Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Social Media Visualizations and What They Tell Us

A picture of the Grand Canyon communicates more in a moment than a thousand words of description. Let's see if the same holds true of Social Media visualizations. The following images, which graphically present different aspects of Social Media, may help to provide a fresh perspective on Web 2.0.

The first image is one developed by a terrific blogger, Brian Solis of PR 2.0.

This image demonstrates the breadth of Social Media sites and tools. It sometimes seems that a great deal of attention is directed at blogs as a Social Media channel while relatively less consideration is given to some other social concepts.

Brian's "The Conversation" calls attention to the ways in which consumers will share information, collaborate, discuss, and create content outside of blogs. Most corporate blogs are mere extensions of the brand site; they offer promotional content in an environment where person-to-person dialog is tightly moderated (if it is permitted at all). But Social Media will continue to grow where people can exert the most control and influence over their own communication, which means brands will have to engage consumers not just within their own branded blogs--where it is safe, controlled and convenient--but in other online places where consumers gather.

The second image is one I created based on the site, a directory of Web 2.0 sites. The directory has cataloged over 2,700 Web 2.0 sites, each represented with a logo in this graphic.

This compilation of thousands of Web 2.0 site logos tells us something about Social Media's present and future. A great deal of creativity and investment is going into the development of new ways for consumers to network, collaborate, and communicate. We can expect many more Social Media tools and sites to develop in the coming years, but this many competing sites cannot thrive. Much like the early "Wild West" days of the Internet, this explosion of sites will be followed by a period of combination and failure that will leave the remaining sites stronger and poised for success.

Speaking of growth, here are two charts (based on data derived from that demonstrate the continued adoption and usage of Social Media. The first chart displays the Unique Monthly Visitors for ten popular Social Media sites: YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, Digg, Scribd, Reddit, Tripadvisor, Ning, Twitter, and StumbleUpon. Collectively, this group of sites has experienced average growth of 169% in traffic since August 2007.

Because of the huge amount of traffic received by YouTube and Wikipedia, the scale of this chart tends to obscure the very significant growth in some of the newer and smaller sites. The second chart contains data for five of the same sites: Scribd, Reddit, Ning, StumbleUpon, and Twitter. These five sites have seen traffic increase an average of 315% in the prior twelve months.

The first of the pair of charts conveys that even mature Social Media sites such as Flickr and Digg continue to grow. The second chart makes evident the considerable growth and adoption of newer Social Media concepts, such as social documents, social bookmarks, microblogging, and do-it-yourself social networks. What these two charts say to me is that Social Media is still growing rapidly (most likely due to demographic shifts into older age groups) and that our understanding of what comprises Social Media will continue to evolve as consumers adopt new and different sorts of Web 2.0 tools.

At the end of 2008--years after social sites such as blogs, Second Life, and YouTube went mainstream--the pace of adoption, creation, diversification, and growth remains breathtaking. If you think you know what Social Media is today, hold on--2009 is going to bring more changes and surprises.

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