Social Media Research, Social Media Strategy, Social Media Tools, Facebook, Social Media Marketing, Social Media Research

Is Facebook Suffocating the Rest of Social Media?

Forrester Research recently released a 2010 update to its Social Technographics® data that analyzes the social behaviors of global Internet users.

For the first time, the percentage of U.S. consumers engaged in certain social behaviors actually went down, not up. Is the bloom off the rose? Is this the long-promised social media backlash?

Overall, social media usage among U.S. adults with Internet access declined 1% from 82% to 81%. This is certainly not a statistically meaningful atrophy, but it paints a picture of a plateauing social Web, where the remaining holdouts are simply not going to jump on board. Forrester analyst Augie Ray made a case for this plateau on his blog recently.

Ten percent of the country doesn’t have cable or satellite TV, and six percent (under the age of 45) don’t have a cell phone. So, I don’t see a one percent decline in overall social media usage as alarming, but rather a signal that the social media “market” is officially mature, and the rampant growth of the past three years may be a thing of the past, like Paula Abdul’s career.

Social Behaviors Are Shifting

Social Technographics Is Facebook Suffocating the Rest of Social Media?To me, the more disturbing findings are in the composition of social behaviors. The number of Creators (people that write blogs and upload video); Critics (people that review products and comment on blogs); Collectors (people that use RSS and social bookmarking sites), and Spectators (people that read blogs and watch videos) ALL went down by 1% to 5%. This means that the number of Americans engaged in just about every social media activity was reduced in the past year.

Except for one activity.

The percentage of online Americans who are Joiners (members of a social network) increased from 51% to 59%, a huge change in comparison to the rest of the behaviors examined.

The fact that the number of social networkers (read: Facebook) is almost as large as the number of blog readers and video watchers (59% to 68%) is the most striking finding in this research.

Our love for virtual farming; the ability to keep in touch (somewhat) with an ever-broader circle of “friends”, and the allure of digital bumper sticking when we “like” brands is overwhelming our desire and ability to engage in other social behaviors.

Is Facebook Making Us Stupid?

Why read a blog, when we can look at the headline and first two sentences in a Facebook status update? Why watch videos on YouTube, when the best of them will inevitably be posted on Facebook? Why bother reviewing businesses at Yelp.com when you can just see which places your friends prefer based on their “likes” – or use of Facebook Places? Why use Digg or StumbleUpon or Delicious, when the people we care about already share with us the content they appreciate via status updates that include links?

Our Facebook addiction is threatening the core sociability and widespread content consumption, sharing, and curation behaviors that gave it succor in the early days.

Certainly, there are still PLENTY of people watching YouTube, reading blogs, and Digging their hearts out. But this trend of all social participation declining – except for one specific type – disturbs and frightens me.

How about you?

  • Anonymous

    Interesting hypothesis. I don’t necessarily see this as all bad news. At some point wouldn’t we expect the number of bloggers to decline?

    I’m thinking about my work with charities over the years. Typically you will get on a committee and there will be lots of commitment and enthusiasm. Then the reality of life starts to settle in, the adrenaline dies down and people start to drop out. The dedicated people at the heart of the effort remain to get the work done. Similar model?

    Thanks for the good post, Jay.

  • Steve

    Well, digg is dead, bit other than that I enjoyed the post. IMO people use facebook to feel connected, and many use it to satisfy their vanity (including bumper sticker liking). As long as those types of needs are satisfied, fb may indeed be the killer app to them.

  • Michael

    I’m totally posting this on my Facebook page!

  • http://www.facebook.com/amit.thard Amit Thard

    I disagree. Facebook is just the MySpace of today. However, with all the changes that they are doing, they will start to scare people away. Their fastest growing demographics are older people, who do not like change, especially technological change. FB need to take it easy or else they will kill themselves.

    That said, I think that social media is killing journalism. After Digg committed suicide recently, I get my news from Reddit. Even CNN is using IReport.

    All of this has killed newspapers. It is so convenient for me to do Ctrl+F and look for keywords that I find reading a newspaper tiresome now. Sad.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Really excellent point about constant change scaring people. Well said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amit.thard Amit Thard

    I disagree. Facebook is just the MySpace of today. However, with all the changes that they are doing, they will start to scare people away. Their fastest growing demographics are older people, who do not like change, especially technological change. FB need to take it easy or else they will kill themselves.

    That said, I think that social media is killing journalism. After Digg committed suicide recently, I get my news from Reddit. Even CNN is using IReport.

