Are We Close To Hitting Peak Social?

Social Pros Podcast #48 - the last episode of 2012 - features reknowned author, podcaster, speaker, and renaissance man CC Chapman.  The stat of the week comes from the Nielsen Social Media Report.

A few numbers to consider as you wind down 2012 and think about social media / marketing / business heading into 2013:

  • In July 2011, there were 164M unique social media users in the United States.  In July 2012, there were 172M - that's a 5% increase in unqiues.
  • In July 2011, US social media users spent 88B minutes on social media.  In July 2012, US social media users spent 121B minutes on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, et al.  That's a 50% increase in usage minutes!
  • For the quantitatively challenged - social user growth was slow and steady from 2011 to 2012, whereas social usage growth was crazy fast!

So what does this trend look like in 2013?  Have we hit Peak Social - the point at which the market reaches the maximum rate of activity and after which the rate of activity is expected to enter slow - eventually terminal - decline?

Some thoughts:

  • I think that we'll see steady user growth - norming to slightly above population growth - as more youngsters give iPhones for Christmas and more Grandparents become interested in seeing grandbaby photos on Facebook.

  • Barring the rise of another Pinterest, I think that usage growth will slow in 2013.  I don't think it will be flat - but I don't expect another 50% increase in minutes spent on social media.  In fact, I have a hunch that some of the usage growth might be "artificial".  In 2012, social platforms have gotten very good at activating users through email marketing and user experience.  So some of the "minutes" might be spent clicking a new follower email or interacting wit a weekly Pinterest digest.

  • Jay made the great point on the show that approaching "Peak Social" might actually be a good thing for our business.  Instead selling a growth or momentum or "being the first brand on Pinterest" story, social pros will need to start thinking strategically about accomplishing business objectives using the available tools in their current state.

  • These market dynamics - steady user growth, slowing activity growth - are also susceptible to platform dynamics.  For example - how will the continuing onslaught of social ads impact user activity?  Will consumer privacy concerns finally hit a tipping point in 2013?  Will a new Pinterest pop up in 2013 and suck attention away from the mainstream players?

Interesting questions and plenty of opportunity - so it's a good time to be in the social business.  Best wishes for a happy and productive 2013!