Social Networking Grows 93%; Communication Becomes Entertainment

April 3, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Asia-Pacific | Email | Media & Entertainment | Social Media | Youth & Gen X

Social networking among US broadband users has grown an impressive 93% since 2006, and has increased the amount of time people spend communicating online 18%, to 32% of total online time, according to a new report from Netpop Research, LLC that delves into social networking trends and habits.

The “Netpop | Connect: Social Networkers US” report also reveals that at the same time as online communications has increased, the time spent on traditional forms of online entertainment has declined 29%, and is now down to 19% of total online time:


This, Netpop said, is changing the face of how entertainment is defined, and giving rise to a new form of leisure built around talking, sharing, and providing opinions and perspectives.

Social Media Use

The research estimates that 105 million American broadband users (76%) now contribute to social media:


Moreover, though many types of social media are used by less than 10% of broadband users, seven million users are “heavy” social media contributors, who do at least six activities – such as blogging, microblogging, social networking and photo/video sharing – and connect with 248 people on a one-to-many basis in a typical week. This small but powerful proportion of social media contributors are fueling Web 2.0 activity, Netpop said.


Additional research findings:

  • Email is the most popular mode of communication, designed for one-to-one interactions.
  • Instant messaging, texting and social networking are dramatically higher among teens than in the overall broadband population.


  • Photos are the most common type of information shared online, while podcasts are the least common.
  • Blogs are more likely to be shared with co-workers and the public than other forms of shared content.
  • Heavy contributors are likely to be younger and are just as likely to be women as men; they are more likely to contribute content that reflects their interests and opinions.
  • 54% of micro-bloggers post or “tweet” daily and 72% of micro-bloggers under age 18 post or “tweet” daily

These findings have many implications for marketers and others with a stake in the social media world, the report said. Among them:

  • Websites need to give more space to user-generated content to enhance content and connect directly with users or users will create their own venues that are harder for companies to track and participate with effectively. Gartner recently released research to support this idea, suggeting that online newspapers, in particular, should employ more social media content.
  • Marketing, customer service and consumer intelligence departments need to converge to understand and address the impact of social media
  • New ways of engaging consumers must be developed that enable companies to listen to and promote their brands through information sharing based on mutual respect and transparent communication.
  • The report contains additional data about the use and frequency of 20 online communication and social media channels, age differences in use and frequency of social media users, information about public vs. private sharing of Web 2.0 comments and content, and profiles of six Web 2.0 brands: Digg, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp and YouTube, to identify the types of users and unique motivations that drive usage of these sites

Chinese Social Media Use Surpasses US

Related research from Netpop also examines the social networking environment in China and finds that 92% of the 243 million broadband consumers in that country (224 million) ages 13+ contribute to social media. This is compared with only 76% of the American broadband population.

Additional findings about Chinese users:

  • China has a sizable proportion of social media contributors who participate in many Web 2.0 activities, including blogs, micro-blogs, social media, video and photo sharing
  • 43% of Chinese broadband users (105 million) contribute to forums and discussion boards.
  • Young professionals ages 25-29 are the most active users of social media in China. They use more online modes of communication more often than any other age group.
  • 37 percent of bloggers, or 29 million bloggers, post to blogs on a daily basis.
  • 41 million Chinese are heavy social media contributors (6+ activities) who connect with 84 people on a ‘one-to-many’ basis in a typical week.

For Chinese Netizens, Netpop said, social media add exponentially to the sources and perspectives available online and represent a new experience for a country accustomed to a single source for media and information.
About the US survey: The report on US broadband users is based on an online survey of 4,384 broadband users ages 13+ and was conducted in September and October 2008. Respondents were selected from research panels using Netpop’s MarketMirror sampling methodology to ensure that participants are representative of the internet population in the target country based on age and gender.


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