    All of this has killed newspapers. It is so convenient for me to do Ctrl+F and look for keywords that I find reading a newspaper tiresome now. Sad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amit.thard Amit Thard

    I disagree. Facebook is just the MySpace of today. However, with all the changes that they are doing, they will start to scare people away. Their fastest growing demographics are older people, who do not like change, especially technological change. FB need to take it easy or else they will kill themselves.

    That said, I think that social media is killing journalism. After Digg committed suicide recently, I get my news from Reddit. Even CNN is using IReport.

    All of this has killed newspapers. It is so convenient for me to do Ctrl+F and look for keywords that I find reading a newspaper tiresome now. Sad.

  • http://www.taglinemachine.com Simon Gornick

    Fascinating post, Jay, which defines FB’s business strategy. FB has essentially acted like an empire, colonizing other streams and aggregating their content to its users and their friends. Frankly, it’s a quite brilliant approach, but as you rightly point out it chokes off choice and variety. Most of the blame lies with FB connect. Who’s prepared to take the risk of not using it? Very few people and startups. That is why FB is winning. That is why its platform is aiming for a monopoly of content. That is why Google is concerned and is right to be.

    As for the backlash. That will only happen if people recognize and are repulsed by their own vanity and that is not remotely likely. People are simply too vain.

  • http://www.taglinemachine.com Simon Gornick

    Fascinating post, Jay, which defines FB’s business strategy. FB has essentially acted like an empire, colonizing other streams and aggregating their content to its users and their friends. Frankly, it’s a quite brilliant approach, but as you rightly point out it chokes off choice and variety. Most of the blame lies with FB connect. Who’s prepared to take the risk of not using it? Very few people and startups. That is why FB is winning. That is why its platform is aiming for a monopoly of content. That is why Google is concerned and is right to be.

    As for the backlash. That will only happen if people recognize and are repulsed by their own vanity and that is not remotely likely. People are simply too vain.

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    I’m not sure, mate. Look at RSS Syndication – many blog readers still don’t know what that is, never mind just web surfers on their own. And YouTube doesn’t do itself any favours by driving traffic to Hulu (yes, there’s a plan there but not to the naked eye).

    I guess it comes down to what audience you’re talking about. Everyday Joe’s love Facebook, because that’s where their friends are (and I’m speaking from a regular Joe angle).

    Businesses, marketers and others that are in the “social media bubble” know that Facebook is but one facet. Sure, it’s an important one, but it’s still just one facet.

    So yes, it’s taking a huge chunk. But suffocating? I think Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging are still key parts and key enjoyment factors for others.

    Great post, sir.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks. I just get nervous when one person has all the eggs in his basket. It’s not good for innovation, and ultimately it’s not good for marketers.

      • http://twitter.com/johnwhitepaper John White Paper

        >I just get nervous when one person has all the eggs in his basket.

        You mean the way that most Web searches go to Google? Which is more pernicious: concentration in search or in social media?

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        Agreed, mate. But if it’s the marketers that are doing that, then they’re the ones at fault. 550 million users might be great, but how many are buyers of your product?

        There’s a ton of niche communities out there that many businesses are ignoring. Their loss.

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

          Great point. Facebook is becoming the default setting for most
          marketing plans, and that’s a mistake. Exacttarget’s new research
          found 70% of customers do not think “liking” a brand on Facebook gives
          that brand permission to market to them.

          • http://twitter.com/markstrefford markstrefford

            Now that’s interesting! Do you have a post on this? Be interested to read it!

  • http://twitter.com/JessKalbarczyk Jessica Griffin

    One of your best posts Jay! Ultimately we are in the middle of a cultural shift in how we communicate. I oftentimes refer social media to the invention of the telephone. Crazy? Not so much. When the telephone was invented it didn’t hit over night but over time it became mandatory for almost every household to have one. Same goes for social media. Is Facebook our new telephone? It’s getting there.

    By human nature, we have a survival of the fittest nature. I think now survival of the fittest is mistaken for vanity. The vanity of “who’s doing what, who’s talking to who, who looks better than someone else”…etc.

    I say embrace it. It’s what I consider a small footprint in the grand scheme of where our culture will be in 20 years.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      But is it a small footprint? Facebook wants to be the post-modern AOL, the single source for sociability. Is that a net positive?

