Social Media – Early Adopters Boat Has Left; Will You be a Laggard?

Recent studies indicate that the adoption rate of online social networks is in decline.

This does not imply that the popularity of social networks is in decline.  Rather, the adoption rate is flattening as a majority of the population are already on these networks.

From the Pew Internet & American Life Project report on Older Adults and Social Media:

What can we take from this?

  • Use of social networking sites continues to climb– no surprise here
  • Adoption among young people is slowest: also no surprise– over 80% of the GenY/Millenials (ages 18-29) are already there
  • The group with the highest adoption rate is the Boomers (ages 50-64)
  • 47% of the Boomers (who are internet users) are now using social media sites

Let’s re-visit our old friend, Roger’s Innovation Curve:

Reviewing the percentages from the Pew study, a few items stand out for me:

  • Any discussion of early adopters is old news– that chasm was crossed 3-5 years ago
  • Even if you focus on the 65+ crowd, they are well into the “Early Majority” stage– one-in-four are using social networking sites
  • The GenX’ers (ages 30-49) are well on the downhill slide of “Late Majority”
  • And most surprising to me – Boomers, as a group, are on the verge of moving into “Late Majority” adoption status– Furthermore, Boomers exhibit a greater rate of adoption over the past year than the any other group

Another view of the data

From the Forrester Technographics research group:

Looking at a worldwide view of Social Media participation across user types, we find:

  • Content Contributors (Creators, Critics, and Collectors who create blogs, write reviews, catalogue links, etc.) has flattened out,– indicating that people are settling into their natural roles
  • Unfortunately, the data for Conversationalists (the quick updaters who live on facebook and twitter) is only available for this year– I suspect much of the momentum from the creative group moved to this subheading

Are you a laggard?

The question then, as you look at these charts, is where do you fall?  If you haven’t yet engaged in this world of inexpensive, rapid information flows, the question becomes – why not?  And if not – are you planning to?

It’s clear that adoption of these technologies has been rapid.  The early adopters are long gone.  Those who join now are moving squarely into the Late Majority camp.

But that’s ok.  If the activity of content creators has truly flattened out – then there is still tremendous opportunity to become a voice of authority.

Success in this space is about the quality of the information and a willingness to share and cooperate.  That proprietary “Intellectual Property” that you are trying to lock up by using a pdf?  Well, Google has made it trivial for people to extract that.

Participate, share, and trust.  These are the tools that will carry the day.


note: this post originally appeared on the Delta Blog, 5 October 2010

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