New Report Points to Social Media Explosion

| June 18, 2009

Social networks are exploding in popularity. Forty-three percent of the online community now uses social networking sites, including FacebookMySpace and LinkedIn. This is up from 27 percent a year ago, reports The Conference Board and TNS.

The Consumer Internet Barometer, a quarterly report produced by The Conference Board, the global business membership and research association, and TNS, a global market insight and information group, surveys 10,000 households across the country and tracks who's doing what on the Internet.

More than half of social networkers log on at least once a day, and the majority log on several times a day. Interacting with family, friends and celebrities are among the main reasons people log on to sites like Twitter. The majority of users log on at home, although a quarter of social networkers log on at work, and 10 percent connect through their phone.

Social networking spans all generations. Today, about 19 percent of those age 55 and over visit these sites, up from just 6 percent a year ago. Women are more likely than men to use social networking sites (48 percent versus 38 percent), but usage has increased dramatically among both groups in just a year.

"Social media is here to stay," says Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Online social networks are more than just a fad among the younger generation. They've become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. They're an effective way to keep in touch with people, connect with friends and family, and network with colleagues. Social media will also transform marketing as we know it. They're powerful communication tools, and are becoming an essential part of successful marketing strategies."

"Social media has transformed the way individuals connect and communicate with one another," says Anita Watkins, senior vice president at TNS. "Smart marketers are utilizing this behavior to their advantage by setting up online communities in which consumers can freely interact, discuss and debate issues around products, services and brands in a natural way. Companies are listening in to these conversations and harnessing the power of influencers to co-create their marketing strategies."

Facebook ranks most popular
The most popular site is Facebook, used by 78 percent of online households, followed by MySpace (42 percent), LinkedIn (17 percent) and Twitter (10 percent).

Both men and women use Facebook in equal numbers. However, women are more likely than men (47 percent versus 35 percent) to use MySpace. Conversely, more men than women (21 percent versus 15 percent) use LinkedIn. Across generations, Facebook usage is about equal, but when it comes to MySpace, those under 35 are more likely to have an account than their older counterparts.

When asked with whom they would like more access/interaction with, celebrities (15 percent) topped the list, with favorite company (14 percent), service providers (13 percent) and athletes/sports teams (11 percent) not far behind.

The top concerns of social networking members -- expressed by about 50 percent -- are viruses/malware, exposure of information to strangers and lack of privacy. Women tend to be moderately more concerned than men. Only 14 percent claim they have no concerns, compared to 22 percent of men.

Twitter encourages closer connections
Members of Twitter, the real-time micro-blogging website, say their top reasons for "tweeting" are to connect with friends (42 percent), update their status (29 percent) and look for news (26 percent). They also use Twitter for work-related (22 percent) reasons. Two out of three Twitter users interact with friends. Thirty percent interact with family, 30 percent connect with celebrities, and 24 percent interact with other bloggers. Members of Twitter also are likely to interact with TV shows, employers, co-workers, companies/brands and TV anchors/journalists.

Among Twitter users, half report being introduced to the site by a friend or family member, and one out of three were introduced by a co-worker.

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