More than 500 million people are on Facebook and Twitter. And those brand names have come to completely saturate not only the Internet but also mainstream media. It’s hard to turn on a late night talk show or even listen to a sports broadcast without hearing “Facebook” or “Twitter” come up every few minutes.

So it’s no surprise that those companies are starting to eye more advanced marketing and advertising revenue streams. That makes sense: As the sites continue to grow, and as they continue to become more and more intertwined with search engines like Google and Bing, the expectations are that the focus on monetization will increase, too.

Content is the key
But are those social media sites still growing as rapidly as everyone assumes? A recent report from Forrester advises that, while usage of social media sites is increasing, the actual creation of new content on those sites may be on the decline.

“Forrester’s Social Technographics Profile analyzes consumer social behaviors and trends on an annual basis,”’s Jennifer Van Grove explains. “Forrester classifies social network users by type: Creators, Conversationalists, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators and Inactives.

“In the past year, their research shows no measurable growth in the Creators category — the audience that creates social content.”

The number of “Creators” in the U.S. market actually dropped from 24 percent in 2009 to 23 percent last year, Van Grove explains. Japan was the only country that showed an increase in that same category, “growing from 34% to 36% in the past year.”

Passive vs active users
That suggests that many more new social media users are passive than active, preferring to “like” and “re-tweet” more than actually writing and creating new stuff. (That’s still a little hard to believe, too, considering how dense the average Twitter feed and Facebook wall can be.)

But if it is true, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for marketers. Well, for search marketers who are coming up with ways to leverage social media power with SEO, it might be, since fresh content might be a deliverable that can’t be sustained, and that’s going to impact SEO performance, every time.

But for those marketers engaged in social media to network, gain more market share and promote brand awareness, that passive market can still generate results. Those folks might not actively become conversions, but they’re helpful in the social media web, as part of a larger group of friends and peers that can validate your brand and help bring others into the fold.

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