More than two-thirds (67%) of the global* online population visits social networks and blogs, and participation in these "member communities" is now the fourth most popular online category - behind search, portals, and PC software, but ahead of personal email use, according to research from Nielsen Online (via MarketingCharts).
Use of member communities is also growing twice as fast as any of the other four largest sectors, and three times faster than the overall internet, states the "Global Faces and Networked Places" (pdf) report.
Social networking and blogging now account for nearly 10% of all time spent on the internet and have "become a fundamental part of the global online experience," said John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online. "While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing. Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large. This study explains why.
"According to the Nielsen report, Facebook - the world's most popular social network - is visited monthly by three in every 10 people online across the nine markets in which Nielsen tracks social networking use. Orkut in Brazil has the largest domestic online reach (70%) of any social network in these markets.
Other research findings:
- One in every 11 minutes online globally is accounted for by social network and blogging sites.
- The social network and blogging audience is becoming more diverse in terms of age: the biggest increase in visitors during 2008 to "member community" Web sites globally came from the 35-49 year old age group (+11.3 million).
- Mobile is playing an increasingly important role in social networking. UK mobile Web users have the greatest propensity to visit a social network through their handset, with 23% (2 million people) doing so, compared with 19% in the US (10.6 million people). These numbers are an increase over last year - up 249% in the UK and 156% in the US.
Among the markets Nielsen measured, penetration of visits to social networks and blogs was highest in Brazil, where 80% of the online audience visits such sites:
The share of overall internet time for which social networks and blogs account is also highest in Brazil, where nearly one in four (23%) of minutes spent online is spent on these sites:
Germany saw the greatest increase in penetration of social networks and blogs across 2008, from 39% of the online audience in December 2007 to 51% in December 2008 - a relative growth of 39%.
'Advertising' Most Closely Associated with 'False'
The report also provides recommendations for advertisers to help them understand the world of social media and potential opportunities within it. An analysis of social media sites by Nielsen BuzzMetrics reveals that the term most closely associated with advertising is the word "false." Advertisers need to understand the social media market before they can begin to try to monetize it, Nielsen said.
"Social networking isn't just growing rapidly, it's evolving - both in terms of a broader audience and compelling new functionality,” said Alex Burmaster, author of the study and communications director at Nielsen Online. "We felt compelled to analyze the state of the social networking market globally and consider what implications this has for our publisher and advertiser clients."
Many studies have been done on the various social effects of the social networking craze. While some believe it to be a dangerous addiction that can withdraw people from reality and prevent them from developing social skills, others maintain people that use the web to supplement their real-world relationships and make plans to socialize.
About the research: The report provides insights into the changing size and audience composition of the global social networking audience and the increasing share of Internet time for which it accounts. The report also analyzes how the major players are faring and what advertisers and publishers can do to take advantage of the social network phenomenon.
*"Global" and "World" encompass the following countries in which Nielsen Online has a NetView panel: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, UK and US.