“Social Media” peaks in 2011 and will be over in 2013

The social media hype is currently at its peak. More and more people are doing ‘something’ in social media, such as being a “social media consultant” or doing “social media marketing”. Another indication that it is a hype is that traditional media are increasingly making use of social media, as an additional communication channel, and as a popular topic to address in an article or show.
For me these are signs that ‘the mass’ has copped on. In innovation terms, now the ‘late majority’ will come to follow (see Rogers innovation theory), and the overall interest in the topic will start to decrease from that point on. In other words, the hypecurve will decline and eventually fade out..
For some time now I’ve wondered at what stage the social media hype is now, and when one can expect it to be over. To test my ideas on the matter, I took to one of my favorite little tools: Google Insights for Search, and made a comparison made with the Internet-hype prior to the current hype around social media: Web 2.0.

Social Media versus Web 2.0

When I do a search on “social media” about 188,000,000 Google results are returned. When I look at Web 2.0 39,500,000 come back. Hmmm … that is not what I expected.
I had certainly thought that Web 2.0, with a weblife of over 5 years would have had considerably more hits. Especially if we take the longtail in to account. If I dare make an interpretation here, this for me is an indication that the social media hype quickly came to a higher peak than Web 2.0 did. Besides the fact that the absolute search volume is higher than five years ago, this probably due to three factors:

  • More people are online,
  • People are more involved in ‘being online’,
  • Web 2.0 was still largely technical, and social media really is for every man and his dog. Right?

By using Google Insights you can really compare different search words, set out in time, and thus plot trends. It measures the relative search volume, so this is a good indicator of the popularity of a topic over time. The concept of Web 2.0 became popular starting from 2005, so from that point a nice trend graph is visible. In the graph we see the two trendlines for Web 2.0 (blue) and Social Media (red).


In this graph, I notice a few interesting things:

  • the curve of Web 2.0 starts in early 2005, was at its peak in 2007, and starts to decrease gradually in to the present. I do indeed still meet ‘laggards’ that start talking about Web 2.0…,
  • early 2010 we see a cross-over in popularity, with the relative social media search volume – an indicator of popularity – surpassing that of Web 2.0 , and maintaing the trend in an increasing upwards curve,
  • there has been a trend breach early this year for the social media curve. We see a small decline at the end of last year (the silly season around xmas) and then a much steeper curve upwards compared to the previous trend line.

This is an indication that my guess is right, and the social mediahype since beginning of this year has infected the crowd. What does this mean for social media trend? My take on this is:

  • The social media trend peaks earlier and steeper than the Web 2.0 trend did,
  • Time-to-mass is shorter for social media, and adoption will be even more wide-spread than the Web 2.0 trend,
  • The real mass has not been reached yet (curve still going upwards), but that probably will come soon.

I expect that the social media trend will peak in 2011, reach its top, and in 2012 the curve will start making it’s way down quickly.
Accounting for some after-effect from the ‘laggards’, the trend will flatline in 2013.

And what does all this mean for the  “social media consultants” (1,220,000 results on Google, on Linkedin some 40,000 profiles)? Initially this is good news: the real work will now begin as the demand from ‘the masses’ will now take off. But, keep an eye on Google Trends so you are in time to rebrand yourself to fit the next hype cycle.
My advice: Start now, look ahead, and switch no later than 2012, you hear!

Other Findings

There were some other interesting things I noticed, of which at least I should mention here the following – a bit of pride in the Netherlands. As a tiny country (not even 17 million inhabitants) we are contributing well to the social media trend. In the top ten main regions, the Netherlands is now ranked 9th, and in the top ten places in Amsterdam is an honorable tenth (London is 11).

Most important regions for social media (based on search volume)

Region Rel. search volume
1 Singapore 100
2 Kenia 94
3 US 84
4 India 78
5 Pakistan 75
6 South Africa 68
7 Nigeria 66
8 Canada 62
9 Netherlands 62
10 Australia 53


Most important places for social media (based on search volume)

City Rel. search volume
1 New York (US) 100
2 Washington (US) 95
3 Singapore (Singapore) 93
4 San Francisco (US) 89
5 New Delhi (India) 81
6 Toronto (Canada) 81
7 Chicago (US) 75
8 Los Angeles (US) 70
9 Atlanta (US) 66
10 Amsterdam (Netherlands) 63

So the Dutch search a lot on social media. I hope this doesn’t apply we know very little about the topic….