The Pew Research Center reported this week that more than half of Americans now use social networks. And I mean all citizens, not just the portion of those who participate online. (Roughly two-thirds of us who use online services participate in social networks.)
The finding helps to explain the astounding growth of Facebook and Zynga. Six years ago, only 5% of Americans said they used a social network of some kind. Today, more of us are using the likes of Facebook to find jobs, make friends, start relationships, partner with collaborators, and enjoy diversions.
Sound bad? Maybe it is, but the maxim that says social networks have made us shut-ins incapable of socializing with neighbors -- let alone co-workers -- is a myth. In June, Pew found that only 7% of the "friends" connected to the average Facebook user are strangers. Nearly 90% are people we've met at least twice. They're common citizens with whom we have real-life relationships.
As an investor, I find it fascinating that this groundswell has occurred even as some social networks have foundered. Friendster -- the original "next big thing" in social networking -- unfriended common users in May in an effort to reposition itself as a social gaming site. MySpace, which News Corp.
The implication? Facebook and LinkedIn
Yet Facebook is becoming more interesting by the day. Social media adoption makes social advertising more relevant, which in turn increases the social network's revenue and profit opportunity. It's a virtuous cycle that, judging by Pew's data, is here to stay.
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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
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