A lot has been made of Facebook's rise as a referrer of video viewers. Even here at ReelSEO, we've mentioned it a couple of times. And indeed, Facebook is growing more rapidly than most sources in terms of traffic referred. But that may well be a short term trend. New research from Forrester Research, Inc., an independent technology research firm, shows that while social networking adoption is surging, actual social behavior online is slowing.
That's a fancy way of saying that there is growth in the number of people creating social networking accounts, but a drop in the number of people actually using the services. Which is just fascinating to me.
Specifically, the dip is among those users who describe themselves as "content creators”—people who publish blogs and create online videos. In fact, in most of the major markets surveyed, the number of these content creators has fallen or stayed the same.
Jacqueline Anderson of Forrester lays out the implications of these findings:
"A lack of growth in social creation translates into a lack of fresh ideas, content, and perspectives. The traits required to create social content are unique, and at this moment, the consumer market interested in these behaviors has plateaued.”
In an overly-simplified way of looking at it: content consumers are up, but producers are down… meaning we're headed for a shortage of content.
Now, it's important in understanding the implications of this research to know how Forrester classifies social networking users. Thankfully, they have this little chart:
It's that top group—the Creators—that is showing signs of dropping, even while most of the rest of the "types" of users are seeing growth. Japan is the only region of the world showing growth in the Creators category.
So… what does all this mean? Well, maybe nothing. The number of content creators can technically be smaller than the consumers of that content, for sure—just look at how television has worked as an industry for the last few decades.
However, it seems likely that the growth of Facebook as a video referrer could slow. Certainly Facebook as a video platform will slow—meaning the number of people who use Facebook as the root starting point for distributing their videos will go down. That much seems certain.
But as long as people are willing to share videos they like that were created by other people, there should still be plenty of "referrals" coming from the social giant. After all, there's no requirement for creation in order to use social services… you simply need to share… regardless of who created it.
But the research isn't showing that the creators are smaller in number than the sharers… it's showing that the creators are dropping. That means that there are people who used to create blogs and videos for distribution through Facebook and Twitter who have now stopped doing that.
I'd be curious to know why. Did they run out of time in their lives? Has the economic woes of the United States (and the world, really) caused a dip in content creation (which is often a hobby for most users)? Or is it something about the social networking services themselves that's driving the content creators elsewhere? Are they finding better conversions and larger audiences by taking their content-creating behaviors to other sites?
I've long held a belief that Facebook's status as a platform for video is less-than-ideal, since only your "friends" can initially find your content, but I obviously can't say if that's the thinking that is driving the trend highlighted by the Forrester findings. It's probably a factor, at least.
Maybe the best place to go for actual first-hand accounts is our readership—most of whom are content creators themselves, or at least work closely with content creators. How do you use social media? Your clients? Are you actively creating content with the purpose of sharing it through Facebook or Twitter? Or are you finding other outlets for content creation work better? Let us know in the comments below.
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