Richard Messik, Chartered Accountant and Co-founder of Cloud Advocates

Ever since ancient civilisations recorded events on stone tablets, and probably earlier, the ability to disseminate information has played a pivotal role in the development and intellectual growth of the human race.

The invention of the printing press was a seminal enhancement in the method of transmitting knowledge to a wider audience and, arguably, the growth of the Internet has played no lesser part in the history of communication - fundamentally changing the way we impart and gain information and communicate with each other.

And whereas the Internet was a late 20th Century innovation, Social Media in all its forms is a 21st Century pivotal progression in the science of communication.

It seemingly came out of nowhere, developed by bored university students (if popular myth is to be believed) and hit a nerve amongst the younger generation (reader; define younger as it suits you!) - and probably has saved a generation of parents a fortune in telephone charges as their children no longer needed to spend hours on the telephone to impart the latest and most important gossip of the day.

As with all innovations, many different social media brands have sprung up - some have continued to flourish whilst others withered on the vine of popular acceptance. However, those that have survived have gained followers in hitherto unbelievable numbers.

It has grown exponentially in the last five years as the following would indicate:

- One in every nine people on Earth is on Facebook (calculated by dividing the planets 6.94 billion people by Facebook’s 750 million users)

- People spend 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook

- Each Facebook user spends on average 15 hours and 33 minutes a month on the site

- More than 250 million people access Facebook through their mobile devices

- More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook

- 30 billion pieces of content is shared on Facebook each month

- 300,000 users helped translate Facebook into 70 languages

- People on Facebook install 20 million “Apps” every day

- YouTube has 490 million unique users who visit every month (as of February 2011)

- YouTube generates 92 billion page views per month (These YouTube stats don’t include videos viewed on phones and embedded in websites)

- Users on YouTube spend a total of 2.9 billion hours per month (326,294 years)

- Wikipedia hosts 17 million articles

- Wikipedia authors total over 91,000 contributors

- People upload 3,000 images to Flickr (the photo sharing social media site) every minute

- Flickr hosts over 5 billion images

- 190 million average Tweets per day occur on Twitter (May 2011)

- Twitter is handling 1.6 billion queries per day

- Twitter is adding nearly 500,000 users a day

- Google+ has more than 25 million users

- Google+ was the fastest social network to reach 10 million users at 16 days (Twitter took 780 days and Facebook 852 days)

Source: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/the-growth-of-social-media-an-infographic/32788/

Psychologists have had a field day, attempting to outdo each other by providing explanations as to why the generation of today wish to share their experiences, and thoughts, however banal, with - almost literally - the whole world. And why, indeed, others want to know about them.

A rather tongue-in-cheek way of explaining the various brands of social media is:

Perhaps a little unfair but it does, nevertheless, give the general idea.

Whichever brand is used, Social Media is here to stay.

Richard Messik is a Chartered Accountant who specialises in Cloud Computing. He is a co founder of Cloud Advocates,an association of consultants who aim to demystify the Cloud and provide pragmatic help and advice for businesses, organizations and accounting practices. To find out more, visit http://cloudadvocates.com/