Social networks eat up Americans' online time

Nielsen report shows social networking has reached 'killer app' status, one analyst notes (see chart below)

A new survey shows that Americans are increasingly transfixed with social networking sites, with Facebook grabbing more of our time than any other blog or social media.

Social networks and blogs are taking up more and more of Americans time online, now accounting for nearly a quarter of our time spent on the Internet, according Nielsen's social media report. Internet users in the U.S. spend more than twice as much time on social networks than they do in the second-most popular category: playing online games.

Facebook is the top destination of all social networks and blogs. Nielsen reported that 140 million people visited Facebook in May. That's 70% of all active U.S. Internet users. Google's Blogger came in second with a distant 50 million visitors that month, while Twitter was in the third spot with 23 million.

In addition to more people using Facebook, they also spend the most time at that site.

According to Nielsen, Facebook users spent 53.5 billion minutes on the site this past May. By comparison, users spent 17.5 billion minutes on Yahoo in the same month. Google users spent 12.5 billion minutes there.

"I'm not all that surprised to see that people spend 25% of their online time on social networks," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "Social networks have become the online focus for many new computer users -- particularly older people who might not have extensively used computers in their working lives."

Olds is right. Nielsen reported that users 55 and older are the fastest growing group on social networks. However, people aged between 18 and 34 are the most active age group.

"I think social networking might have reached that 'killer app' status where it draws people into computing who haven't been there before," Olds added.

The report, which just came out this week, also notes that people are increasingly using sites like Facebook and Twitter when they're shopping.

According to Nielsen, 70% of active online adult social networkers shop online, 12% more likely than the average adult Internet user.

Time spent online

Category Pct
Social networks & blogs 22.5
Online games   9.8
Email   7.6
Portals   4.5
Videos/movies   4.4
Search   4.0
IM   3.3
SW mnfrs   3.2
Classifieds/auctions   2.9
News/current events   2.6
Other 35.1
Source: Nielsen Q3 2011 Social Media Report, measuring top 10 online categories for U.S. Internet users

"Social media's popularity continues to grow, connecting people with just about everything they watch and buy," the study noted. "In the U.S., social networks and blogs reach nearly 80% of active U.S. Internet users and represent the majority of Americans' time online."

And while we're connecting and shopping online more and more, we're also doing so with our mobile devices. Nielsen noted that about 40% of social media users access sites from their smartphones.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at  @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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