social media researchIs social media taking over the web?

Just in the last year, the number of social media users has continued to climb at record speed and the audience demographics have widened. And marketers have noticed the trend.

For proof of social media’s steep rise, take a look at the number of statistics that surfaced in the last month.  These findings further support what most of us already believe:  Social media is only getting bigger.

75% of U.S. Households Use Social Networking

Nielson Company, in their report “Internet & Social Media Consumer Insights,” just released some impressive data on social networking activity in the U.S.  The company reported Internet users spent an average of 6 hours, 13 minutes on social networking sites, just in the month of May 2010. That number was just 3 hours, 31 minutes last year.

In addition, the research showed the average U.S. worker spends almost 5.5 hours a month visiting social network sites from the office.  Perhaps the efforts of many companies to ban social networks from the workplace might not be achieving the goal!

The data confirmed that Facebook is still the leading contender of social networking sites with a unique audience of 125.2 million visitors.  Twitter has a unique U.S. audience of 19.1 million visitors (May 2010).  This is a massive growth of more than 1,520% in the last two years!

Other interesting factoids from the Nielson study:

  • 75% of all active U.S. Internet households visited a social networking site in May 2010.  How does that compare globally? In April 2010, the global number was 74%—almost identical to the U.S. percentage.
  • 22% of the time spent online is attributed to social networking sites.
  • 20% of U.S. adults online publish or own a blog.
  • 55% have at least one or more social networking profiles.
  • 20% of those surveyed frequently provide advice about movies, 18% share their opinions about TV shows and 16% often advise others about music.

Three of the World’s Most Popular Brands Are Social Media–Related

Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia have made the list of top online brands, according to a recent Nielson report.

Out of the top online brands such as Google, Apple and Yahoo!, users spent the most time on Facebook per month than any of the other online brands.  That’s pretty impressive considering Google’s and Apple’s worldwide popularity!

Considering that Facebook and YouTube are leading contenders with online powerhouses such as Google and Yahoo!, there's no doubt social networking is moving ahead at record speed!

Have you ever wondered how the U.S. compares to other countries in terms of social networking usage? It turns out that Brazil is actually the most active, with 86% of Internet users visiting social networks.  And Australia takes the lead for most time spent on social networking sites.  They clocked in at 7 hours, 13 minutes in April 2010!

When it comes to Facebook’s reach, Italy takes the lead, having two-thirds of the active unique audience in April 2010. Close behind are Australia, the U.S. and the UK with over 60% of active online consumers.  Take a look at the chart below to see how other countries compare.

Brazil is leading the way in active social networking users; however, Australia steals the lead for time spent on the networking sites.

Social Networking Use Will Reach All-Time High in 2014

In eMarketer’s recent report, “Social Network Demographics and Usage“, it was estimated that 127 million people (57.5% of Internet users) will visit a social networking site at least once a month in 2010.

They attributed the steady rise since 2009 as due in part to the ever-increasing popularity of Facebook. Not only is the number of users growing quickly, but also the audience demographics continue to widen from just teens and young adults. In 2010, they estimated that 59.2% of adult Internet users will visit social networks monthly, up from 52.4% in 2009.

“The connections and interactions that social networking makes possible didn’t even exist a few short years ago,” said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report. “Status updating, commenting and sharing openly are all activities that will not go away.”

The estimates outlined in the report show a steady rise by 2014.  Two-thirds of all Internet users (164.9 million people) will be using social networks on a regular basis.  Two age groups stand out the most:  In 2014, 56.8% of 55- to 64-year-old Internet users will visit social networks regularly (34.3% in 2009).  In addition, 37.9% of seniors 65 and up will be social network users (14.1% in 2009).

These two graphs show the steady rise in social networking use by 2014.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think of these stats?  Will the rise of social networking sites continue?  Will you continue to increase your social networking usage?  Leave your comments below—we want to hear from you!

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  • Did you know that Social Media is a number one leading cause of statistics? And this article proves it 🙂

  • Hey Dino… When you have a LOT of naysayers out there, you need proof. And stats certainly help there! Heck, I wish there were more!

  • …you know Mike, I think we are surrounded by a different demographic. On the mean tweets of Twitterville (thousands apologies for a torrent of puns lol) no one needs to be sold on Social Media; everyone just wants to learn Social Media.

    But I understand the struggle. I’ve done plenty of technology selling to get students excited about the prospect of learning. I’m lucky enough where I can skip that first step nowdays 🙂

    As always…great stuff man….you guys are bringing the sexy back to social media 🙂

    P.S. …and now I have to apologize for outdated pop culture references. Best I stop typing 🙂

  • Amy – such great information – thanks. I’ve already forwarded this on to some of my constituents, as well as a couple of non-believers.
    And to that point Mike, you’re absolutely right about the stats helping with the naysayers. Those of us who have drunk the punch and are on board, doing our social media thing day in and day out sometimes lose sight of the forest, what with all the trees blocking our view of the outside world. As this article points out, lots of households are on board, but I still talk to businesses and business-minded people every day who tell me that they see no reason to share with the world every thought they have or action they take.

