An item on internetnews.com, More Adults Jump Into Social Networking, caught my eye this morning (also discussed on the e-consultancy blog). It says: “Slowly but surely, adults are catching social networking fever” quoting US research showing that “four times as many adults were using online social network sites in 2008 than in 2005. That number has more than doubled in the past two years.” Such statistics confirm skyrocketing use of social networking sites.
Take-up is still skewed towards younger adults: “75 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 were social networking users, compared to just 7 percent of adults 65 years and older. … 30 percent of adults aged 35 to 44 report having a social network profile. That number steadily drops as age increases.” And adults tend to use sites for social rather than professional reasons (6 percent have a profile on the professional site LinkedIn).
I expect similar figures would be delivered by UK research, but I would be interested to see some comparisons between different industries.
At some of the Web 2.0 events I’ve attended, I’ve found myself talking to a people from media and other creative organisations, from IT backgrounds (hardly a surprise!) and from the education world, but rarely (outside of Be2camp, of course) found myself talking to individuals from the construction or property space. I suspect the adoption curve for social media in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market will be similar for its adoption of other information and communication technologies: lagging behind other sectors (not always a bad thing, of course – wait until it’s tried and tested and all that).
It may also be an industry mindset issue, too: lots of construction projects are still conducted in a fairly adversarial manner with professional relationships based upon mutual suspicion rather than trust. ‘Partnering’ aka ‘collaborative working’ initiatives have made a difference on some projects, of course, but many professionals will still be wary of building more collaborative relationships, and warier still of doing so through social media – let’s call it Collaboraphobia. (But, particularly in a recession, it is a sobering thought that they may suddenly find they need some good networks; many employment posts are filled because of who you know rather than what you know.)
With adoption of social networking at its highest among young people in schools, colleges and universities, it will be interesting to see if their use of social media continues when they enter the professions. Will those entering architecture, engineering and construction be discouraged or even prevented from using such networks by traditionalists, or will they be the catalyst for Web 2.0 change in the AEC sector? I hope the latter. There is also the risk that if incumbents try to prevent new industry entrants from maintaining their social networks that the AEC sector ends up losing much needed new talent to other industries that have actively embraced Web 2.0.