Defining the State of Social Media – Introduction

Social Networks vs. Virtual Worlds: Categorization, Convergence, Aggregation

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      Image courtesy of Matt Hamm 

Introduction: Serious Social Interest

This white paper incorporates my insight and personal opinions based on a broad range of resources, viewpoints, facts, statistics and trends to address the benefits, opportunities and challenges of social media. I’ve broken things down into three main sections: the virtual shift to a Social Web (defining the landscape), digesting the “noise” (aggregation and virtual desktops), and what it all means (real world implications). I’ll be posting the full paper section by section, to explore the ins, outs, ups and downs of social media, including social media’s new role in society, where it’s headed next, and most importantly, what I/we really want and need from social networking.

Even as I’ve been watching, researching and writing this piece, the online social landscape has been changing daily. It’s a rapid and fleeting time in the space, so I’ll do my very best to offer new, insightful, and at the very least interesting ideas, before the topic broadens or deepens further. It should be noted from the start that I cannot define social media alone – by namesake it will require a massive network of people, an aggregate body working as a community to form new rules and norms. I’m talking about shaping our society’s future – nearly everything we see or do relates in some way to the “Social Web” – it’s creating a whole new realm of civic responsibilities and paving the way for new thought leaders. This should be serious social interest.

In favor of full disclosure, it is also worth mentioning that I’m a full-time telecommuter and thus, primarily in favor of the “virtual shift” (and no, I can’t summarize my commentary in 140 characters or less). What do you think? Leave a comment, DM me on Twitter, Email Me, Link-Me-In, get viral, whatever you like… Let’s get to it then! First, some numbers:

Statistics…

– Facebook leads US SNs with ~68M unique monthly visitors (not including 3rd-party apps like Tweetdeck ) (Jan.2009)
– MySpace is next ~58M, then LinkedIn ~11M, Classmates.com ~17M, and Reunion.com ~14M (Feb. 2009)
– Twitter had 4.43M uniques in Dec. 2008. In Jan. 2008, it had only around 500,000 (Jan. 2009)
– Twitter is dominated by newer users: 70% joined in 2008; and roughly 5-10k join each day (Dec.2008)
– Facebook has ~175M total users, ~150M active users; and ~90M that use the site every day (Jan. 2009)
– 600k new users join Facebook daily (a growth rate of 3.8%/month) and 45% of users are now 26 or older (Feb. 2009)
– The average age Linked In user is 41 years old and 76% of users have a college or graduate degree
– Linked In grew from 8M to more than 30M in 2008, and revenues are now upwards of $75M (Nov.2008)
– Myspace users are spending ~4.4 hours on the site/month, a 31% increase since last year (Feb.2009)
– Roughly 1 million residents month log into Second Life each month, out of 16M total users (Nov. 2008)

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