      • Melanie Wadsworth

        it doesn’t matter if facebook wants to be the single source for sociability on the net, don’t you and every other business person on this planet want to “be the best” in what they do? Facebook is the best social networking platform on the net today – but what about MySpace ? They used to be the most popular social networking site on the web – things change, that a constant in life :”things change” … Facebook is not going to be the giant forever. Facebook is now – not FOREVER.

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

          I agree with that 100%. I wrote about that phenomenon a couple weeks ago re: MySpace.

  • http://twitter.com/JGoldsborough JGoldsborough

    Aren’t we just witnessing more of an evolution of social media than anything else? People are finding the ways they like to track, share info best. For instance, Retweet, FB share and FB Like are what killed social bookmarking sites like Digg.

    Mark makes a solid point. People have busy lives and not much time. It’s natural they’d try to aggregate their data in one or two places rather than all over the Web. And aren’t we more apt to share content in a way that’s quick and provides the opportunity for immediate gratification — comments, likes, @replies, retweets, etc?

    The other aspect of this evolution is most companies don’t reward employees for participating socially. And when they get off work, they want to hang with their friends. This is why FB’s mission to be a platform, not just a social network, is spot on. The majority, I’m guessing, want to experience “social participation” with their friends (different definitions here), unless they’re doing it for work. And there are still very few companies that encourage employees to use social media for work.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      It’s definitely an evolution. I’m just not sure it’s a positive evolution. The data shows that people are exchanging more comprehensive social engagement around content (critics, etc.) in favor of looser ties and social networking. I think you’re right about the friends angle. That’s what’s bringing people to FB. Hopefully, other forms of online content can bake more sociability into their equations, evening the playing field. http://likebutton.me is a good example of a site that uses FB data to its advantage.

  • http://mazakaro.com Rahul @ MazaKaro

    Well I think the dip is just a time being thing…It for sure go up in no time…

  • http://camillamedders.wordpress.com Camilla

    Great post, but I disagree with your conclusions–as a “creator,” I have to say I’m not distressed to our numbers dwindling slightly, and I think this trend makes sense, considering the way people are communicating on the internet. Before just about everyone was on FB, blogs were a way to keep friends and family up to date on the details of your life. Now that your grandmother has a social media account, it seems likely that “cat bloggers” find it easier to post status updates or microblog on twitter, leaving the blogosphere to those of us who are more serious about it.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Interesting point. Thanks for the comment. The cat bloggers are now cat
      Facebookers? I didn’t think about it that way, but you may be on to
      something.

  • http://www.verticalmeasures.com @CliqueKaila

    Great post Jay. I have seen a change in the past year or so in my own personal social behaviors. While in the beginning I was so quick to go to at least 10-15 sites on a regular basis, I’ve been able to cut that down because I’m optimizing my social interactions on the web. Slowly, I have been able to find my real ‘niche’ and also realign my own social priorities. Instead of allowing myself to get lost online for hours, I know where to find the information I like, I know how to use social search better, and in the end I spend less time being social. It’ll be interesting to see how this change will affect social messaging strategy. Look forward to you weighing in on the topic in the future. :)

  • http://twitter.com/redslice Maria Ross

    Great conversations. Here’s my take: It’s a matter of time management. When social media exploded, we jumped on board (or like, me waded in slowly) and then quickly got overwhelmed. How many more profiles can I create, blogs can I subscribe to and networks can I check and still get my work done on a daily basis?

    Now that I use social medis mostly for work (I own my own branding agency) I have become more disciplined and finicky about which ones I’ll join and participate in and which ones I won’t. As an example, I have gotten 5 million invites to join Plaxo and I won’t do it – Linked In is where I’m putting my business connections.

    It’s too hard to deal with life if you get caught up in everything social media. I think that’s what we’re seeing: the sanity check of people who went nuts for a while and connecting every which way from Sunday.

    As for creators declining a bit: With the social media revolution, every Tom, Dick and Harry jumped on board – regardless of quality and substance. Now it’s time for the shakeout where the serious content contributors stayed the course and have developed useful communities and the others flamed out.

  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    Nice parsing of this report Jay.

    I feel like this switch was inevitable. It makes sense that most people can’t/won’t manage or learn all sorts of different platforms, so the more you can focus on one, with the benefits of all, the better for the average person. I feel it’s sad that Facebook and Google seem to own so much of the search/social web, but I think the underlying point is simply that end users are gravitating to what works best for them. So I’m not woried about it that much.

