|According to a new study, social networkers, a giant swath of online users, represent the changing face of the Web and media at large. There are now 146 million "Social Networkers" in the U.S., adults age 18 and older, who have used a social networking site at least once in the last month.
Social media is primarily used for "staying-in-touch". But a quarter of social time has become a key form of entertainment, reading posts, looking at photos and watching videos. A fifth of social time is spent getting information, going beyond just staying-in-touch with friends and family.
By 2006, 70 per cent of the U.S. adult population was online and growing at a much slower pace than seen at the end of the 20th century. What has changed is how people spend their time online. The major driver of that change, says the report, is social networking or, more generally, social media.
The vast majority of Internet users in the U.S. use social networking sites at least once a month or more frequently. Based on the number of U.S. Internet users who use social networking sites, social networking, has grown 356 per cent since 2006.
Social Networkers mirror the demographic profile of Internet users in the U.S. Social media is not only for the "tech-savvy," says the report, it is used by all demographic groups. Though slightly younger and more female, social networkers generally mirror the demographic profile of the overall U.S. online population.
Of all the time social networkers currently spend online, 18 per cent is spent on social media activities. Interestingly, more time is still spent on email, suggesting email is still a more important way to communicate. 22 per cent of online time is spent accessing entertainment content like games, videos and music. The remaining 33 per cent of time is spent on task-oriented endeavours - looking up information, doing online banking and shopping:
• Email 27 per cent
• Entertainment 22 per cent
• Social Media 18 per cent
• Productivity 12 per cent
• Information 11 per cent
• Shopping 10 per cent
Social networking consumes a substantive portion of users' average time online per weekday. Social networkers still spend more time on email and entertainment (compared to social), but less time compared to task-oriented activities such as shopping, reference, and banking
College-aged users show a stronger preference for social networking than email, reflecting the popularity of social networking among students. Once students graduate from school and enter the workforce, however, email usage is likely to increase. So while social networking may potentially surpass email as the online population grows-up, that trend is likely to be tempered by the importance of email in the workplace.
Comparing younger and older users by gender, younger women are the social media "mavens". Women age 18 to 24 spend 25 per cent of their online time on social media, and another 22 per cent on email. Older women, by contrast, allocate much more time to email. Among men, the story is different. Men age 18 to 24 are spending most of their online time on entertainment (28 per cent), while older men are primarily on email.
Social networking has broad appeal, but younger women are doing it the most, followed by younger men. The graph is also showing that the online experience, as a whole, is much more about communication and entertainment than information and productivity. Across all age groups, approximately two-thirds of all online time is spent on social, email and entertainment activities.