Social Media Has Not Reached Mainstream

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You don’t need statistics to tell you that “our world” of social media tools like Twitter, Friendfeed, and RSS has yet to reach mainstream.

Ask Somebody

Just survey your friends or take a look at who you socialize with the most online. I’m willing to bet my next blog post that at least 60% of the users of social media socialize with people that are not necessarily real life friends more than anyone else when online. I also bet that over 50% don’t have family members or real life friends that use these services, and for those that do, it’s because you badgered them into it or signed them up for it.

Will Friendfeed, Twitter, and RSS Ever Reach Mainstream?

socialmedia Who knows? I don’t see Friendfeed doing it, but I’ve noticed SocialThing!, a similar service, breaking grounds with the mainstream masses.

Twitter and RSS will reach mainstream, but I don’t see these services being used in the manner that early adopters are using them. In an attempt to explain RSS to a friend, I told her that RSS is an easy way to get updates about a website instead of having to visit the website all the time. Her reply made me laugh my head off, “So, can I get RSS for Victoria’s Secret?”.

My friend wasn’t thinking in terms of blogs or updates about news, because that’s not what she goes online for. Most mainstream internet users don’t go online for such things. They have the TV, Facebook, and text messaging for that.

Statistics Count For Something

Let’s briefly turn to statistics. Marshall Kirkpatrick of Read/Write Web sent me some stats on the traffic between SocialThing! vs Friendfeed using Compete’s site analytics web tool.

socialthing vs friendfeed
Stats provided by Compete.com

Friendfeed, is more popular, but the tricky part of statistics is you don’t know who the users are. Are more early adopters using Friendfeed or SocialThing!? Are more mainstream web users using SocialThing! or Friendfeed? Did you notice the spike with SocialThing!’s monthly visitors?

I turned to a private forum that a friend of mine started to begin finding answers to my questions. The forum consists of tech-savvy women, that use the web the way a  mainstream web user would. Around 3 users – myself included – use FriendFeed, while over 9 use SocialThing. To quote one of the ladies on the forum:

Side note: There’s a similar service called FriendFeed (Corvy [Corvida] uses it a lot so I’m sure she can tell you more about it) that supports a ton more services, however, for me, SocialThing is more intuitive. When you add applications, it knows who your friends are already, whereas with Friendfeed, I believe you have to add others who also have a Friendfeed account. With SocialThing it keeps track of all your friends, regardless of if they are also on Socialthing.

While you can use the “imaginary friend” feature on Friendfeed to follow others, it would be much simpler to use SocialThing! instead of going through the hassle of  setting up “imaginary friends”.

Are the Masses Ready?

Maybe the masses aren’t ready for these platforms, though this is a premature take on things since these services are still early adopter tools more than anything. They all have the potential to go mainstream, but there’s a lot of work to be done. We’re still in our own bubble. Or are we?

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  • shafqat

    Great post. I sometimes feel like we've skipped a whole generation of web services. We had all our web 1.0 tools that the mainstream use, understand and are comfortable with (e.g. Ebay). We've since moved onto this second generation of web services that the techies and early adopters swoon over, but just dont make sense to the mainstream (e.g. Twitter, Friendfeed). There is NO demand for those services outside of the tiny minority of early adopers, at least not yet.

    I think there is a market opening for web sevices that can bridge that gap (Web 1.5?). The mainstream don't even use or understand RSS, but us techies have moved on to Twitter and FriendFeed. Why not take a step back and build tools to bring RSS and syndication to the masses first? Otherwise the chasm will just keep growing, and we'll be more and more out of touch with what our friends and family really need.

  • http://www.metafluence.com/ Justin Kistner

    Great post, Corvida. I was all ready to say, “Wait, my mom and dad are bloggers and use RSS feeds daily!” Then I read:

    I can guarantee that over 50% don’t have family members or real life friends that use these services, and for those that do, it’s because you probably badgered them into it.

    Having gone through the badgering process with them, it's clear to me that the barrier to entry for the 50-60 crowd is less technological and more about perceived value.

    Typing was once a skill one would put on his/her resume. Now, it is a basic requirement to participate online. The same is true for social media and it's corresponding tech, such as RSS feeds. Before my mother knew how awesome it is to socialize with people online, she was resistant to the tech. After she started connecting with people, she quickly learned basic HTML/CSS and stays connected with her friends on Blog Catalog and MyBlogLog. Her tech education was driven by the desire for more and more meaningful connections with other people online. Now she doesn't think about the tech much at all. Mostly we talk about socializing issues, like etiquette.

    I do think intuitive UIs are important for mass adoption. Lower tech barriers might encourage people to explore on more of a whim, which fuels their further interest. I think the biggest reason most of the mainstream isn't here yet has more to do with the belief there is something worthwhile for them to push them through learning the tech. I see the tech skills they need to develop as no more demanding than the skill of typing, which was once done only by trained typing professionals.

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  • http://www.cre8buzz.com/blog Keenan

    I think the web is moving too fast. Social media is great for those who have already embedded themselves, and their identify on the web. Social media provides tremendous value for such people. For most people, however, they are just getting through the email, Yahoo groups and forums (web 1.0) world.

    Social Media will need to evolve in a way that provides value in peoples everyday life. It will need to be easily integrated into their lives, making the things they do easier.

    It will be interested in watching.

  • http://www.globalracingschools.com Racing Schools

    I don't really agree with you on that. Face Book, MySpace, Linked In have already been used by Large Corporations when they advertise for jobs or looking at recruiting people. However, I must agree that corporations are not catching on FriendFeed or Twitter.

  • http://www.globalracingschools.com Racing School

    I don't really agree with you on that. Face Book, MySpace, Linked In have already been used by Large Corporations when they advertise for jobs or looking at recruiting people. However, I must agree that corporations are not catching onto FriendFeed or Twitter.

  • http://www.howzat.com Online Cricket Games

    I don't really agree with you on that. Face Book, MySpace, Linked In have already been used by Large Corporations when they advertise for jobs or looking at recruiting people. However, I must agree that corporations are not catching onto FriendFeed or Twitter.

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