Social media consultancy Trendstream released a report Tuesday that suggests participation in the social web is shifting from a place to create personal content to a place to share professional content in real time.
The report is part of an ongoing web study called the Global Web Index, which surveyed a total of 51,000 consumers globally at three points between July 2009 and September 2010.
During this time period, the number of people who reported participating in static online conversations decreased. Blog writing declined by 4%, and forum participation decreased by 11%. Participation in real-time social networks and microblogs, however, both grew by 20%.
Platforms like Twitter and Tumblr arrived a bit later than social networks like Facebook; although the two groups of real-time social media are growing at a similar rate, social networks still dominate the real-time social web. The percentage of consumers who said they updated their social network profiles daily was twice the percentage that said they updated their microblog. And while more than half of participants in the study said they had ever updated their profiles on a social network, only 29% reported ever using a microblog.
As the relatively new concept of microblogging evolves, it is becoming more about sharing professional content rather than creating personal content. The number of people who said they linked to news stories and the number that posted updates about a particular product on their microblogs both increased by more than 10% this year, but people who posted updates about personal photos decreased 5%.
This shift is also reflected in the design of popular social media platforms. Twitter now asks “What’s happening?” rather than “How are you doing?” Facebook, which becomes more microblog-like with every redesign, has removed the “username is” preface from its status updates.
The potential for social media — which the surveys found has about a 50% participation rate in even the least engaged markets — lies not in expansion but in the direction it grows. If social media continues to become focused on real-time conversations around professional content, it could become a more powerful distribution channel than print, television, radio or static web pages ever were.