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Jay

    FB is “it” as it attracts all walks of people, all different job levels, all different industries and young and old. A connection place that when you friend someone and they put up a posting/status update, it will remain on your wall and easily found. Also facebook is equated to friends, twitter business and linkedin job seekers. FB users are connecting and chatting with old friends. They are not really engaging in “social media” as it is an open email of sorts. Twitter is 140 characters, goes by really fast and when you are looking for a tweet from someone from even a few hrs ago, it is not as easy as it is with FB.

    This does scare me a bit that we are seeing less creators and readers. That is telling me that people did not utilize the space and create a community that evolve into friends and abandoned the platforms. That is unfortunate. Facebook is king but as they try and make it an open platform (and we know they are trying really hard) they will crumble. Chatting with your friends despite being in an open stream is private (mindset and not reality) as when you talk to your friends they keep it a secret. That is what makes FB the giant that they are.

    Love this and every post your write.

    @SuzanneVara

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Fantastic comment Suzanne. Thank you very much.

  • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

    Great point, having not been a huge fan of Facebook (SSHHH) I am seeing a sad evolution of how people are NOT being meaningful in their conversations and engagement.

    They are “like” giving “Drive By Connections” (term coined by my friend Scott Brandon Hoffman). One I refer to as One Night Stands VS Meaningful relationships.

    I get it the time thing, the explosion of attention required. Isn’t that the same whine that has gone on in every period of history.

    “I am so busy” “I only have so much time” is how we say it today, and if you look back you will see similar communication as each generation think their time is pulled in too many directions.

    In our desire to reach out to a larger community we have indeed given ourselves the opportunity to restructure our own attentions. Finding where we want to focus our attention most of the time and where we can give less attention is the lesson being learned now.

    Just like when you marry, you commit to give your attention to your mate first and foremost and social media relationships are the same.

    Who and where will you parcel your attention first ought to be determined by who deserves your allegiance. What are you wanting to accomplish from your time online and creating that consistency. One thing I see is folks are coming from a place of lack mindset and so they want to grab attention and be everywhere… thinking they will miss something-therefor they over commit to what they realistically can accomplish.

    So our teenage social media is going through puberty and learning discernment which is part of growing up.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Great metaphor. We’re out of the kid years, and into the teen years. I like that. In fact, I “like” it.

    • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

      Michele

      Love your comment as I am with you in the opportunity to restructure our own attentions. I talk about this in that what makes you be the focus of someone’s attention to read your blog, comment and share it. That is asking a lot but I never really though fully how it is asking a lot. You answered that with how “like” affording or better said giving the opportunity to have less attention/focus. Love (or should I say like) the drive by and he one night stand vs meaningful relationships.

      such a well thought out and very thought provoking comment. I really appreciate that as it brought together a lot of thoughts for me. Thanks a bunch Michele.

      @SuzanneVara

  • http://marybiever.wordpress.com Mary Biever

    Last week, I taught FB to a class of senior citizens and showed them how it could be used to promote their community and build/enhance real life relationships. One said afterwards, “I thought this was all stupid till you showed me how I could use it myself.” The need for education on best practices of social media is increasing. If we don’t teach people how to use it well and how it can help them, they will try it and then find another shiny new toy with which to play cause social media done badly did nothing for them long term.

  • sandsss

    It’s about a lack of time as others have said. I don’t have time to go check YouTube for the latest videos or digg for the hottest stories. Like you write, if there’s something worthy, it will appear via my friends on facebook or thru the people I follow on Twitter , or am connected to on linkedin. So I tend to view facebook as my own customized newsfeed, put together by my friends. It helps me cut through all the white noise out on the web.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      But doesn’t that inevitably shrink your exposure to broader sources of
      thought?

      • http://twitter.com/markstrefford markstrefford

        Jay,

        I agree that this could be the case, but to be fair, how did we get information before Google, Facebook et al? We got it from traditional media (TV, newspapers, mags, etc) and through friends. If we wanted to go and search through lots books and reference papers at the local library.

        I do agree with many of the other comments here in that there is always an inevitable surge to try something new, but only the dedicated people stick with it. Why would social media be anything different?

        By the way, this is a great post! keep up the great work!

  • http://www.theemotionmachine.com Steven

    “Why use Digg or StumbleUpon or Delicious, when the people we care about already share with us the content they appreciate via status updates that include links?”

    I don’t know about others, but I use Reddit.com and that will always be irreplaceable in my eyes. There is way more diversity, and a better organization of links, than the stuff my friends post. In fact, I often get most of my “Facebook posting content” from Reddit, and a lot of the times I see friends post things that I have seen months ago.

