new report by Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research states that usage of social technologies increased markedly in 2008: three in four US online adults now use social tools to connect with each, up from 56% in 2007. According to the report, the largest growth came from ratings and reviews, "voting" on websites, and user-generated video. Blogging and tagging were also popular.A
Forrester predicts that if growth of ratings and reviews continues at its current pace, then "reading peer recommendations will fast become a permanent stage in the purchase decision process."
You could argue we're already at that stage, as e-commerce sites like Amazon and Netflix rely substantially on those technologies - and there are no shortage of imitators on other retail sites, such as Barnes & Noble.
Likewise we're also seeing a lot of 'imitation is the best form of flattery' among voting and user-generated video sites, with digg and YouTube clones popping up seemingly every day, for every conceivable niche.
Forrester has come up with different categories of social media usage (see image below). It claims that Creators are still growing slowly (it's now 21%), but "Critics" have increased more (to 37%). Critics are defined as people who post online reviews and comments. Collectors are at 19%, Joiners 35% and unsurprisingly "Spectators" are the biggest group with 69% of US online adults 'consuming' social media.
The below graph shows the growth patterns over the past year of each category:
What's particularly noteworthy is that the statistics indicate that social web usage is going mainstream. As report author Josh Bernoff notes in a blog post, the growth in consumption of online content is mostly coming from older people: "social activity is way up among 35-to-44 year-olds, especially when it comes to joining social networks and reading and reacting to content. Even among 45-to-54 year-olds, 68% are now Spectators, 24% are Joiners, and only 28% are Inactives."