A news item from Marketing Charts today reports an 82% rise in time spent on social networks, based on research from the Nielsen Company comparing December 2009 with December 2008. Global consumers spent an average of 5 hours 35 minutes in December 2009, compared with 3 hours 3 minutes a year previously, and unique audience figures rose 27% from 242 million in December 08 to 307.4 million in December 09.
Facebook had an almost 100% increase in unique visitors from December to December, while Twitter recorded 579% growth from 2.7 million visitors to 18.1 million.
The MarketingChart piece also cites a recent survey by Prompt Communications of 300 consumers in Boston. This showed that 96% of them used Facebook to communicate with friends and family on a regular basis, which trails the phone (at 99%) but beats text messaging (93%) and email (91%). We saw something similar during a recent client engagement. As part of the assignment we helped create some ‘buyer personas’ for digital music consumers and validated some of these personas on a college campus in Ireland. The 10 students we interviewed rarely used email, and stayed ‘within’ Facebook for the majority of the time they were online each day, using it almost exclusively to interact with classmates, friends and family, partly driven by their wish to keep their mobile phone bills as low as possible.
I’m note sure what the takeaways for B2B marketers and sales teams are just yet – this will depend on the social media usage of decision makers and influencers at your target customer organisations. But based on this research you can assume a lot if not all of your target buyers are active on the social networks. Combined with a predicted surge in smart phone sales (which means more people accessing Facebook and Twitter using these devices while on the road) there are obviously implications for your 2010 promotional plans if you want to be noticed by your prospective customers. One big long term impact could be on email marketing strategy – will email begin to decline in importance as a promotional tool over the next 5 years, replaced by intra-social network messaging?