Social Media – Obsessed With Numbers

It seems to me that when it comes to different social media platforms, we tend to focus only on how many people use these applications. And because this number is constantly changing, it gives bloggers, publishers, etc. something to keep writing about.

Bloomberg put together a report about how many American adults use Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Of course the emphasis was on the last one, since Google+ became the buzz word in social media this last month. So all of a sudden everyone is surprised how fast the number of users is rising. Well if you spend any time online, you are going to come across articles on the new platform on a daily basis. And not once, but a couple of times. It was actually interesting to see that Facebook (I’m sure) unintentionally became one of the biggest advertising sites for its competitor. With all the users posting status updates about their new Google+ accounts, the platform received tremendous hype.

This is why the report is able to show that already 13% of US adults signed up for a Google+ account, while Facebook is still used by 71% of adults online in the United States. The study also suggests, that Facebook will lose 2% of its users in the next year, while Google+ is going to reach 22% of US adults. First of all I think it is highly speculative to publish these kinds of rates one year in advance. Especially in the world of social media, where innovations and new applications can and usually do appear and gain users rapidly, and where they can be taken over by the next big thing just as fast. Secondly, I don’t think that Google+ growing more quickly than Facebook or MySpace did after being introduced is any indication of its larger popularity compared to the other sites. Google+ had a pattern, a model of features to follow that made it a lot easier to market it to people. How much simpler is to say “Oh, it’s kind of like Facebook, just cooler”, than to try to explain Facebook to users that never known anything like it before.

As I said before, it is better being careful saying anything too soon about shiny new things in social media. The high user rates and hype may calm down after the initial introduction and first phase of an application. The numbers show how many people use the platform, they don’t say anything about how they are using it. And that is what studies are usually missing. It doesn’t matter if people register on a new platform if they never visit it again. And actually, we see this trend already with Google+: 31% of its users created their profiles but never posted anything and didn’t stick with the application. Other than data like this, we need a deeper analysis on what people are doing on social media sites and how they are doing it, what kind of content they share, how frequently and how they engage with others online. These questions are clearly harder to answer, but doing so would be definitely more informative than publishing a bunch of ever-changing numbers.

(Source: Bloomberg.com)

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