When did you last Google yourself?

About five years ago I googled myself and there was not a single return. I was completely unknown in cyberspace, and relieved that I had not done anything to generate publicity or media attention. I was below the radar, and in terms of my parent’s life and etiquette, this was indeed a good thing. My reputation was intact, my good name preserved.

I did another search the other day and the result was very different. There were 3190 returns, along with the discovery that there was more than one of me around the world, alive and dead – substantive evidence that I am there, living in the public space, along with every other generation net.

In fact, everyone on the web is living in the public space; my life is out there. I could be a celebrity, except for the fact that nobody is watching, listening or noticing. Everyone is more focused on doing their own thing on their blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Fickr, YouTube, and a host of other social networking applications. But absolutely anybody could find out all about me because I am living in a public space. (There goes my right to privacy.)

Despite this public space being overpopulated, third in size to China and India, it is incredibly easy to find me. Easier in fact online that off-line. There are roughly 940-million social network users worldwide. There are people and companies who have chosen to have a presence on the web, to use it for all things personal or impersonal, or a combination thereof.

It might be worth remembering that 2002 was the year the first blogger (Heather Armstrong aka Dooce) was sacked for her online comments. There are now over 200-million blogs, and 50% post daily or twice daily. Today the second largest search engine is YouTube, an online video service, which continues to be the playground of the young with 57% (20-35 year-olds) and 20% teens, which means music, bands and entertainment.

Twitter has 75-million user accounts, not all are active though with 73% with less than 10 tweets. Only 15-million users keep up with Twitter, with almost 80% on mobile, making it that more instant and powerful. Any experience, good or bad, can be shared right now.

Twitter reported 50-million tweets per day in February 2010. In 2007, the figure was 5 000 per day. Top of the Twitter rankings is Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) with 4 855 477 followers. In April 2009, Kutcher challenged CNN to a popularity contest stating: “I found it astonishing that one person can actually have as big of a voice online as what an entire media company can on Twitter.” Today CNN is 11th with 2 978 759.

Twitter, however, is a baby compared to the Facebook community which has over 400-million active users. Facebook’s stats are easy to find and kept up to date. Fifty percent of Facebookers log in on any given day, 35-million update their status daily, while there are 60-million status updates in total daily, and 5-billion pieces of content shared weekly.

By the way, Facebook, which allows most people to have a huge number of friends, has not made friendships meaningless. Despite accessibility, it would appear that the Dunbar number (top number of stable social relationships one person can handle is 150) still holds true. The average Facebooker has 130 friends and tends to interact with only five or six on a regular basis. A little like the T-shirt pile in the cupboard, we only wear five or six on a regular basis.

One of the original social networks Friendster (2001) with 55-million registered users and 33-million unique visitors per month, remains popular in Asia, while MySpace with its 8-million bands and pop culture demographic had, in 2007, 185-million users and 39-million to 45-million page views per month.

Another popular group is professional social networking site LinkedIn, which in February 2010 had more than 60-million users across the world and recently introduced a faceted search to make it easier for their members to find the people they need to find. (And now having spent some time cobbling together these stats I find someone else has created a similar list and has done a better job, so I am not going to tell you who they are, such is the way of the WWW world.)

One of the biggest changes to the social media scene is the radical increase in mobile access – 91% mobile vs. 76% desktop users. Mobile access to Facebook increased by more than 100% in the last year and to Twitter by 347%. Approximately 31% of the 57-million people with web-enabled phones in the States use the device to connect to the web. Facebook’s mobile browser audience overtook MySpace in February 2009.

In South Africa we have reached the 10% of the population access mark for internet penetration at 5-million users, while mobile access is approximately 34-million users with over 50-million connections. This is not news to anyone that mobile access is the way of the future – it is easy, instant and convenient.

While many companies are experimenting with social media, most aren’t actively using it to manage their reputation or really connect with users properly, meaning they are a little behind in terms of hearing what is being said about them. This space is also the convergence point between freedom of expression and the right to run a business.

On a lighter note, here are some stats that you won’t find online yet. Unless you are SuBo (Susan Boyle) or Dancing Matt, there are only 15 seconds of fame online, so don’t expect to hog the limelight.

Also, 99% of what you want to know is online. There is sadly almost 0% chance of it being original; the competition is about 100 000 000% bigger than ever.

Finally, everything you need to know, someone will tell you, but I don’t know much about Buzz yet!



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