Remember when you first bought your smart phone and downloaded every free app in the Top Apps list? How many of those apps do you use daily now? When was the last time you forfeited a Words With Friends game because you didn’t have time to play that 2-letter, 48-point word? Why is this happening?

In his presentation at Le Web in Paris, Forrester CEO and Chairman, George Colony, explained that social is running out of two drivers of its meteoric growth: hours and people. According to the US Department of Labor, US online consumers are spending more time on social media platforms than they are spending volunteering, praying, talking on the phone, exercising, and even emailing.

Adding to the equation is the sheer number of people using social media. Social adoption rates in Europe range from the mid-70s to 95% in Poland. In the US, social adoption is at 86% and in emerging economies in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), rates are in the mid-to-high 90s (in urban areas). Forrester’s graph below demonstrates the expansive market presence of social around the world. (The full presentation can be found here.) Students I used to teach in rural Guyana (adoption rate of 14.2%) are friending me on Facebook, an enormous feat considering less than 5 years ago, our community didn’t have potable water or consistent electricity, let alone internet or Facebook. Now I’m receiving Farmville requests.

This expansive market presence demonstrates that sooner than later, Facebook and other social networks will reach the saturation point. Colony predicts this overly saturated social market will dictate which among the social startups will thrive and which will die, resulting in three outcomes:

  1. Apps that require more time of more users will not succeed. The days of a new-app-a-minute and tremendous time-wasters are over. (He cites FourSquare as one such time-suck, but we really like FourSquare at Argyle!) Social-savvy consumers will stop allowing the firehose of content to bowl them over. They will become pickier and consumption will happen on their terms. Scarcity of time will dictate which apps survive. Sorry, Fruit Ninja. It’s been real.
  2. Apps that are efficient, faster, and smarter will thrive. Any app that has a higher value to time ratio will outpace and outperform (and potentially be acquired by a much larger company with ambitious social plans on the horizon).
  3. These two predictions will eventually lead to a time period Colony refers to as PoSo – or post social. Startups that adapt to the post-social demands (less time, more content) have an unparalleled opportunity. Success in a post-social world will depend not on volume of content, but the ability to do more with less.

Moving forward, ask your company these two questions: Does our app’s success depend on gaining more users to spend even more time? If the answer is yes, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

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