HOME Technology Dec 2010
Social sharing explosion
Networking redefines friends

“As one researcher said, if Facebook were a country it would be the larger than the US, with more than 500 million users.”

Social networking apparently takes up more of our time than email with no end in sight to the compelling power of this online, interactive phenomenon that connects us to an ever widening circle of ‘friends’.

While some subscribers simply add ‘followers’ and throwaway comments, most want meaningful and media rich engagement and are coming to realise the quality of interaction has a lot to do with what you contribute.

Around a billion people connect to social networking sites. According to Nielson Media Research in its 2010 Social Media Report, around 1.8 million New Zealanders are social networkers, and content sharing is the most popular activity.

In 2007, 35 percent said Bebo was their main social networking site, that’s slipped to less than 4 percent, and the once popular MySpace was rated by only 5 percent as a favourite.

About 600,000 New Zealanders had signed to Bebo but in April parent company AOL pulled the plug on further innovations. Former users compared it to a party that had passed its peak with people leaving in droves to find action elsewhere, mostly to the dominant Facebook or to MySpace or Twitter.

As one researcher said, if Facebook were a country it would be the larger than the US, with more than 500 million users.

Sense of place

Facebook recently announced a ‘places’ service so subscribers can share their location, know who else is in the vicinity and be aware of related events and services. However, there is an opt out option if you don’t want to be found.

The new Skype 5.0 for Windows includes a tab so friends can extend their text chats to voice and video from within the Facebook news feed, giving it a further edge in the features war with Google and Yahoo.

Neilson research says 82 percent of New Zealand internet users have visited Facebook and 70 percent have their own Facebook profile, up from 20 percent only three years ago. More than half visited their site daily and 39 percent stayed at least four hours a week.

Micro-blogging site Twitter gained traction over the year, with more than 27 percent visiting and 11 percent creating their own profile. Twitter, created in 2006, allows people to send short text messages or Tweets to groups of followers. It has more than 105 million registered users.

Meanwhile the 100 million strong MySpace, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, is looking to recover lost ground with a major redesign. From November it’ll become more of an entertainment destination with a greater focus on music, celebrities, movies, television, games and emerging cultural trends.

HD video content

In May YouTube, originally created by Chad Hurley and Steve Chen for uploading and sharing video files, celebrated its fifth birthday. It was acquired by Google in October 2006; from December 2008 it began offering high definition 720p content and in November last year expanded to 1080p resolution.

YouTube receives over two billion views per day with the average person staying 15 minutes. Plans to keep people online longer include the launch of GoogleTV, a web-based platform designed to bring Google to our TV sets.

The rise in smartphone ownership and lower mobile data charges meant mobile social networking gained considerable traction in the past three years with nearly a quarter of social networkers participating in the past year. Nielsen’s report found 64 percent of them were under 35 years of age. Facebook topped popularity with Twitter in most frequent use.

It’s now easier than ever to blog, share music, videos, photographs or media links. Most major newspapers, magazine and websites have an option to post direct to social networking sites, or add clips from YouTube for example.

Social networking is unidirectional. Share something fascinating and it might go viral, share something you should have kept to yourself and you might regret it. Online chatter moves faster than any workplace gossip, so pause before you post and take care when you share.


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