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Has social networking reached its saturation point?

This post was written by Mirna Bard, a social media consultant, speaker, author and instructor of social media at the University of California at Irvine.

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Do you believe social networking has reached its saturation point?

  • No — there is plenty of room for growth and newcomers — 46.15%
  • Not yet, but we may be getting close to that point — 30.04%
  • Yes — the number of social networks is getting overwhelming — 21.61%
  • Not sure — it’s all confusing to me — 2.20%

I’ve heard the above question asked since probably 2008. The truth is, no one can absolutely predict where social networking is headed. Anything can happen — popular social networking websites may go under and new ones may be on the rise; users may drop off and new generations may jump on.

Although a recent report from eMarketer predicts a slowdown in social networking in the next couple of years, I still don’t think we are remotely close to the saturation point. Call it a hunch, but I feel there is a lot more room for growth and newcomers, whether it’s the number of users or the amount of social networks.

The main reason I have this gut feeling is because there have been numerous conflicting reports over the years about the growth and popularity of social networks. One report may point toward the growth of social networking, and another may predict its decline. It sure seems misleading, doesn’t it?

Of course, nothing lasts forever. Every trend reaches a saturation point when it matures. However, many people are still joining social networking sites and there are still many that have yet to join. Remember, with each new wave of users, social networking will become even more a part of everyday life than it was before.

In addition, whether Facebook will always be the shiny object is yet to be seen. There is plenty of room and potential for the rise of new websites  that are more appealing than existing social networks. Today’s sites have only opened our eyes to all the ocean of possibilities, and the party on the social Web is just getting started.

So, the question is, not whether social networking has reached its saturation point, but when will it reach this point? Where do you think we are with social networking, and do you see it slowing anytime soon?