500 million users on Facebook. More than two billion tweets per month on Twitter. 100 billion views on YouTube. The launch of Foursquare and re-launches of MySpace and Yammer, versions 2.0. All signs of a flourishing social media industry, right? New research from Forrester says, not so much, at least in terms of content. While online social networks grow, the percentage of users uploading new content to the sites has “platueaued” worldwide.
The report, called “A Global Update of Social Technographics,” found the growth in users of social media networks is not matched by a similar uptick in content. In short, people aren’t uploading videos, engaging in conversations, creating blogs, or posting status updates like they used to.
The decline in the number of content creators isn’t dramatic, just down from 24 percent to 23 percent in the U.S. in one year, but enough to cause concern. “A lack of growth in social creation translates into a lack of fresh ideas, content and perspectives,” the report says.
Forrester’s survey found that social networks are growing, 8 percent from 2009 to 2010 in the U.S., but the new users are “spectators” content to read articles and watch videos posted by other users. The same is true across the globe, where new users grew by as much as 18 percent in China and 11 percent in Europe, but people creating online content either held steady or decreased.
The somewhat conflicting findings from Forrester follow a pattern we’ve seen in users’ adaptation to social media. An August study from Nielsen found the amount of time Americans spent on social networking had climbed by more than 40 percent, while a 2009 Harvard study that found 90 percent of the content on Twitter is created by 10 percent of the users.
The latest Forrester findings come from online surveys of more than 26,000 people around the world that classified users into categories – Creators, Conversationalists, Critics, Collectors, Joiners and Spectators – based on their responses to what they typically do on social networks and services.
While the U.S. and other countries saw growth in the number of people classified as “joiners” and “spectators,” Japan was the only country that showed a rise in “creators,” growing from 34 percent to 36 percent in the past year.
Are you a spectator? Is the U.S. creating a whole generation of lurkers vs. creators? Is Japan late to the game in terms of developing new content, or moving ahead of the curve? Should social networking sites be worried? Should users be worried? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below?