Not old in an “ancient-100-years-old” sense but it has already grown out of it’s infancy.
It’s not a fancy, new thing anymore.
Looking back, it all started in 1997; when the first social network, which could be really labelled as such, was launched. Sixdegrees.com was the first service to combine several features which previously existed rather as single features of different services, such as e.g. ICQ. In the following years a wave of other SNS followed (boyd & Ellison 2007).
Alongside a huge amount of niche SNS, primarily attracting homogenous groups of people, some big global SNS have set themselves apart. SNS, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on are nowadays very much integrated in people’s daily practice all over the world. An animated video by Grovo sums up quite well how we got here:
I mean, who doesn’t check Facebook regularly? Maybe daily? Even hourly? Besides maybe one or two exceptions, I can be sure that I can reach my friends via Facebook (long live the mobile app!) as good as with a simple text message or a call. So it’s no surprise that Facebook is nowadays even more often used on a mobile device than on an actual computer. According to Luke Brown on Techradar.com, an average of 618 million people used the mobile page daily in December 2012. Considering that only 126 million users were reported in September of that same year, it’s a huge jump.
Of course, you can’t deny that there’s still a huge amount of people, who are not that much into social networks, but as Generation Y and Z outgrow the previous generations, I assume that “being social online” will become widespread normality.
Especially Facebook, currently the world’s largest social media network, has a tremendous global relevance as SNS. A recent edition of World Maps of Social Networks shows that in June 2013 Facebook has been the dominant social network in almost all countries worldwide (127 of 137).
However, I experience that the hype during the last years, which went through all areas of life, from personal practices, over to businesses entering Social Media, to new advertising opportunities, has settled a bit.
Facebook, the new Myspace?
While membership numbers of SNS have steadily increased within the last years, some kind of downward trend can be observed. Especially with regards to Facebook. The Guardian, as well as a recent study of PEW Research, report a continuous decline in Facebook users. According to these sources, Facebook has lost almost 9 million monthly visitors in the US and 2 million in the UK. However, what I find even more striking, is the fact that also the time spent on the site is regressing.
So what does that show us? Will Facebook be the next Myspace?
Of course, there’s always a potential risk. I mean who hadn’t had a friend on Facebook, who then suddenly disappeared in one’s friendslist? …And by that I mean not because he unfriended you.
But generally, I would doubt that. A NBC article about recent results from the Nielsen Social Media Report showed that the overall time spent on social media has actually increased. In July 2012 for example, an average US citizen spent 6.5 hours on social media – daily!!!
However, the interesting thing about the results of the study is, in my view, that while we still spent most of our time on Facebook with rather stagnating monthly visitors (probably because it nearly has reached saturation…), other SNS, such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest gain more and more attention and time in our lives.
The need for more, or less?!
One main reason, which can be repeatedly found in current discussions about this shift towards other, smaller networks, is that we are never satisfied with what we have. I admit that this sounds quite philosophic but indeed, Juliette Garside from the Guardian, for example, also highlights in her article the boredom factor, which leads to the fact that people want to try new things instead of only surfing within the known mainstream areas. One interesting contribution regarding that point comes from social media analyst Bob Zhukis, who states that people generally behave goal directed and need a broader sense. That means, while the pleasure of broad networking on sites, such as Facebook, was fun for a while, people now increasingly look for other ways to engage; primarily on more purpose-driven smaller sites, such as e.g. Pinterest or Instagram.
Even the godfather of social networks, Mark Zuckerberg, recently made a statement within the May edition of the WIRED magazine, which I find quite revealing and noticeable:
“The big stuff that we’re seeing now is sharing with smaller groups.”
Mark Zuckerberg, WIRED 2013
Additionally, he noticed that, for example, Instagram is a much smaller product than Facebook, but that “it’s a really meaningful product” as it entails the clear and single goal of sharing and liking photos. I, myself, really love Instagram and all the creative pics that are out there.
So what can we take out of this?
Social media may have grown out of its infancy, but there will always be something new.
Social media includes “social”, “social” always involves “people”, “people” are always inconsistent, striving for something new. Thus, I am sure there will always be “something new” about social media.
The next big (small) thing is just around the corner…
What do you think?
Here, you’ll find some other interesting thoughts on this topic: