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Consumers are using social network-aided “mass mingling” to come closer together, both online and in the real world, according to consumer insights firm trendwatching.com.

Despite stereotypes of online media creating isolation for its users, trendwatching.com research finds hundreds of millions of people globally are living large parts of their lives online. Social media users are actively searching for, finding, connecting/signaling, and staying in touch with like-minded people in the virtual world. In addition, constant updates, GPS and mobile online access is now bringing online dating, networking, socializing and mingling to the “real world” domain.

trendwatching.com calls this phenomenon “Mass Mingling.” The company has identified three drivers of the Mass Mingling trend:

People Love to Connect
Mass Mingling follows what trendwatching.com calls the pattern of any consumer trend, whereby an existing human need is unlocked in a new way. In this case, interacting with other people – a fundamental need (which goes beyond simply enjoying one another’s company, or being emotionally dependent on other people) has become easier thanks to new technology. And this is taking place in unprecedented quantities, with people creating personal networks more extensive and relevant than previously possible.

To illustrate the depth of connectivity, trendwatching offers the following statistics:

  • Twitter has more than 100 million users who send 50 million tweets a day.
  • Facebook has close to 500 million users with an average of 135 friends each.
  • LinkedIn has more than 65 million users, with a new user joining every second.
  • Meetup, a social networking engine that creates real world events for members of virtual networks, has 6.1 million members.
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of online teens and (72%) young adults (72%) use social network sites. Seventy-three percent of adult profile owners use Facebook, 48% have a profile on MySpace and 14% use LinkedIn.

People Love the ‘Real World’
Numerous real world activities and happenings that result from Mass Mingling now occur; including concerts, festivals, and seminars; a bar/dining/party scene; retailing; and tourism/travel. The mobile web makes it easier to link the virtual and real worlds, as mobile internet users can remain connected online while participating in an event outside their home or office.

An Info Layer on Top of Daily Life
trendwatching.com identifies an all-encompassing information layer on top of real-world daily life, that (especially when mobile and location-based), turns ‘connecting’ into 24/7 and ‘on the go,’ further blurring the boundaries between online and offline.

This layer has created a space in which following, finding, tracking, connecting to, and ultimately (spontaneously) meeting up in the real world with interesting known and unknown people will be easy, automatic, instinctive, convenient, and even natural. And thus, for many, connecting to ‘strangers’ is rapidly becoming second nature.

Business Opportunities
trendwatching.com advises marketers seeking to obtain business opportunities from the rise of Mass Mingling to focus on developing services and products which facilitate people getting in touch; traveling; or finding, attending and following up on real-life meetup events. In addition, online brands and companies will need to develop a real-world presence (and vice versa) to meet the needs of consumers engaged in Mass Mingling.

Top 10 Consumer Trends for 2010
trendwatching.com initially identified Mass Mingling as a top 10 consumer trend to watch during 2010. Other top trends for this year include a need for corporate transparency and honesty, the increasing urbanization of global consumers, the availability of real-time reviews, desire for ‘luxury’ without a consistent definition of the term, desire for products that make “green” living easy, the rise of tracking and alerting technology, growing consumer charity, desire for online privacy, and desire for edgy, controversial products and services.

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