The ways in which we communicate continue to grow and develop as we not only create new and innovative ways to connect, but also advance the ways in which we use existing media.
In a recent report by the Pew Research Center, the 2014 report on social media usage revealed some very interesting insight into the most popular social networks and the demographics who use them most frequently.
Facebook was discovered to be the most “popular” social media site, with 71% of internet-using adults having accounts. At first glance, this appears to put Facebook at the forefront of the social media world, but, upon further inspection, this may not be the case. The 71% from 2014 is exactly the same as it was in 2013, which seems to indicate that there has been no growth in Facebook activity in the past year.
While Facebook remains consistently popular, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest all saw spikes in total percentage of use, with Pinterest seeing a heavily female bias. This seems to indicate that, while not matching the sheer numbers of Facebook, other social media are continuing to reach a meaningful audience and spread use of their applications.
Most interesting to me, though, was the proliferation of “multi-platform use,” which increased by ten percent from 42% to 52% this year. This means that more and more, users are choosing to diversity their content consumption and production to different platforms.
What this indicates is that there is a shift from the ideas of social media when they were first gaining traction to now. It used to be that the purpose of a social network was to house any and all elements of social life. Facebook was the home base for all chatting, photo and video sharing, networking, and resume building. Now, you have the opportunity to create a Facebook profile to house your “friends,” an Instagram account for photos, a LinkedIn for your professional growth, and Pintrest as your crafting showcase. Lest we forget Twitter as the place to engage with life’s daily activities, all of a sudden social media become less of a website to visit and spend time on, and instead turn into the outlet for which we share our lives, as well as consume the lives of those in our communities.
Some like to claim that Facebook is dying. I don’t really believe that to be the case. What we use Facebook for is changing, and Facebook has, since it’s inception, been fairly clear about their desire to keep up with the demands of its users. Facebook has turned into your homepage. We don’t consider the time we spend on Facebook because we are so often using it as a launching point for other websites. We click on videos that take us to YouTube. We click on articles that take us to blogs and news sites. We click on photos that take us to Instagram feeds. To say that Facebook is no longer viable is to ignore the central purpose of Facebook, which is to catch the things that will be most especially interesting to you.
As these trends continue, we should expect to see continued push for specialized media that attempt to target a specific niche clientele. The expression “you can’t be everything to everybody” is proving especially true, and has created the opportunity for specialized networks, rather than catch-all social environments.
In the grand scheme of things, social media are still brand new. We are very much learning how to use them both to get our messages out, as well as to receive messages that we find personally meaningful. We will continue to see more and more people using multiple social media at the same time, while also seeing the prevalence of niche apps competing against “catch-alls” like Facebook. While none will match the sheer population of the Zuckerberg giant, each will have more impact within the specialized community that is more thoroughly engaged with the site.