Status Update: Sick and Tired of Social Media
August 22, 2011 Jenny Thomas
Remember the good old days when managing your email inbox was your biggest time drain? Then along comes Tweets and Status Updates that have to be posted and monitored for responses, which can quickly eat up a chunk of your day. Before you know it, you’re in the throes of social media overload.
It all started innocently enough. You were charged with getting your company into one of the growing menagerie of social media sites to see what it was all about, to keep up with the competition, or to make sure you didn’t get left behind in the digital dust. (Not to mention socializing you’re doing with family and friends.) Soon, you felt pressured to join more sites to make sure your message was reaching the maximum audience, and because everyone else was doing it, too. Now, the initial excitement over becoming part of a broader social community has given way to a less than enthusiastic feeling toward your social media duties.
This feeling is becoming more commonplace, so much so that the analyst wizards over at Gartner have taken to studying the aptly described “social media fatigue.” A recent Gartner survey found signs of maturity in the social media market, as some users in certain segments are showing symptoms of burning out.
Gartner surveyed 6,295 respondents, between the ages of 13 and 74, in 11 developed and developing markets between December 2010 and January 2011. Consumers were asked about their use of and opinions about social media sites with the aim of examining usage trends and how enthusiastic users were about social media in general across a range of countries.
Not surprisingly, the younger the survey respondent, the less fatigue they reported feeling regarding their social media habits.
“Overall, our survey underlined respondents’ continued enthusiasm for social media,” said Charlotte Patrick, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Teenagers and those in their twenties were significantly more likely to say that they had increased their usage, while at the other end of the ‘enthusiasm spectrum,’ the age-related differences were much less marked, with fairly consistent percentages saying that they were using social media less.”
Of the respondents, 24 percent said they use their favorite social media site less than when they first signed up. These respondents tended to be in segments that have a more practical view of technology. But 37 percent of respondents, particularly those in younger age groups and more tech-savvy segments, said they were using their favorite site more.
In addition to finding that some early embracers of social media were spending less time on their favorite sites, 31 percent of younger, more mobile, brand-conscious consumers indicated they were getting bored with their social network.
Brian Blau, research director at Gartner, advised that it is imperative that branded content be aimed at instantly capturing the attention of the target audience. “The new generation of consumers is restless and short on attention span, and a lot of creativity is needed to make a meaningful impact,” Blau said.
The survey also revealed continued localization of usage, which means certain country-specific social characteristics dictate preferences. However, large global brands such as Facebook are making headway in countries where they have not historically been strong.
Gartner examined whether the type of social media site respondents used affected their enthusiasm. Given that 24 percent of respondents indicated that they were using their main social site “a little less” or “a lot less” than when they first started using it, respondents were asked what negative factors might be influencing their decision.
Although none of the responses were off the charts on why they might be less enthusiastic about social media, 33 percent of respondents indicated concern about online privacy. Attitudes to privacy were also age-related, with teenagers citing privacy concerns significantly less often than older respondents (22 percent of teenagers agreed or strongly agreed that privacy concerns were decreasing their enthusiasm, against an average of 33 percent).
Looking around the globe, some of the more mature social media markets, including Japan, the U.K., and the U.S., reported roughly 40 percent of respondents using the site more than when they first started, 40 percent using it the same amount, and 20 percent using it less. Markets where enthusiasm was higher included South Korea and Italy, where nearly 50 percent of respondents said they used their social media sites more. At the other end of the spectrum, countries with the most respondents saying they used the site less included Brazil and Russia, both with between 30 and 40 percent of respondents exhibiting less enthusiasm.
The Gartner report, User Survey Analysis: Trends in Consumers’ Use of Social Media, is available for purchase on Gartner’s website here.
Gartner analysts plan further explore how social media can benefit businesses at the Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit 2011, September 21 and 22, in London. You can get more information about the Summit here here.