Nielsen Study Says Social Networking, Online Games and E-mail Dominate Online Activities

08.16.2010 | Jeff Wilson

Remember when the first thing you did in the morning was make coffee and sit down with the daily newspaper or tuned in to your local TV news? Now it seems more and more the first thing we do in the morning is log on to our computers and check Facebook, Twitter and e-mail to find out what’s happening around the world, in our neighborhood and within our social circles.

According to a recent study of 200,000 people by The Nielsen Company, Americans spend a large percentage of their time online, surfing social networking sites. Some of the key findings of the study include:

  • 22.7 percent of our time online is spent on social networking sites, which is a 43 percent increase from the same time last year.
  • Online games, e-mail and portals combined, take up just 22.9 percent of our time online.
  • If the U.S. Internet time were condensed into one hour, social networks would take up 13 minutes and 36 seconds. Online games, e-mail and portals would take up just 13 minutes and 42 seconds of one hour.

“Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the Web, 40 percent of U.S. online time is spent on just three activities – social networking, playing games and emailing leaving a whole lot of other sectors fighting for a declining share of the online pie,” said Nielsen analyst Dave Martin.

While it should come as no surprise that Americans spend a great deal of time on social networks, it is becoming more apparent that social networks are a rising form of online communication. E-mail, which was number two last year, saw its usage drop from 11.5 percent in 2009 to 8.3 percent this year. Instant messaging also saw a major hit, declining 15 percent from last year to account for just four percent of our time spent online this year.

More people using social networking sites to communicate online, and the decrease in e-mail usage, could be the reason why online gaming moved up to the number two spot for the first time.  Time spent on online games g increased from 9.3 percent in 2009 to 10.2 percent in 2010, which now take up six minutes of one hour. Another possible reason for the increase in online gaming is the major presence of games on social networking sites.  Games such as Zynga’s Farmville and Mafia Wars have become immensely popular among Facebook users in recent months.

U.S. consumers spend time on the Internet differently when accessing it via a mobile device than when accessing via a computer. Consider the following stats from the same Nielsen study:

  • 41.6 percent, or 25 minutes of one hour, of American’s mobile online time is spent checking and sending e-mails from our mobile phones.
  • 22 percent of American’s mobile online time is spent on portals and social networks, or 13 minutes of one hour.
  • Time spent on social networks on mobile phones increased 28 percent, from 8.3 last year to 10.5 percent in 2010.

The study illustrates that increasingly more of our Internet time is spent on social networks. The reality is social networks play a large role in people’s lives. As people begin to spend more time on social networks, businesses are adapting to this trend and harness the power of social networks to reach key audiences. Businesses will continue to embrace social networks as a way to reach current and potential customers, and customers will look to interact with businesses on a more personal level.

What do you spend most of your time on the Internet doing? Leave us a comment.


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