Photo: birgerking/Flickr (Creative Commons)

survey from Gartner has revealed that, while social media usage continues to grow, early adopters are showing signs of fatigue. According to the survey, which gathered the views of 6,000 people, “24 percent of respondents indicated that they were using their main social site “a little less” or “a lot less” than when they first started using it”.

Now this is very much in line with my own experience and anecdotal findings through friends and clients – and it’s close to my heart. For those people who joined Facebook early on, the buzz of having connected with friends, poked them, seen their holiday snaps, and chatted a few times has started to fade. Is this down to feed burn-out (i.e. too many irrelevant updates), or a lack of new and interesting features? Perhaps it’s just our usual habit of becoming bored with things after a while – or maybe we’ve run out of things to say?

It’s probably a mix of these things. early adopters are, by definition, keen and savvy, so in my view, if we’re getting bored with Facebook (and possibly also Twitter), it’s because those sites haven’t developed with us. Instead they’ve done what big business always does: look for the easy customer – in this case in new territories – and, just keep cranking the same old lever. After all, if it ain’t broke…

The problem is: for many of us it is broke.

Look how Google+ has taken the best interactive elements of Facebook, added better privacy controls and a smarter UI and sparked our interest again. Look how better Twitter apps are than Twitter itself: the mute feature on Echofon that allows you to switch off overly chatty friends (or hashtags), or the multiple time-lines you can set up on TweetBot (both iPhone apps). Think how much better the usability is when you monitor your network updates and post-to-all through social media dashboards like Hootsuite or MarketMeSuite.

The large social networks have been failing their early adopters for a couple of years now. As a result, we ‘re leaving in droves. Chris Brogan is one of the highest profile figures to commit facebook suicide and shift to Google+, but there are millions of less prominent users who feel the same.  I’ve been pretty disillusioned with Twitters treatment of it’s 3rd party app developers, so I was pleased to see the launch of Heello. Admittedly, it’s a Twitter clone at the moment, but this is a market that desperately needs competition to regain it’s mojo.

Is competition the answer? Are privacy concerns an issue? Have we started to lose faith in our online friends and their recommendations? I’d be interested to hear some thoughts on this.