    I think Facebook is definitely taking some share of the world wide web, but it will never replace the awesome blogs I read, the news feeds I follow, and Reddit.com.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Really interesting. You’re the fourth person this week to reference Reddit to me. I need to spend more time there.

  • http://TheUnchainedEntrepreneur.com Stacy Karacostas

    Hi Jay,
    Thanks for the stats, and for starting this interesting discussion. I began using social media a few years ago because so many of my clients were asking about it. I’m a Practical Marketing Expert specializing in helping solo-entrepreneurs take the stress, struggle and time-suck out of marketing, and it didn’t take me long to discover the negatives and positives of social networking.

    I agree with Maria, Melissa and some other folks here that this is all just a natural evolution and the result of serious online overwhelm. I can honestly say that while I’m active on a few different platforms and sites, Facebook is my favorite. I feel like I can create deeper connections and relationships there. And it’s an easy place to reach out to others and start a conversation.

    Bottom line is, lots of people started blogs or joined a boatload of social networks, then realized they didn’t have time to keep up with it all. The folks at FB have managed to create a site that is versatile, easy to use to aggregate loads of content, and appealing to a huge variety of people. Frankly I’m not surprised.

    Social media is so new it’s really not surprising that it’s evolving at such a fast rate. The surprising thing is the direction it’s headed. I bet if we have this conversation in a year or two it will all be shifting again.

    Stacy

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Excellent point about people joining a bunch of stuff and then pulling back. I’d love to see some specific research on that. Lots of “ghost town” networks out there. Plaxo?

  • http://www.summerhills.com Bangalow Accommodation

    We have recently adopted both Twitter and FaceBook and for our business we feel that Social Media is making us more interactive rather than less. FaceBook could be making us more docile on some levels as you point out but I think that the fact that you have to define your thoughts to make a status update and make a consious decision to show your preferences by way of likes, this is waking up our thinking in a sense rather than deadening it. FaceBook and Twitter also allows you to catapult into blogs and forums that you may never have had exposure too. I tend to have quite a positive outlook on the onset of Social Media, only because of the way that we have approached Social Media for our business, and that is, for engagement of our customers and to see/ hear what they really want and what their impressions are of what we do, and how we can do it better for them. This post topic by the way is the topic for our team meeting tomorrow so thank you for stimulating no doubt an excellent discussion. I will also retweet this post now – it is fantastic food for thought. Thanks again for an excellent blog as well. I have been a fan for a while.

  • http://socialprattle.wordpress.com Joshua Barnes

    I like your hypothesis…re; Facebook making us stupid;

    It’s actually inspired me to write about it. I think that Facebook and Twitter have a very specific, unseen, perhaps unintended at least by their creators, purpose of creating a new layer of abstraction that prevents the pursuit of real truth. To me, that’s at least one of the attack surfaces those tools have against unaware users.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Indeed the distractions of social media in general could be obscuring a lot of things – not just truth.

  • http://www.socialmediamgr.com Arlina

    “But this trend of all social participation declining – except for one specific type – disturbs and frightens me.”

    I had to do a last minute double take…were you serious or sarcastic?

    My whole reason for participating in the social media space is to help my clients connect with people in a more significant way. A 1% decrease, according to variables that can be considered subjective doesn’t phase me in the least.

    My customers are still there, good content is still being delivered and business is still growing. All is well. =)

    Arlina Allen
    http://www.socialmediamgr.com

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      I just don’t want to put too many eggs in the social network basket at
      the expense of all others.

  • http://twitter.com/redslice Maria Ross

    Jay,

    Great article….I have you a shout out for this (and just generally all you do) in my most recent newsletter: http://app.e2ma.net/app2/campaigns/archived/34693/4a93147f7211e974c6145c073251c31b/

    You are one of the few social media experts I truly admire….keep it up!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks Maria. Awesome!

  • http://www.aadithyainfosolutions.com/internet_marketing.asp Internet Marketing

    What an excellent work! I am agree with your points.

  • Mike Ashworth

    why the alarming language though? “frightening” “disturbing” ???

    also the comment “SN (read: facebook)” that looks like a huge assumption to me. if they said facebook in the report thats fine i suspect they didnt, therefore this is just a guess.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Ummm, because I’m alarmed. You don’t have to be. But I am.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Ummm, because I’m alarmed. You don’t have to be. But I am.

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