Universal McCann's "Media in Mind" study, an ongoing research effort that analyzes how consumers relate to media and products in their daily life. However, it's worth noting that in this particular study "social media" includes text messaging. Combined with blogging and social networking, these three technologies are used by 50% of U.S. adults for communication purposes.Half of U.S. adults use social media. That is, they do according to the latest findings from
Wait, What Are You Calling "Social Media"?
In the 18-34 year-old demographic, the numbers of social media users are even higher: 85% of rely on one of the three platforms to stay in touch with others. Of course, the increase in those who are now texting could be pushing these overall numbers up. It seems that more adults are texting than ever before. Those adults who say that they've never sent a text message fell to 41% from 49% last year.
Says Graeme Hutton, SVP-Director of Consumer Insights: "We're definitely seeing continual shifts. The great unwashed - those people who have never sent a text message - is getting smaller all the time."
Side Note: Personally, I find the terminology "the great unwashed (masses)" a little demeaning. The fact is that those at the lower end of the technology-use spectrum don't use things like text messaging and the internet as much because they are usually economically disadvantaged - an unfortunate condition that has numerous causes including everything from poor educational resources to lack of job opportunities in their geographic region. Lumping this lower-income group into one "great unwashed" group was an unnecessarily cruel way to address those not participating in the social media revolution.
That aside, there are still plenty of valuable findings that have surfaced because of this study, including the following new data:
- 1 out of 10 U.S. adults now publish blogs (up from 5% last year)
- 1 out of 5 18-34-year olds publish blogs (up from 10% last year)
- 22% of U.S. adults use IM (up from 9% last year)
- 21% of 18-34-year olds use IM (up from 14% last year)
But are these numbers showing a true shift in sheer numbers of users or really just a change in awareness? Hutton says, "Two years ago, asking people about blogs, people were shaking their heads. I think now it's taking off because social networks are taking off...People may have been doing it before, but may not have realized it. Now they're recognizing it for what it is."
Although these numbers look promising for our favorite genre, social media, they should probably be taken with a grain of salt. While we do believe that text messaging is an important method of communication, it doesn't quite fit with what the standard definition of social media is: blogging, social networking sites, and other web properties that engage collective groups of people to drive their content. We would like to see how the numbers really break down among the three "social media" activities they measured, but that data was not immediately available.
Update: After contacting Universal McCann to clarify whether or not they really believed that text messaging counted as "social media," I received this response:
"The Media in Mind research bulletin we issued was in fact about emerging media not social media. I think the article took a broad over-arching view of the emerging media reviewed by the MiM research which might lead to that possible reading of the article to put all three media you mention together as "social media". However, that said, I think your query raises an interesting point. I think we would typically define social media as online applications that aim to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users. In exploratory qualitative research, we have undertaken indicates the consumer might take a broader view of what social media might mean. For example, it could be taken by consumers to mean any digital form of personal communication that helps enable peer collaboration and sharing. This softer, less-structured definition is possibly useful in determining possible future growth areas of personal social P2P media from a consumer-centric POV."