Social Networking: Not Quite Mainstream

eMarketer points to a pair of studies today that indicate that social networking isn’t quite as mainstream as we may often assume. A study by research firm Synovate that surveyed 13,000 consumers in Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the US, found that 58% do not even know what social networking is. Further, only 26% are actually members of social networks.

In a separate study by Universal McCann in April, eMarketer points out that in none of the countries surveyed did a majority of the population use social networks — and in most places under 25% did. Though eMarketer predicts that nearly half of US Internet users will be on social networks by the end of this year — which would indicate some growth in the user base — that actually goes against what the Sybase study found.

36% of social network users that Sybase talked to said that they were losing interest in social networking, with the most social network fatigue showing up in web savvy nations like Japan, Canada, and the US.

Social networking blog Mashable points out that the survey only looked at users aged 18-65, which means that it ignored the teenagers who make up so much of the social networking population. They also note that with 58% of the world having never heard of social networking, there is a potentially untapped market for it.

But as we reported last month, even kids are starting to lose interest in social networking. A study of British youngsters between the ages of 13 and 17 by Logicalis in August found that 46% feel that social networking has become less important to them, and that they are using online social networks less frequently.

We noted that in the British market, at least, 13-17 year olds make up a small subset of the total social networking population and speculated that once they reach the much larger 18-25 year old group (those in post secondary schools), social networking might become more attractive. The Sybase study indicates that those users too are souring on social networking though.

Is social networking a fad? Or will social networks, like Charlene Li predicts become “like air” — so ubiquitous that everyone online uses them without even actually realizing it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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