Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Calm down Dear, it's only social media

I've been at a number of event in the past year when that Socialnomics video was shown. Almost without exception, people were astonished and impressed by the statistics, with many worrying that they are already way behind all their competitors in social media usage. The combination of a pulsing Fatboy Slim beat, dazzling graphics and amazing numbers is a heady cocktail.

But hang on a minute. The old maxim about statistics (you know the one I mean) still has some validity. Many of the numbers in the video are somewhat misleading. For example, use of email is included as "use of social media". US statistics for certain age groups are presented without saying so, inferring they apply globally to all ages.

It would be perfectly possible to supply ststistics that show quite a different picture. Such as:

- 74% of the world's population have never used the Internet (Source: Internetworldstats.com)
- Twitter has reached 75 million users, but growth is now less than 8% a month (source (computerworld.com)
- Only 20% of Twitter users are "active" - defined as sending more than 5 tweets ever (source: Computerworld.com)
- If all active Twitter users in the entire world formed a city, it would be smaller than New York (source:Worldatlas.com)
- Only 10.6% of online time is spent on social media sites (source:Experian hitwise)

See what I mean? Depending on the statistics you choose, the perception can be very different.

OK, I can hear you thinking "Come on Alan, you're just an old hack who doesn't get social media". Actually, that's far from the truth. I've written a book about it, I use social media heavily, and I regularly give talks and seminars on the topic. I'm delivering a keynote speech at tthe Social Media in Business conference in London this Friday, for example.

My point is that social media is very important, and hugely significant. However, it can be over-hyped. I see that as a danger. If predictions fail to materialise, people lose interest and become cynical. I'm merely seeking a realistic approach.

When you're in a wood, everything is a tree. We can get so caught up in the world of social media that we think everyone else is, or soon will be. That may not be so, despite neat videos. A sense of proportion may be a handy thing to hang on to.

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