    I’ve a newsflash about that outside world, folks…most of the naysayers out there see all this social media stuff as a bunch of kids (or slackers) finding ways to waste time and play on the Internet. And that it’s all just a fad that won’t last, anyway. Stats like these go a long way in helping those of us working within the business world fight the long, uphill battle. Now, if I could just find my koolaid – I think I left it over there by that tree…

  • Dino – I was just on the phone with a Fortune 50 company yesterday (I will not mention their name) and a big group in their company is still questioning the value of social media. You’d be surprised how few businesses are using Facebook right now. And heck, it’s the biggest social network in the world.

  • Thanks Leah – I agree that these stats are still essential.

  • ahh yes.. the ostrich group..I know them well. You have a patience of a saint to put up with that nonsense.

  • These numbers become less impressive each time we look at them, but they certainly prove how ubiquitous social media has become. I, for one, am glad that we are becoming more social online, and I think it’s also contributing to better-educated surfers who now and being “forced” to learn apps and plugins that expand their social media experience with friends, co-workers, and business clients across the board.

    At this rate, it will only be a short while before the tremendous growth begins to slow, but until then I suppose we should enjoy the ride.

  • Anne

    Numerous corporate IT departments are asking themselves whether or not to block social media (Enterprise 2.0) applications like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc. What they often don’t realize is that they can safely enable these applications through the use of smart policies. Smart policies can enable businesses to take advantage of the benefits of these powerful platforms, while risky or counterproductive features can be selectively blocked. Palo Alto Networks has put together a great whitepaper to help you understand how this new firewall technology works. It’s called “To Block or Not. Is That the Question?” and you can find it here:

  • Johanna Hoffmann

    I’m surprised Canada isn’t listed in the Nielsen study. We’re one of the most connected and engaged groups on the www & in social media…

  • I have a friend who’s in marketing in the States (I’m in the UK) and she says she doesn’t have time to do all this social media marketing. She is someone who has spent her career in marketing and I’m amazed, quite frankly, that she doesn’t ‘get it’.

  • I had to come back and thank you for inspiration. The ostrich group from Fortunate 50 (I find “Fortune #’ to be a misnomer) got me thinking about who possesses the exact opposite mentality. Pirates 🙂 arrrr

    So here it is, Pirates and Social Media, together at last lol

  • Tedb

    Naysayers….I like that. I say that those that don’t “get it” are practicing contempt before investigation because of Transparancyphobia.

  • Tranparancyphobia: The fear of being authentic in front of online communities, commonly brought about from contempt before investigation. Seek, listen, share, listen, engage, listen, profit, listen.

  • Clark

    I see this in small businesses, where social media aids greatly, as well w/ non-profits. I believe both could benefit greatly, not to mention the Fortune 50s. How do you explain the importance and help them understand the benefit?

  • Lrdsms

    The stats are astounding. I think the numbers will continue to grow for some time, but some of the players will change. Thanks for a great article about an ever-emerging and ever-changing marketing tool.

  • I don’t think I even want to know how much time per month I spend on facebook and twitter!

  • Laura H.

    For many businesses, it should be a no-brainer to make use of social media, even though so many are resisting it. But there’s a niche that has good reason not to dive in–folks in the financial services industry. FINRA holds a very tight rein on them in general, and specifically in the area of social media. Financial services firms must keep on record EVERYTHING they’ve ever said on social media sites. Blogs are scrutinized closely as well. Any thoughts or comments?

  • I’m with Dino on this one. I LIKE stats — I have to, I’m an economist. That said, I’m generally wary of the use of massive stats, especially when the underlying (often unspoken) motive is to sway readers in a particular direction. In my experience, “proof” is always a two-edged sword, depending on who’s wielding it — just look up that much-recommended book: How To Lie WIth Statistics.I KNOW Amy’s intent in posting these stats wasn’t to sway SME readers– necessarily; she’s built her integrity from prior interactions on this forum.However, I think there’s a bit too much of a “good thing” in this article. You have to wonder about the statistical integrity of the samples used to generate those glowing trends. I get it that there are survey data out there that suggest a growing number of people are turning to social media and that there’s potential for further growth. But the attempt to say it with so many stats from so many/diverse sources borders on “too much”. Few will argue that stats are essential. But if the goal is to win over naysayers (especially businesses on the fence) less stats with strong key correlates is better (real and potentially more convincing ) proof. That’s my opinion, and I’m sure I can find stats to prove it! Have a great weekend everyone!

  • @clark

    That is a complex question Clark. Prob no easy answer either but who am I not to give it a try lol

    Part of it is short-term thinking which is so pervasive with large corps.
    Part of it is the fact that Social Media is social first and media second. Large corps have no idea how to be social.
    Part of it is that large corps are driven by profits, not passion.

    All this in the age where Tom (of Tom’s shoes) has proven that you can lead with altruism first and profits second.
    All this in the age where Gary Vee has proven that you can lead with passion first and profits second.
    All this in the age where American Apparel has proven that you can lead with ethics first and profits second.

    All this in the age where BP has proven that IF you lead with profits first you will yield immeasurable negative externalities second.

