Is the recent negativity around some social media platforms indicative of a shift in user behaviour?

There has been a lot of bad press recently for the social media networks.

Google+, launched in 2011, quickly became known as a failed attempt to compete with Facebook but now, after several years of speculation, it is finally being shut down.

“It has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps,” wrote Ben Smith, Google’s vice president of engineering, in a blog ost recently.

Perhaps a more immediate reason was the backlash suffered after user data was left exposed.

It said a bug in its software meant information that people believed was private had been accessible by third parties with up to 500,000 users had affected.

Facebook suffered similar consumer and investor criticism following the Cambridge Analytica debacle and a resulting fine of £0.5m by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office and some fairly bleak predictions on growth across the developed nations. Despite Facebook announcing a 33% revenue growth with 2bn daily users, use of the platform may be on the slide in the West which may spell bad news for the company. Their announcement in July of expected declining growth saw them lose more than $100bn in market value.

There is no doubt that recent scandals over data privacy have seen some users reducing activity and even moving away. Is this slowdown in growth indicative of the increase in popularity of private messaging and a trend by users to share privately and ephemerally? Interestingly, more people now share stories, photos and videos on WhatsApp and Messenger than they do on the social networks – more than 1 billion each day!

However, we don’t think we need to be too worried yet about any meaningful demise of the majority of established social media platforms. Just look at some of the stats…

  • Close to half the world’s population (over 3bn) are on some form of social media
  • 59% of adults between 18 and 29 use Instagram
  • 57 billion YouTube users are watching about 5 billion videos every day
  • On average, for every six minutes a person spends online they will spend 1 minute of that using Facebook
  • There are 2 new LinkedIn members signing up every second
  • 500 million tweets are sent every day

Putting our psychological profiling lens on this, the general increase in people’s use of stories and messaging within private domains does indicate a less impulsive behavioural trait emerging but, at the same time, users are still demonstrating a heavy reliance on social media for social reinforcement, etc.

But, perhaps, a critical mass of social media users are finally waking up to data privacy.