A new Nielsen study, "What Americans Do Online," shows that Americans spend a growing percentage of their time online visiting social networking sites. Businesses need to be aware of trends like this in order to focus marketing efforts where the target audience spends its time.
Social networking and other next-generation Web tools and services are changing the face of the Internet. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are growing exponentially. Facebook just passed 500 million users, and Twitter just sent its 20 billionth tweet. Companies need to grasp how to take advantage of these platforms to communicate effectively with customers.
The Nielsen study tracked the online activity of 200,000 users, comparing June 2010 against June 2009. What Nielsen found is that the portion of time invested on social networking sites grew nearly 50 percent, from 16 to 23 percent of total time spent online, and that social gaming surpassed e-mail to take the number two position.
Bloomberg's Businessweek reports that the Nielsen study also revealed that the use of Web portals is on the decline, dropping from 5.5 percent to 4.4 percent of online time. Ironically, Yahoo beat out both Google and Microsoft to be the captain of that sinking ship, as well as the leader in both e-mail and instant messaging.
It is also worth noting that the social network audience is getting more mature and culturally diverse. Nielsen found that twice as many users over the age of 50 are using social networks than are users under age 18. For businesses looking to use social networks as a marketing platform, these demographic details are important.
The only other area that saw sharp growth from 2009 to 2010 was the viewing of online videos such as those at YouTube. It is a different type of platform than Facebook or Twitter, but still social in nature. Just look at how Old Spice managed to combine YouTube videos with social network messaging to create an Internet marketing sensation overnight.
Companies still waste money paying for placement in the Yellow Pages. You know the book, that giant stack of paper that a random stranger litters your porch with, until you eventually throw it in the recycling bin.
If your customers are spending more time online, and most of that time is spent on social networks, then that is where the marketing and advertising budget should be spent.