Social networks continue to grow in dominance and for the first time ever, social media has become the single biggest activity online in the UK, overtaking the Entertainment category.
During January 2011 social networks accounted for 12.4% of all UK Internet visits. Across the 9,000 social networks that we monitor, there were over 2.4 billion visits from UK Internet users during the month – more than in any other month on record.
In our latest social media report, “Carpe diem – Seizing the moment in Social Media” you can see how quickly social networks are growing online. In 2010 alone visits to the Experian Hitwise Social Networks and Forums category increased by 17%. Not only are people visiting social sites more regularly, the time they spend on these websites is increasing, with the average session time spent on a social network in January 2011 being 22 minutes.
The range and diversity of social networks is also on the up. Facebook may be the dominant social network in the UK, accounting for 56% of traffic to the industry during January, but social media users are rarely tied exclusively to just one social network. Indeed, the interaction between different social sites is significant, as users dart between multiple networks in order to chat to their various groups of friends and associates.
Obviously social networks compete amongst themselves for users, but many of those users have a presence on multiple networks. One in every eight people leaving a social network visits another one immediately after, something that is encouraged by the connections that exist between the networks. Facebook, for example, is a key source of traffic for many smaller social networks; while almost a fifth of people leaving Twitter go on to visit another social network.
Social networks have become a key source of traffic from many websites, particularly those distributing content and chasing ‘eyeballs’. But transactional websites – those selling goods or services such as travel or insurance online – still rely primarily on search for their traffic and therefore sales. Successful transactional websites will be those that learn to harness the power of social networks, driving traffic through to their own websites.