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Lost without a map in the world of Social Media

June 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The trouble with Social Media for business is that there’s a lot of noise – and currently we don’t have the tools to filter this noise.

Prosumer

The Prosumer

This noise is being created by The Prosumer – the consumer who produces as much (in some cases more) than they consume. While the term Prosumer originates with Toffler in the 1970s, it’s really been the advent of web 2.0 that has given this consumer segment the ability to give full flight to their insatiable creativity.

You can only marvel at what the prosumer is accomplishing. I’ve been trawling stats for a presentation and some of them are just astounding. In fact, they’re probably more astounding now as the daily rate of increase for sites like Twitter and Facebook mean the figures below are probably already understating the case. Nevertheless it’s breathtaking:

  • Every minute: 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube
  • Every hour: 10.5 million songs illegally downloaded
  • 175 million registered on Twitter and 50 billion tweets in March
  • Facebook has 600 million visits a month – which translates into 300 million visits a day
  • Facebook’s total user base is equal to the 3rd biggest country in the world after China and India.
  • In New Zealand, a country of 4.4m people,  1.9m Kiwis have Facebook pages. To put that into context, here are only 2.8 million New Zealanders between the ages of 18 and 65.

I find this is the most extraordinary example of the impact of Prosumerism: In 2002 human beings created 5 Exabytes of unique information. If you want to write that it looks like this:

50,000,000,000,000,000,000

That’s 50 with 18 zeros. Not being a numbers guy I had to look up what to call such a large number and it turns out the term for something with that many zeroes is Quintillion. So, in 2002, 50 Quintillion bytes of data were created and what’s astounding is that this is more than was collectively generated by humans in the preceding 5,000 years. So in one year human beings created more data than in the previous 5,000 years.

We’re now doubling this every two years. This is the new reality and it’s Moore’s Law on anabolic steroids.

What it means for businesses trying to manage Social Media engagement is that the vast amount of data to filter is unfathomable. We are pioneers on a new frontier that’s as daunting and thrilling as any faced by humans before. Does that sound too cheesy? Well, as it may, but I truly believe that this unprecedented social interaction which has been enabled by Web 2.0 will transform our society. But only when we can actually make sense of the storm of digital noise that’s doubling every two years.

Dalrymple's early map of New Zealand

Chart of the South Pacifick Ocean Pointing out the Discoveries made therein Previous to 1764

And that’s the rub. The tools we have now to chart social media are equivalent to the maps carried by Cook in his voyages of discovery. They show us the tantalising outlines of potentially exciting and exotic continents that make us look at our world anew. But for the moment they are only tantalising outlines.