Social networking 'more popular than email'

Two thirds (67%) of Brits are now using 'member communities' (such as social networks and blogs, boosted by growing mobile internet users, according to new research. The findings, from Nielsen Online, indicate that 'Member Communities' now make up the fourth most popular category online - ahead of personal email. The top three online categories are search, portals, and PC software, according to Nielsen. "Social networking has 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. Facebook has its greatest reach in the UK market (47 percent). Orkut in Brazil has the largest domestic online reach (70 percent) of any social network in these markets. The report, "Global Faces and Networked Places" available today, 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 analyses how the major players are faring and what advertisers and publishers can do to take advantage of the social network phenomenon. Other key findings include:
  • One in every 11 minutes online globally is accounted for by social network and blogging sites. In the UK, these sites now account for one in every six minutes.
  • 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. Nielsen found UK mobile Web users have the greatest propensity to visit a social network through their handset, with 23 percent (2 million people) doing so, compared to 19 percent in the US (10.6 million people). These numbers are a big increase over last year - 249 percent in the UK and 156 percent in the US.
"Social networking isn't just growing rapidly, it's evolving - both in terms of a broader audience and compelling new functionality," says Alex Burmaster, author of the study and Communications Director across EMEA for 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." Among the markets Nielsen measured, penetration of visits to social networks and blogs was highest in Brazil, where 80 percent of the online audience visits such sites (see Chart 1). The share of overall Internet time for which social networks and blogs account is also highest in Brazil, where nearly one in four (23 percent) of minutes spent online is spent on these sites. Following Brazil was the UK, where over one in six minutes (17 percent) is spent on these sites. Germany saw the greatest increase in penetration of social networks and blogs across 2008, from 39 percent of the online audience in December 2007 to 51 percent in December 2008 - an actual increase of over 12 percent points. Following Germany was the UK, where the sector grew from 59 percent to 69 percent - an increase of 10 percentage points. The full report is available for download today on the Nielsen Website.

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