Are There Too Many Social Media Apps & Tools?

SmartPhone growth is increasing rapidly and the adoption of tablets like the iPad and Galaxy are keeping apace. But these are the gadgets themselves, not the apps. And we’re starting to see some decline of levelling off on the adoption and use of a number of social media tools. Most notably with geolocation services and augmented reality apps.

A recent study by Forrestor Research indicates that 70% of American adults don’t even know what a geolocation service (e.g. Yelp and FourSquare) is…that’s slightly better than the 85% just over a year ago. While that may give someone some heart (if you’re in sector) that there is hope, our research shows a decline in use of these tools across the U.S. and Canada as well. Less often do we see services like Yelp come up in our research and when we do, it’s mostly the under 30 age group using them. The +30 segment seems to prefer Yelp over FourSquare which we find lands, well, squarely, in the 19-29 demographic.

When it comes to Augmented Reality tools, they too have grown in use, but not significantly. In two research projects for clients in the marketing sector we found a decrease in mentions of Augmented Reality in the US and parts of Canada and negative sentiment was still fairly high on average. Most common was the complaint of using the tools to be clunky and often not working even after a software download. We don’t see significant adoption of AR until it becomes as easy to use as QR codes and doesn’t require all kinds of software to download.

Speaking of QR Codes. A recent study by Archrival in the U.S. showed that 80% of university students found using QR codes difficult and awkward. We’ve seen similar statements of confusion or non-interest in Canada in some of our research for clients.

Are We Saturated?
With over 300 blogging platforms, 200+ social networks, over 80 microblog platforms (no, Twitter is not the only one), and thousands of other services and tools along with the ecosystem support tools (e.g. Twitter clients like HootSuite or Seesmic) and plug-ins, well, perhaps it’s a little crowded. In our research, we are seeing that the majority of the market is using an average of 3 services regularly (social network, microblog and one other) and 2-3 additional in an irregular basis (bi-monthly¬†or quarterly.) We see this indicating that we may be seeing consumer fatigue over the volume of technologies and apps rolling out. A lot of new technologies are just not seeing mass adoption anymore. For them to be successful, these tools and apps have to move out of the echo chamber of the Technocrats and techy pundits into mainstream. When Twitter found its way onto CNN and Fox News it grew significantly.

So What Does This Mean? The Bar Is Raised!
For marketers it creates a nightmare of channel fragmentation which means more up front research and constantly re-evaluating where to put the chopped up marketing budget. For developers of new apps and services they will need to significantly raise the bar into 2012 or face slow or no adoption. For investors and VC’s, they’ll likely see more failures unless they do good due diligence up front to determine the significant difference and value. Consumers only want to use so many tools. Civil society from that context is the same.

Innovation is vital to a good economy and we have no doubt these innovations will continue, but it will be even harder into 2012 for new services to get adopted. We may also see QR codes fall increasingly by the way-side. That’s okay. It’s all part of the evolution of this fascinating period in time where humanity and technology intersect.