Good news for the economy might be bad news for social media

Back in 2009, I wrote a blog post forecasting that when the economy finally improved, it would have a deleterious impact on the social web.

My premise was simple. Time spent on incremental, non-essential activities like Facebook and Twitter will take a back seat to family and business needs as our economic fortunes improve.

The rise of the social web coincided with a period in the world economy when a lot of people had time on their hands. So, it stands to reason that the growth of social media will slow as the economy improves and we have less time for Farmville and entertaining ourselves with YouTube videos.

Other possible implications:

  • As people return to work, the prime activity level on social media will be more heavily-weighted to the evening hours, since many companies restrict social media usage in the workplace.
  • The number of channels in which people participate will narrow as incremental time dries up. This may hasten the decline of some marginal platforms and may make it even more difficult for new entries.
  • There may be a slight shift in advertising budgets BACK to traditional media (drive-time radio? billboards?) since access to Internet-based impressions will be more limited in a workplace.  How do you see a Facebook ad when you’re working a construction job?

As the economy begins to show some signs of life (at least here in the U.S.), it seems that people are telling me that their businesses are coming back and they are happily “swamped.”

I don’t have stats to back this up, but anecdotally, people are saying they now have less time to read blogs, comment, engage in online communities, and immerse themselves in new platforms like Google+ than they did two or three years ago. One data point — page views are up on {grow} but the number of comments are down about 25% from a year ago.

I believe that the use of the social web will still grow overall as people and companies find clever new ways to make the underlying technologies more useful and fun. But I think it is unavoidable that an improving economy will temper this growth.  Do you agree?  What are you seeing out there?

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