Social Media is Not a Passing Fad

What is social media? According to Wikipedia, “social media includes web-based and mobile-based technologies which are used to turn communication into interactive dialogue among organizations, communities, and individuals.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines social media as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content.”

Social media consists of websites or mobile apps that facilitate the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Examples include: a picture on Flickr, a video on YouTube, a blog post, or a status update on Facebook or Twitter. Social media’s defining characteristic is that it encourages two-way communication, or in other words, conversation.

The use of social media has grown from 5% of all adults in 2005 to 62% worldwide today, and 46% of all adults in the United States. Social media has fundamentally transformed the way we communicate. Many businesses, large and small, have a presence on Facebook. Every organization has to be careful about what its employees say on Twitter.

Given the interactive nature of social media, it seems only logical that some form of review component would emerge as Web 2.0 capabilities took shape. How many of us today would not look on TripAdvisor or some other travel site before booking a hotel? How many of us would buy a book or make a reservation at a restaurant without first looking at its reviews online?

In describing the 2010 report on Online Product Research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, author Jim Jansen concluded that “E-commerce is now a 360-degree experience for shoppers,” beginning with research that leads to a purchase, that then leads to commentary and review of that purchase. Today, no business can afford to ignore social media.

What social media sites are the most popular? The largest by far (and so far!) is Facebook, with over a billion users. That’s more than the population of many countries, including the United States. Twitter averages over 340 million tweets per day, has 140 million users, and is only six years old. YouTube, the popular video hosting site, has more video posted monthly than all three major TV networks have produced in 60 years.

Some of the most notable data center on the age of social media users. If you think only young people use social media, think again. Studies show that people over the age of 35 have increased their use of social media more than their younger counterparts. In the over-65 age group, usage has gone up 154% in the past two years!

To see how pervasive social media is in our culture today, consider the following:

The average Internet user in the United States spends 32 hours online per month, and now social networking is the most popular online activity; adults spend 22% of their online time on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.

People are using social media more than they are communicating via e-mail (19% of their time) or using search engines (21% of their time).
Smartphone owners now spend as much time using social networking apps as they do playing games—on average, 24 minutes per day.
YouTube has 800 million unique visitors per month; over four billion hours of video are watched per month.