Every month or so, another article claiming the “end of social media” is published in reaction to some small change in subscribers, participants or popular sites. It’s the sort of argument I imagine was popular among stair makers when the elevator was invented. These ‘chicken littles’ (in this case the Daily Mail) recently noted that investment in social sites was down in July and asked if it was “the end of the social network.”
While I think there is significant merit in looking to data to identify trends, using a small data point to describe a larger evolution, while quintessentially American, misses the bigger picture. The Internet is about the democratization of information, user generated content and individual interactions, which are certainly not out of style.
As I have seen frequently, looking at only a single social networking platform misses the big picture for word of mouth. Rio SEO’s own social data shows that as much as 90% of sharing happens outside of a social network; blogs, e-mail, SMS, forums and other such places account for much of the sharing we don’t often highlight or consider when drawing conclusions about an entire communication medium by looking at a single available data point. If we are going to look at one data point, Pew Research Center reported in 2012 67% of all Internet users were on a social network. That’s too large a number to ignore, even in the face of Daily Mail’s 19% decline in Facebook investments data point that prompted their ‘sky is falling’ article.
As my favorite author Sarah Vowell put it best, “The Internet is the nerd Israel, a place to speak and listen to spectacularly specific concerns.” As long as we have opinions and ideas, we will create opportunities to air those concerns to others. Social interactions are as old as people, and forums to speak, and share will not go out of style. In fact, its social media and the Internet that allows these apocalyptic authors to have a forum to speak to its ‘certain’ demise.