“Focus on how to be social, not on how to do social.” – Jay Baer
Do you ever stop and think what life was like before social media? It’s strange to think that the younger generation has never experienced that ‘Before Social Media’ (BSM) era, and the generations to come also never will.
Being 21, I still am part of GenY, but I already see such a big difference with my cousins, who are only about 10 years younger than I am. They walk the social media walk and talk the social media talk pretty much 24/7, having their iPhone at hand and ready to go just in case they need to ask their online friends what-that-name-of-that-new-One-Direction-song-was-again.
Before Social Media (BSM) nostalgia
When I was at primary school and I needed to know something, I would have to go to the library, browse through the catalogue on a computer running on Windows ’98 and hold my head on an angle as I wandered past the bookshelves. Then I would stick the book under the scanner to copy the information I needed (in black&white, mind you). So much has changed since those days, and it’s bizarre to think that was only 10 years ago.
When did it all begin?
The first social networking site launched in 1997, promoted as a tool to “connect with and send messages to others”. In 2003, social media became mainstream, with websites like MySpace and YouTube riding the popularity wave. After Facebook started up in 2004, it seemed like a new era of sharing, liking, commenting and browsing through user-generated content had begun. And after Twitter was launched, users were no longer restricted to sharing their selfies and social diary entries with their friends, but could also follow celebrities, brands and media outlets and share their content with the world.
This is of course a very short snapshot of the history of social media channels, as the list is close to being endless. Luckily, AvaLaunch Media have designed this nifty interactive page where you can track all social media launches by year (click on the image).
Why do so many people LIKE social media?
Not only is it interesting to see how social media channels have come about, it is even more interesting to consider user behaviour on these channels. Luckily, social media hasn’t always included duck faces or posts about what’s for lunch. Instead, we seem to have moved from PDA’s to PDC’s; ’Public Displays of Connection’, as found by Boyd & Ellison. I’m sure we all consider how many likes our post could get before publishing it on our social media profiles. Research just proves that we’re not the only ones.
Another thing that is interesting to consider (or at least I think so), is how loyal people are to the social media channels they use. It seems that people are content with using one channel, until another one comes along that seems to have more appealing characteristics. It’s almost like when you buy a new car; even though your old one has gotten you from A to B for years without any issues, a new car with more luxurious features will make anyone disloyal to their old lemon.
Take MySpace for instance. Its users seemed to be pretty happy sharing their information and engaging with their online friends, until Facebook came along and took over like a Maserati. People found it to be simpler in usage, and because all their friends had moved house, they decided to do the same. This snowball effect resulted in MySpace losing 10 million unique users within four weeks at the start of 2011.
Will there ever be an After Social Media (ASM) era?
I think that 80% of all people who browse the Internet can confess that they have a (slight) social media addiction. But could we ever imagine a world without social media? The Guardian reported in April that Facebook is losing millions of users per month, as they either become inactive or switch to other alternative channels, like Instagram or Path.
The potential threat to privacy has become a big concern among users of social media channels, something that also seems to be the cause of a decline in SNS users. Ever since the introduction of the News Feed option on Facebook, researchers Boyd & Ellison have found that users are getting edgy as they feel they are losing control over their own content. I doubt whether this will put people off social networking completely, but websites do have to be aware of the fact that their users are becoming more cautious about what to post and on what channel. Because without a significant amount of users, a social media channel is pointless and worthless. And history has taught us that users will relocate when they are unhappy with the host of the party.
What do you think? Will there be an ‘ASM’ era? Will you ever stop using social media? What would be a reason why you would stop using social media? Any predictions on the social media landscape in the next 5-10 years?
Some other interesting viewpoints on social media:
- Why You Shouldn’t Be On Social Media (marketingland.com)
- The Facebook Effect: Time to Buy Social Media Stocks, Says Baker ! (soshitech.com)
- Integrating Social Media With Other Media is the Key! (business2community.com)
- Social Media is Dead (socialadamantium.wordpress.com)
- Filled with social media regret? You’re not alone (smartbrief.com)
Barnett, E. (2011, March 24). MySpace loses 10 million users in one month. The Telegraph UK. Retrieved on July 30, 2013, from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/myspace/8404510/MySpace-loses-10-million-users-in-a-month.html
Boyd, D. & Ellison, N.B. (2008). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, p. 210-230.
Garside, J. (2013, April 29). Facebook loses millions of users as biggest market peaks. The Guardian. Retrieved on July 30, 2013, from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/apr/28/facebook-loses-users-biggest-markets
Facebook Newsroom: Key Facts. Retrieved on July 30, 2013, from: http://newsroom.fb.com/Key-Facts
Van Grove, J. (2013, June 27). MySpace cool again? New site sees 31M unique visitors in first 2 weeks. CNET. Retrieved on July 30, 2013, from: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57591351-93/myspace-cool-again-new-site-sees-31m-unique-visitors-in-first-2-weeks/