The social network — the umbrella term for features of a website which allow users to track their friends — is past its peak.
Mentions in the press of “social network” or another even uglier phrase, “social networking”, reached 1,158 in September, but have declined since. That could mean a decline in media interest in sites like Myspace and Facebook or, more likely, an acceptance that all media will be social, all successful sites will allow users to “friend” eachother, and that it’s no longer interesting to spotlight a feature so ubiquitous.
It is true that when a trend reaches critical mass, news media loses interest… “News” is only considered “News” if it is, in fact, “new”. Case in point- the growth of corporate websites in the early 1990s… The first corporations to build websites made international news. Today, I can’t think of any large, successful company that doesn’t have a website. Websites are now a prerequisite for big business. One day, the same will be true of “Social Networking” and “Social Media”…. I’m not convinced that that time is now, or that the recent downturn indicated by Valleywag’s graph is indicative of a “trend”. Instead, I think it is indicative of stabilization in the market following several months of very big news. (And, while I have no empirical evidence to support this, it may also be indicative of a shift away discussing “social networking” alone towards discussing “social media” as a whole. If any of you have seen evidence one way or another on this, please post a comment.)
I’ve numbered several points on the graph to illustrate my point about stabilization. Looking at the popularity of the word “social networking” in relation to some of the big events on-line over the course of the last year is interesting:
- July 18, 2005: News Corporation acquires Intermix Media, Inc and MySpace
- March 2006: MySpace was the second most trafficked site on the Internet (next to Google) with Facebook at number 7. At times, MySpace had more traffic than Google (Duffy, 2006)… And – Hitwise “US Consumer Generated Media Report,” reports that visits to MySpace increased 51 percent March-September 2006, outpacing the 34 percent overall growth for the social-net category during the same period.
- May, 2006: comScore Network reports that Myspace surpassed 50 Million U.S. visitors in May. The Top 50 Web Rankings and Analysis report released by comScore Media Metrix in may suggests that online interest in the World Cup and NBA Championships and the Spring television season drove traffic to popular social networking sites (see graph) http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=906
- October 6, 2006: Rumors about Google acquiring YouTube started on TechCrunch. October 9, 2006: Google acquires YouTube
The “major” events in “social networking” over the last year or so have definitely been considered big news. The general public, companies, and media outlets seem eager to watch how social media is changing the on-line and business landscapes. Sure, the apparent “lag” in the term “social networking” since October may be the start of a downward trend. In my opinion, it is more likely a brief correction in the market following the major news around Google’s acquisition of YouTube in September and rumors about Yahoo’s social media strategy. After all, the graph indicates that the term “social networking” is still as popular now as it was back in August, which was the highest it had ever been before.
As the number of mainstream companies announce the integration of s-commerce/ social media into their overall marketing strategies, I suspect that the term “social networking” will be surpassed by more broad categorizations like “s-commmerce” or “social media” of which, “social networking” is a component.
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Note: As I was doing research for this blog, I discovered that Google News doesn’t allow historical searches of news articles between specific dates. If anyone has a site that they can recommend that allows for a historical news search between specific dates, I’d love to hear from you.