The More We Stay, the Less We Say

Forrester recently updated its Technographics profiles (made famous in the book Groundswell) for global social media consumption, surveying 95,000 consumers across 18 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America. One primary finding was the lack of commenting occurring in mature western markets, including the United States.

Adoption is pretty much complete in the U.S. (86%) and globally. Almost everyone who is online also is using or has used social media. Comscore recently corroborated this data, saying 83% of the world’s online population participates in social media.

But, most of us in the United States are not social and care not to converse. The Forrester report finds that 2/3 of the US adult social media population doesn’t comment. This is notable.

Commenting seems to have decreased over the past six years. Perhaps it’s because of the widespread proliferation of mobile media with smaller screens and touch input. It’s certainly harder to type in a blog comment or critique a product on a smartphone.

Or perhaps now that older generations are online and participating in social media, we see less commenting by percentage. These latecomers simply don’t feel comfortable chatting it up online like digital natives do.

Or maybe, just maybe, as we continue down our social path, we have less to say. The shine wears off.

Some long time friends confess they are pulling back on social media. They have had a realization about balance; the necessary social media for business versus unproductive simply busy work. They retract to a more measured pace, taking a marathon runner’s approach to social media. Others simply stop participating on a regular basis.


More than likely the lesser percentage of U.S. commenters is a combination of mobile, age and user burnout. Companies and organizations who are looking to harness social power will have a harder time than in other countries. If you dive deep into the report, you’ll see developing countries have much more conversational cultures.

“Companies in Europe and North America love asking users to post content like product reviews, user-generated photos and videos, and Facebook wall posts,” conclude Forrester Authors Gina Sverdlov and Nate Elliott. “But while most online users in those markets are willing consumers of social media, few post often on social sites.”

This conclusion is important. While a third of U.S social media users do comment, they are not necessarily inclined to comment on business pages.

In fact, most people won’t interact with brands via social media. If they do comment on a business page, it’s likely because of a personal interest or to complain. They are also growing fatigued of polls and surveys.

Don’t make the mistake of separating media. The consumer doesn’t distinguish between social, traditional web or plain paper and old telephone feedback. Stakeholders see all of those as feedback mechanisms for a brand. Further, they are starting to feel tapped out, and more selective about providing input to brands.

Moving forward, companies and nonprofits need to treat participating customers and donors with more care. They are a vital community, the few that care enough to interact and come back. As time and media progresses, this precious feedback will become more sparse and valuable.

What do you think? Are we saying less? Why?