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Nearly four in ten internet-connected adults in Canada (37%) have visited an online social network or online social community and three in ten (29%) have placed a profile on at least one such site, a new study by Ipsos Reid has found.

Younger Canadian adults are much more likely to have visited such websites and placed a personal profile on at least one of them, according to “Online Socialization, Social Networking and Online Communities”:

  • Nearly two-thirds of 18-34-year-olds (63%) have visited an online social network or community, and more than half of (55%) have placed a personal profile on at least one.
  • Three in ten 35-54-year-olds (29%) have visited such a site, and one in five (21%) have placed a personal profile on one.
  • One in five Canadians age 55 and older (20%) have visited an online social network or community, and one in ten (9%) have placed a personal profile on one.

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Most visitors of such sites end up putting on a profile: With nearly four in ten internet-connected adults in Canada (37%) having visited an online social network or online social community, and three in ten (29%) having placed a personal profile, nearly eight in ten visitors have been converted to users.

“This is a staggering result given that these sites didn’t exist four years ago. Facebook launched in early 2004, as did MSN Spaces, two of the largest such sites on the internet,” said Scott Patton, senior research manager in Western Canada. “The growth in use of these sites simply hasn’t been matched by any other internet activities we’ve ever seen.”

Other findings and data from the Ipsos Reid study:

  • Canadian adults who have heard of or visited an online social network spend an average of 5.4 hours per week browsing and using online social networks.
  • Facebook users spend the most time online using the site per week - an average of 5.9 hours - among all online social network users in Canada.

ipsos-reid-canada-online-social-network-time-spent-using.jpg

  • Facebook is the most popular online social network among Canadian adults with a personal profile on such a site:
    • Two-thirds of adult internet users in Canada who have placed a personal profile on an online social network or online community have one on Facebook (65%).
    • One in five have a personal profile on Classmates.com (20%).
    • One in seven have a profile on MySpace (15%) and one in eight on Windows Live Space (13%).
  • The use of online social networks may not continue to increase as rapidly as it already has:
    • Fewer than one in ten adults (8%) in Canada who have visited an online social network, but who have not placed a personal profile on one, say they are likely to place a personal profile on an online social network in the next 12 months.

    ipsos-reid-canada-online-social-network-non-user-likelihood-of-activity.jpg

    • Of that 8%, seven in ten (72%) say they are very unlikely to do so.
    • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of internet users in Canada who have not already visited an online social network say they are simply not interested in doing so.
    • Seven in ten (69%) who have not visited such a site say they are very unlikely to visit one in the next 12 months.
  • Nevertheless, Canadian adults who use online social networks will remain a significant demographic for years to come: Penetration of the internet is nearly total among those currently in the 18-to-54-year-old age bracket (more than 90% have access), and their high use of online social networks will likely continue as they age.
  • There are opportunities for marketers interested in targeting this core demographic of online social network users, who are more active online:
    • More than four in ten Canadian adults who have visited an online social network (44%) say they visit one of these sites on a weekly basis, with about half of these people saying they visit daily (20% of all visitors overall).
    • Three-quarters of online social network visitors (75%) have also comparison-shopped for products and services online (compared with only 57% among those who have never visited an online social network).
    • A similar number have made purchases of products or services directly online (77% among online social network visitors, compared with only 65% of non-visitors).
    • Online social network visitors are more likely to have clicked on a website advertisement: two-thirds of visitors (65%) have done so compared with only half of non-visitors (50%).

“Given the differences in online behavior between users and non-users, plus the sheer number of hours spent online by people visiting social network sites, the opportunities simply cannot be ignored from a marketing perspective,” Patton said. “Visitors to these sites are more apt to respond to a marketing message and make a purchase online…. The challenge is to decide which online social network to partner with when targeting your customers.”

About the study (pdf): The “Online Socialization, Social Networking and Online Communities” survey is a special feature of the Ipsos Canadian Inter@ctive Reid Report, Quarter 2, 2007 – which studies quarterly internet trends in Canada. The results are based on two separate data collection instruments. In the first, 1,000 web users from Ipsos Reid’s Canadian Internet Panel are surveyed online. Panelists are chosen through random telephone surveys conducted on an ongoing basis across Canada. Results are complemented by a further 1,000 interviews via telephone with Canadian adults in order to verify results of the panel, and track issues among non-internet users. Telephone interviews for this release were conducted from July 26 to 30, 2007; the online data was collected from July 31 to August 7, 2007. These data are statistically weighted to reflect the population proportions of regular online users by online expertise and regional distribution.

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