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:

While Social Media Adoption Climbs, Social Media Usage By Content Creators Is In Decline forrester social ladder

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.

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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.

  • Daniel

    This is also true for me.When i started blogging,i would do it daily.As i discovered other social media tools like twitter,Facebook and LinkedIn,my blogging was somehow sacrificed.
    Ultimately,its the quality of tweets,likes etc that should shape the next agenda.

  • Invisble

    1. The novelty certainly has worn down, and for some people off.

    2. The ROC--return on content--appears to be diminishing.

    3. The total content has reached toward infinity, but time has stood still, of course.

    4. The bad doesn't drive out the good, but tends to reduce the overall value of the medium. In the years when Esquire has seven really good articles out of eight total, readership was good. When it declined to two in seven, readership fell.

    Put another way, television now has furious competition for the title, The Vast Wasteland.

    5. A truly new idea is rare. The more you live and read, the fewer new ideas you see. So you ove your attention elsewhere.

    6. The new media kept promising engagement. But our experience is that real engagement occurs face-to-face, and our appreciation for that only seems to be increasing. A damned good conversation seems like more of a gift than ever.

  • Nick Kellet

    Contributor fatigue is to be expected and to some extent it explains the rise of shorter-form solutions like Twitter & Posterous etc.

    I suspect it's not just contributor fatigue at work here. Consumers get jaded too. You can only read so much and leave enough time for real work.

    From a Video perspective it's getting harder and harder to create a viral hit. Viral videos are simply a gamble to get a lot of attention for a small investment. The incentives have diminished.

    An article today in AgAge dared call the realties of viral videos.


    I suspect were soon to enter a new phase for video. There are many many valuable uses for video in a business. Viral videos account for just one. Viral videos were an obvious place to start, but there are many other ways to deliver more predicable results.

  • Russ_Somers

    Interesting topic!

    I know that I blog less than I used to because Facebook, Twitter, etc give me a much easier outlet than writing a blog post or publishing a web page. So an optimistic view might be that the creator/conversationalist line is no longer meaningful. In effect, we're democratizing creation. I like that better than the possibility that we're running out of ideas...although some days it seems like we are.

    It'd be interesting to match the dip in self-reported Creator behavior to number of blog posts, web pages published, videos uploaded, etc to verify or refute that interpretation.