Social Networking: Not Quite Mainstream

By Josh Catone
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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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  • I want to get my parents onto using Facebook – makes it easier for me to distribute photos and videos than by using email (and having to compress videos into a format small enough to email). My parents-in-law already signed up a few weeks ago.

  • One from each column, I’d say.

    I think the ability to participate in online communities is here to stay. But the role of online networks as a medium for offine social networks is a fad.

    Online and offline communities are completely different things, and don’t share very much common ground. Essentially, sites like Facebook are good for keeping in touch with people you only know through the internet, but an extremely poor and vacuous way of keeping in touch with your real friends.

  • When I read that people from my country (Bulgaria) were also surveyed,
    what you said in the next paragraph (that it doesn’t make a majority
    of the social networking market) is exactly what I though.

    Here, social networking is mainly known by youngsters (13-25) and they mainly
    join Bulgarian social networks (,, etc.) instead of mainstream
    social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. But even those sites are rarely
    used. Users prefer to share their Skype username (Skype is the most popular IM here)
    in their profile on such sites, and then do everything from there,
    including sharing files, chatting, voice and video talking, etc.

    Accidently, my mom is part of many social networks, including the not so well known and a few others I can’t even remember. She uses them because they’re
    not in English, but in Russian (most elders know Russian better than English;
    the opposite with youngsters).
    And if the question is if she realizes she is part of a social network – she doesn’t.
    From here point of view, the site is for “meetings” or “contacts”.
    It’s just that the term “Social network” doesn’t sound well when translated.
    Probably because any “Network” other than the internet is associated with “mafia”
    (a criminal network), giving people a certain disgust from even thinking about it.

  • I think that, for now, Charlene is right and social networks are more ubiquitous than surveys indicate. It amazes me how many people use them and how many people are jumping on board every day. There might be some fatigue when asked about social networks, but I would bet many of those same people go and check their info on the likes of Facebook and MySpace weekly or at least monthly.

  • lenusmaria

    I also use It is my favorite. I really like the look of the site. It looks very professional and the community is very friendly.