Ofcom CMR 2010 – Social Media

Some further thoughts culled from Ofcom’s recently released Communications Market Report 2010. This time focusing on the use of social media sites.

Social networking now accounts for a quarter of all time spent online

In April 2007 social networking and blogs accounted for 9% of UK users’ total internet time, according to audience data from UKOM/Nielsen. By April 2010, this had risen to 23%.

Proportion of adults who access social networking sites on the internet at home

Use of social networking has continued to grow rapidly among all age groups.

Younger people are more likely to access social networking sites, but it is by no means exclusively a young person’s activity;

  • 61% of 15- 34s claim to use social networking sites, compared to 40% of all adults aged 16+.
  • Nearly half (48%) of 35-54s use social networking sites, as do 20% of 55-64s (up 7% over the past year).

However, usage patterns vary substantially between age groups.

  • 89% of 15-24s who access social networking sites do so weekly, but just 50% of 55-64s with a profile do so.

All demographics have seen an annual rise of at least ten percentage points in the number of people claiming to have social networking profiles.

  • ABC1s (46%, up from 35%)
  • C2s (39% up from 29%)
  • DEs (30%, up from 19%).
  • Women (42%) were slightly more likely than men (39%) to claim to access these sites.

Despite the growth of social networking among older age groups, and the high penetration among younger age groups, its take-up still lags behind total internet take-up, with around 45% of those who have internet access at home saying that no one in their household accesses social networking sites.

Proportion of time spent social networking, by device

A fifth of 16-24s’ time spent social networking is on mobile devices

Social networking sites have taken advantage of the growing popularity of the mobile internet and the increasing take-up of smartphones. Most sites now have mobile-friendly versions and specific applications (apps) for smartphones. The importance of mobile social networking is highlighted by Facebook, which claims that more than 100 million users access its site through mobile devices, and that such users are twice as active on Facebook as non-mobile users.

Data from Ofcom’s consumer’s digital day research show that using mobile devices to access social networking sites is particularly popular among younger adults (Figure 4.6). A fifth (20%) of the time they spend social networking is via a mobile device. This compares to the average of 15% for all adults who use social networking sites. The proportion of time spent social networking on mobile devices drops off rapidly among over-45s, at under 4%.

Google, Microsoft and Facebook are the most popular internet brands

Google has the highest reach of any online brand in the UK, with 87% of active users (someone who used an internet-enabled computer in May 2010) visiting a Google site in May 2010. This equates to 56% of the total UK population. MSN and Facebook were the next most popular brands, reaching 70% and 64% of all active users (45% and 41% of the population) respectively.

Facebook users spend more time social networking than users of other sites

While Google is the leading brand in terms of reach, Facebook leads in terms of average time spent per person. Facebook users spend substantially more time on the site than users of other social networking sites; 6 hours 30 minutes in April 2010 (an average of 13 minutes a day), down since a peak in November 2009 of 8 hours 39 minutes (17 minutes a day). Bebo was the next most intensively used site, with users spending an average of just under an hour on the site in April 2010. For most other sites the figure was around half an hour or less.

Experience of creative activities, by age

Audiences for many user-generated content sites continue to grow.

According to data from UKOM/Nielsen, many UGC sites’ audiences are growing steadily, although annual growth rates are falling. Photobox (30%), Wikipedia (19%), Blogger (16%) and WordPress.com (6%) all experienced solid growth in the year to May 2010.

YouTube remains the most popular video-sharing site, with nearly 17.5 million unique visitors in May 2010, an increase of more than two million in a year. But it is increasingly difficult to categorise YouTube purely as a UGC site, since it hosts a significant amount of professionally produced content made available by film studios, broadcasters, record labels and other content providers. For example, in November 2009 Channel 4 made its 4OD catch-up and archive service available through YouTube, and in December 2009 Five made similar content from its Demand Five service available on the video-sharing site.

But…apart from photo sharing and social networking, most internet users have little interest in UGC.

Ofcom research into user-generated content shows that social networking and photo-sharing are very popular. But most other activities are minority pursuits that do not arouse much interest in the wider population of people with internet access.

  • 49% upload photos to a website,  9% more expressed interest in doing this in the future.
  • 44% claim to have set up a social network profile (double the level of 2007) 5% expressing an interest.
  • Commenting on blogs grew from 19% to 27%.
  • The number of people expressing interest in setting up their own website fell from 17% to 12%.

All activities except social networking and photo-sharing generated relatively low levels of interest (at least 64% of internet users indicated that they were ‘not interested’).

Young people were most likely to have engaged in user-generated content activities online.

  • A quarter (26%) of 16-24 year olds claimed to have made a short video and uploaded it to a website,
  • Only 2% of people aged 55+ with internet access make the same claim.

In general, the older an internet user is, the less likely they are to have experience of a given UGC activity. However, the exception to this rule appears to be contributing to collaborative websites such as Wikipedia; 25-34 year olds were as likely to have done this as 16-24 year-olds (17%).

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