look at how the Web (and the Internet in general) has evolved, we can see that social networks are the obvious evolution from what came before, like instant messaging, email, forums, UseNet, etc.
    The trend to watch is how people use the Internet to increase their interconnectivity and ability to form virtual communities.
    Social networking is simple *one* manifestation of that.
    Because we can’t see into the future, we want to be able to say that social networks are where it’s at and that it’s a safe bet to pool our resources into that basket.
    This is not clever.
    What would have been clever would have been to jump onboard social networking 2 years ago. What would have been clever was having the foresight to see that this would go big. Today, nearing 2008, social networks are already big. Getting excited about that now is like getting excited about DVDs.
    In sum, I think my message is this: Social networks rock *right now*. If you need some concocted 5 year prediction to be excited about that, you’re in the wrong business. Take what you can get right now, because the next evolution of the web is coming. It won’t look like social networks. (Maybe it will be virtual worlds, but I’m biased there.) Be happy with how big social networking is today. Nothing lasts forever and constantly banking on the future is a very bad idea, in my not so humble opinion.

  2. Thanks for the comment Mario.
    I’m not sure where you’re getting this “five years in the future” stuff from. The news item is talking about 2008 – that’s this coming year.
    In case I read the news item wrong, they were taking about the past five years… not the coming ones.
    I also think that online social networks will evolve into something more. Just like the Mosaic browser was not “the Web” and Second Life is not the future – it’s going to be a strange combination of everything.
    As always, everything is evolving… this is the nature of a new media.
    I think it’s all exciting and I think the rush for Marketers to try this stuff out and experiment it is equally exciting to me.

  3. “In less than five years, nearly half of all U.S. Internet users will visit at least one social networking site on a monthly basis, as will more than 80 percent of all teenagers […]”
    Is that not a 5 year prediction? Am I so grammatically challenged that I misunderstand that statement?
    In any event, I obviously agree with you that social media will continue to evolve. and will look like something completely different from what we have now. My issue is that many people, and I (mis)understood this post as suggesting you were one of them, feel social networking is the future. (For example, I recently riffed about an eMarketer report making predictions for 2011.) I feel it’s (a) irresponsible to make such predictions; and (b) silly to think that other revolutionary technologies and concepts would not have changed the game several times over in 5 years. But, like you said, you only intended to talk about 2008, so I’ll take that as my cue to back off now.

  4. No worries.
    As you know, I’m not a fan of crystal balls 😉
    That being said, we do need Futurists – people who try to look into the future, define it, understand it.
    Technology and Marketing were probably never meant to meld and mash the way they are today. We’re all playing in this Renaissance Period.

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