Social Media Is Just Getting Started

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Are you suffering from Facebook Fatigue? Has Twitter got you tired? How many articles and Blog postings have you recently read on the death of (insert a social media platform here)? Is it all true or is this just the standard symptoms that Early Adopters exhibit as they seek out the next new and shiny object?

Personal anecdote: every so often, I teach a full-day seminar on Blogging for the Canadian Marketing Association. I am consistently amazed at how many people take the course because they are beginning to take a serious look at Blogging, how it applies to their business and what the potential marketing opportunities exist with it as a communications and community-building platform. How modern, new and compelling does Blogging seem to you? The reality is that it is still – after all of these years – a very nascent media channel.

Social Media is bigger than you think… and it’s still growing.

That’s the word from Pew Internet in their recent report, Adults and Social Network Websites (published on January 14th, 2008): “The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years – from 8% in 2005 to 35% now, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s December 2008 tracking survey.”

It’s not just about teens and kids…

“While media coverage and policy attention focus heavily on how children and young adults use social network sites, adults still make up the bulk of the users of these websites. Adults make up a larger portion of the US population than teens, which is why the 35% number represents a larger number of users than the 65% of online teens who also use online social networks.”

So, where is the marketing and all of the money then?

“Overall, personal use of social networks seems to be more prevalent than professional use of networks, both in the orientation of the networks that adults choose to use as well as the reasons they give for using the applications. Most adults, like teens, are using online social networks to connect with people they already know… When users do use social networks for professional and personal reasons, they will often maintain multiple profiles, generally on different sites.”

Translation: these channels are still very new. The young people all jumped in and the adults followed (as they usually do). As the mass number of adults increase online they are still just tinkering with it. They’re not sure if they want to integrate their professional lives or use this as a marketing/communications channel, so they’re testing it out by connecting to friends and family members to see how it goes. Yes, there are those who are knee-deep into this stuff from a business and professional perspective, but that is still a very new way or working with plenty of room to grow and newer opportunities to explore.

Don’t be fooled by those who are stricken by the shiny object syndrome, Social Media and all of the channels that fall into it are still very new. It’s still very early days and we’re all just getting started.

The bigger question is this: after all that we have seen so far, where do you think it is going to go as more and more people sign up, create personal profiles and begin expanding their online social graphs? 


  1. I couldn’t agree more with you, especially on the point that these are very early days for Social Media. I spend a lot of time helping clients to understand and appreciate what’s happening around them. Beyond Social Media, however, there’s just so much to be done to help companies connect with consumers and stakeholders in a meaningful way. Social Media is just one channel. And yes, there’s a lot of shiny tools out there… but, it’s a matter of taking a well thought out strategic approach to communications. Yes, use Social Media tools… but, pursue an integrated approach. That’s where the money is. My 2 cents anyay.

  2. Yes, definitely early days. I commented on another blog a few days ago — on the speed with which everything is happening. Traditional media, well, print specifically, has been around for over 500 years; online and social media channel in comparison? Barely a glint in the proverbial eye. The tools of marketing are evolving, but the principles are the same. You have audiences, you have channels, you develop strategies, etc.
    As to where it’s going? Here’s one example I just saw on Twitter:
    @engagejoe This has potential to be the ultimate web app for civic engagement – scroll down & expand mockup – Time to sink teeth in

  3. I think social media is somewhat of a return to simpler times. Times where people lived in smaller communities. When populations grew, the only way to mass communicate was through unidirectional mediums. Today with technology, everybody can mass communicate.

  4. To the last comment by Nicolas, I disagree that everyone can mass communicate. Broadband connectivity helps make it possible, but large parts of the world–let alone every U.S. state–lack this technology.
    If I’m connected by cable modem and you’re connected by a 56.6Kbps dial-up modem, you can communicate but the frequency is limited.
    Until that occurs, nothing big will happen.

  5. I have to agree wholeheartedly with this Mitch. For the last four years we’ve been working with big brands both in Europe and the US on social media/ugc projects that need moderating and management. There seems to be no shortage of companies wanting to engage with users using social media tools and yet we’re still working with clients where it’s just their first experiment using this approach. It really is still the start of this and it feels like 1994 all over again!

  6. There’s still a big gap to be bridged between what the technology currently does and finding useful applications.
    We’re all connected now through these social sites, but that doesn’t mean we’re doing things radically differently than when we had only email, or phones…
    I think the next generation of tools and applications will need to focus on making these networks the foundation for specific capabilities that make are lives easier, more enjoyable, etc.
    It may require more bandwidth into the home, interconnectivity between devices and integration with smart phones, intelligent applications, but there’s still something missing to make all this change our lives.

  7. This is a great post and you have many valid points. I strongly agree that social media for any useful purpose is very, very, very new. And to lose sight of that is to our detriment if we work with clients. It’s great for companies to want to be ahead of the curve as technologies change, but the risk is always to be there and find that you audience is not there is any meaningful way – yet.
    Certainly a lot of people (over 30) have jumped on the bandwagon as of late, but the “kids” are on their 3rd gen of personal social networks, having followed the shiny object from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook. They have been itching for something new for a while and now that their parents are on FB there may be more likely to jump quickly to the next thing that seems interesting.
    As for the adults who are just dipping their toes in the pond, they are probably more likely be stay vested in Facebook/LinkedIn for their personal/professional networks because for them there is a cost to jumping ship. They don’t have the time to re-build their networks and start over as the market changes. So they might just stay and make those tools work.
    And as for Twitter, who knows. It’s very much an insider’s game right now, though those who are inside are loathe to admit it’s not even on the radar of the mainstream.
    But it’s good to keep in mind that as we see data like the Pew study that says users with profiles have quadrupled to 35% there is a lag between registration and active participation. And there is an even bigger gap between the 35% with profiles and the 65%.
    And even when those 65% get there, what will they do with the tools? A lot of people, even those who are “in” don’t know what to do with these tools beyond simply adding more friends.
    Without adding value, the growth rate for these platforms may stagnate.

  8. I just started on twitter a couple weeks ago. It funny. I’m not only the only one from my town, but the only one from my county on twitter. Population 15,452. I would say you are exactly right. Social media is just getting started. At less than 1 out of 15,000, there’s a whole lot of room for growth.

  9. Wow, i never really thought that being as a blogger can be a full time job and not just a hobbies. Soon or later, the blogging will become a job, mark my word.
    Also site like Digg, SU, and other social media will have a large database because a lot of people will sign up and treat this site like Facebook.

  10. Its great to read this article now and see just how far things have come. At this stage, I would never have believed I could actually make a living and form a very profitable company out of social media! How time flys.

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