    Sorry, I dont mean to use SME as my own personal soapbox…if you would like to get a deeper take on this check out

  • Tonym

    Ok, I see that social media is growing. What I would like to know is how many people search for a business on facebook instead of doing a simple google search. And why is that better. Dosn’t every business that has a facebook page also have a web site?

  • Agreed, Tedb. I’ve found the poo-pooers of social media are exactly the ones who whine and cry about their privacy being invaded by it. As you put it, transparancyphobes.

  • Ram@kamyoo

    Its not about web site and google search .Its how Business engages with thier customers.
    At kamyoo ,our principle for SMB’s, web site does not make sense in terms of costs of developing managing and spending money on google.
    For new businesses ,our recommendation is to start from facebook business page and we firnly believe this change makes lot of business sensce(biz existing in the middle of customer eco system)

  • I think that sometimes the ones who are so close to the coalface perhaps think that this will end their jobs, positions or work, however by putting their heads-in-the-sand approach, they are then realising too late that their competition has got onboard and has past them and left them behind.

  • richard

    The other question might be is social media taking over our lives? it seems to be mine. Great article.

  • I have seen that, due to increase in social media use, many new niche-based social media networks are playing an important part in the overall growth of social media. Whether they find the success of a platform like Facebook or MySpace is an entirely different matter altogether, though.

  • Interesting to see the breakdown in terms of age and will this carry through as people get older, i.e. do teenagers using Myspace migrate to Facebook and Twitter and then to LinkedIn as they move through their working lives.

  • Streetsmartsmarketing

    Very interesting numbers. Always good to see something like this.

  • Great article Amy. I think it is important to look at how quickly things are changing as it effects us all as marketers, as we need to be playing where our audience is playing to get noticed. To be honest I am surprised that the over 30 age groups aren’t higher.

  • Jim Macy

    Actually, I think the government of the US is the most prolific statistic generator and user of bad statistics

  • Man…dont get me started on statisticians…and governments …we’ll be here all day lol But if you want to read a post on statistics I did a while ago, check out

  • Its interesting as an Australian that we spend the most amount of time on social media sites compared to other countries.

  • kellybriefworld

    Excellent post! Very informative. Social media sites provide a venue for people to connect and stay in-touch. They also offer a number of other benefits including aiding in promoting businesses or causes and even recruitment. People in their 60s are discovering that social media sites are a great place for them to stay up-to-date with their grandkids’ lives; companies and recruiters are learning that they are a way to do background or character checks. Unfortunately, companies are still on the fence as to whether social media is useful for business. This is perfectly understandable though since accessing social media sites puts a company’s network at risk. To help you understand the issues surrounding social media sites in the workplace (should you block social media sites or not, how to safely enable social media sites; etc) check out: “To Block or Not. Is that the question?” here:
    Let me know what you think.

  • Hi, David. For those in the social media world (meaning we eat, breath and sleep it!) the numbers might not seem a big deal, but there are so many people/businesses that are confused or on the fence about the power of social media. I know first hand that these stats are more than “less than impressive” to them because they need to see the data to make sense of all the changes happening in online networking/marketing overall. Thanks for your comment!

  • I agree with you. I think people can get overwhelmed so easily. Gary Vee always says what you alluded to here–you can’t NOT make the time to get involved in social media marketing because your competitors will plow over you if that’s the case!

  • Exactly my thoughts, Diane!

  • The best part about it all is seeing the players change. I am always excited to see a new player gain ground and recognition when they start using social media in new ways. Old Spice just did this last week. Check it out here:

  • Thanks for your insight, Rachel. I can see your point for sure. And you are right about my intent–I appreciate you adding that point!

    My goal for this article was more to show just how popular social media topics are all over the web–meaning everywhere you look people are reporting on different social media stats in all different areas. To me that is worth noting overall.

    But I also am a huge fan of case studies to show my clients who are on the fence just how applicable social media marketing can be for their business. Therefore I agree that stats alone are not the best approach to getting someone off the fence and into action mode 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, Rachel!

  • In my opinion, more and more people will begin to check out a FB business page before a website because 1) many people are already inside of FB throughout the day and it is a natural habit to do so now and 2) pages are more interactive than most static websites–and this interaction makes the pages seem more honest, trustworthy–vs a bunch of copy on a website. Just my 2 cents!

  • Richard–I would like to say “no way!” but I would be a bit of a liar then 🙂

  • Sonik

    Did you know that Social Media reach in India is less then 10% of the Internet Users. What it tells me is that there is HUGE growth potential in India.

  • Diane

    Hi Sonik
    Is the reason that Social Media only reaches less than 10%, because people do not have access to the internet, or because only this small % choose to use it?

  • Thats good input but one needs actual time spend for these and i think for business purpose people will do that…still facebook pages are less used as i have seen

    I assume that facebook pages are getting popularity because you can build custom applications, RSS Integration, events and interact with customers or fans

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  • Well Amy, it’s been just over two years… and your article is more relevant than ever. Ran into this post by accident, and it’s a good one. 🙂

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