Nielsen recently released a new report that officially documents what many of us already know, just never substantiated through data. According to a study published at the end of January 2010, Nielsen observed the online social activity of consumers around the world and discovered an 82% increase in time spent on social networking sites in December 2009. On average, users spent more than five and a half hours on popular networks such as Facebook and Twitter in December 2009. In December 2008, users clocked just over three hours on social networking sites.
The audience for Social Networks also increased year-over-year for the last three years, reaching an estimated audience of over 300 million.
Specifically, online visitors concentrated their time on social networks and blogs, placing them ahead of other forms of engagement and interaction including online games and instant messaging. Facebook led the way for all social networks however, with over 200 million visitors, representing 67% of all social media users in December 2009. As such, Facebook earned the number one position as the top global social networking destination with users spending nearly six hours per month on the site.
In the U.S., time spent participating in social networks and reading blogs increased 210% year-over-year and the average time per person grew by 143% year-over-year in December 2009. Media darlings Facebook and Twitter captured the greatest volume of attention and engagement, outpacing the overall growth for the category at 200% and 368% respectively. And despite the grim reports that portray a leveling-off or possibly a dwindling of visitors, depending on which data you source, Nielsen reports that Twitter continued its reign as the fastest-growing social network in December 2009 as measured by unique visitors. With 18.1 million uniques, Twitter’s audience increased 579% year-over-year, from 2.7 million in December 2008. However, Nielsen also observed a decrease of 5% in unique visitors when viewed month-over-month.
Facebook and Twitter were alone in the competition for attracting visitors. MySpace, Classmates, and even LinkedIn realized year-over-year declines in unique visitors.
Social Networking is a global phenomenon and while the largest audience resides in the U.S., Australia boasts the highest amount of time spent in social networks per person (6:52:28), followed by the U.S. (6:09:13), the United Kingdom (6:07:54), and Italy (6:00:07).
When reviewing the size of the audiences for social media around the world, we see a substantial, but expected divergence between each country.
|Unique Audience (000)
|Time per Person (hh:mm:ss)
|Source: The Nielsen Company
As brands and marketers seek guidance and inspiration to engage customers, influencers, and stakeholders, their efforts only increase in importance. User attention is going to continue to focus on activity within social networks, and their potential reach is far greater than any one country.
Users celebrate the democratization of information sharing and discovery and they’re taking to social networks to cast their voice. The art and science of true engagement is measured by our ability to connect with people for greater durations and at deeper levels over time. And, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The competition for attention is substantial and therefore requires an increased sense of awareness, empathy and intelligence in order to conceptualize creative yet meaningful content and programs that captivate the people we hope to reach. It’s the difference between activating the social web and inciting consequential action and response that’s directed, measured, and memorable. In social media, we are defining and shaping experiences that either increase affinity or simply earn attention.
As I believe, in the race for relevance, we earn the relationships we deserve. And as such, we must choose between visibility and presence. In the attention economy, presence is felt.
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