Social Media is the 3rd Era of the Web

by Justin Kistner on Jun 15, 2010
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I’ve done this search dozens of times since December and have shared it in slides many times since. It’s a search that compares the world wide search volume on Google for new media, web 2.0, and social media. What the above graph shows is that we’re at an inflection point in the language we use to describe the macro trends of innovation on the web. I believe it’s the indicator that we’re in the 3rd Era of the Web and it’s The Era of Social Media.

Observations about the chart

Media adoption is interesting (see the bottom part of the chart called “News references”). The media never really adopted the term New Media. Likely because New Media was insulting to the existing media as it painted them as old media. Media did start to adopt Web 2.0, but it was late in the game likely because the term was too obtuse to catch on more quickly and broadly. Social media, however, has been very popular for news outlets to cover. In fact, it has a nearly linear rise with the use of the term generally. Interestingly, nothing has been more disruptive to established media outlets than social media, but those that are embracing and even reinventing themselves are doing well (such as the NYTimes.com).

What’s also interesting is that the decline of Web 2.0 and the rise of social media are connected. Since Facebook has hit the scene, the original social media tools have peaked in usage: blogs, wikis, forums and RSS.

Facebook is King

In the face of the explosion of social media, no place has more interest than Facebook. Facebook is so popular that no other search term in Google beats the number of searches for Facebook. Go ahead, try to find something bigger than Facebook. I’ve put in Google, YouTube, Twitter, augmented reality, porn, oil spill, Tiger Woods, soccer/football, iPhone, and more. Nothing comes close. The closest I found is the word “the“.

It’s not just searches

Social is showing dominance in traffic and usage in addition to attracting the lion’s share of search attention. Compete.com is also showing Facebook’s dominance over Google and Yahoo! as the mosted visited website.

Comscore shows that the rise of social pulled traffic from portals.

That is also consistent with Hitwise’s findings that Facebook is now sending more traffic to news sites than Google is.

More amazing stats about the meteoric rise of social

In case none of that convinced you that social is more than a trend, here are some more quick stats:

So what?

First, this is just the beginning. I’ve used the crappiest analysis to forecast how far out this trend should go. Assuming that social media has a similar hype cycle to Web 2.0, it should peak around the beginning of 2012 with the next phase of the web taking over around 2015 (see chart below). That said, there’s reason to believe the social media era will last longer and have a higher peak.

What all of this means to business is that social is the innovation to invest in. I’ll be writing more posts about how to invest in social. Next up: News Feed Optimization (NFO). Since Facebook gets more visits and sends more traffic to news sites already, then developing a news feed strategy is critical for traffic dependent sites. NFO is the new SEO.

Post Author

Justin Kistner is author of the 2013 Social Rich Media Benchmark Report and VP of Strategy at ShopIgniter, recently acquired by Mixpo. Justin has been a well-renowned leader in social marketing strategy for over ten years with leadership roles at...