networkers around the word
Universal McCann’s “Power to the People: Social Media Tracker” study, now in its fourth year, indicates that social networks continue to climb in popularity around the world. But the research firm believes a change is happening in social media: Internet users are “starting to focus their digital life” around single networks, rather than around many specialized tools with social features.
The study found a major increase in the percentage of US Internet users with a social network profile between 2008 and 2009. This year, 59% of active Web users—those with access at least every other day—reported having a profile, up 16 percentage points. Previous gains were in the single digits.
eMarketer estimates that 44.2% of all Internet users in the US are social network users, meaning they log on to such sites at least monthly. Logically, Universal McCann’s figure is higher, since its respondents may have created a profile but use social networks less often.
According to the “Power to the People” report, the US is far from tops in social networking activity. Seven other countries polled had higher percentages of Internet users with a social network profile. Russia, which came in first at 85.3%, also had one of the fastest growth trajectories—just 23.1% of Internet users in the country had a social network profile in 2006, the first year of polling.
Worldwide, 62.5% of active Internet users ages 16 to 54 have a social network profile in 2009. In addition, 71.1% have visited a friend’s profile page.
Universal McCann also sees a “decline or stasis” in the use of separate sites for activities such as blogging and photo-sharing. Instead, users are looking to social networks that consolidate multiple social media in a single place.
“These platforms—and there are different dominant players depending on the market—continue to grow even as other elements of the social media universe stagnate or decline,” wrote the report’s authors.
Evidence of this consolidation can be found in the top social networking site activities reported in 2009. Messaging friends was most popular, with 81.5% of users, but the No. 2 activity was uploading photos (76.3%). About one-third of users installed “useful” widgets on their profile, and another one-third have uploaded videos on their social networks. Almost three in 10 respondents used their social network as a blogging platform.
As noted above, despite consolidation social media is not a one-stop shop. Universal McCann advises marketers to give consumers options when engaging them through social media. Allowing individuals to share and discuss on their platform of choice remains important.
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