The Global Social Takeover
by Josh Bernoff
I recently pointed out that Social 2012 is Web 2000 -- in the hype that surrounds it, and the reality that social interactivity, like the Web, is becoming embedded in everything people do.
Forrester Research just published its annual global review (for clients) of participation in social interactivity, and it bears this theme out on a global scale. Even more fascinating are the variations around the world.
If you've read Groundswell, you know that we analyze participation on a ladder, with different consumers reaching different rungs. At the top are activities that demand a lot of participation and creativity, like the Creator group that blogs or uploads video. In the middle are activities that are easier, like reacting to content (Critics) or Joining a social network (Joiners). Near the bottom are the people just consuming the stuff, the Spectators. The Inactives do none of these activities. The groups overlap -- most Creators are also Spectators, for example.
This year's numbers from the US and Europe are very similar to last year's, because social has stabilized and saturated. Now 73% of Americans and 69% of Europeans are in the Spectator group. Only the Joiner category grew significantly, reinforcing the idea that Facebook has replaced the Web as the center of online attention for many.
But the really spectacular numbers in this year's results came out of Asia. Among the people we survey in metropolitan areas in China, 96% are Spectators and 76% are Creators, people who actually generate social content. In metropolitan India, 96% are Spectators, and 80% are creators. Can you imagine living in a society where eight out ten online adults were blogging, publishing Web pages, or uploading video?
What can you learn from this? A few reflections:
- Online social activity reflects a universal human connection. We are all social. Facebook and its regional comparables, like Sina Weibo in China, are now part of the social connective tissue everywhere there is Internet (or smartphones).
- Strategies aren't the same everywhere. The more active social consumers in India demand a different strategy than the more passive ones in, say, Germany, where only one in three online consumers is in a social network. Creative approaches treat these cultures differently or even connect across borders, like Smirnoff's Nightlife Exchange Project.
- Look to Asia for innovation. The next big social trend -- the next bend in the road after Twitter and Facebook -- may be emerging from those Chinese consumers. Watch for it.