September 12, 2011, 2:15 PM

Social media dominates the web time of American consumers

Nielsen also shows the tight connection between shopping and social network use.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

When Americans go online they are more likely to visit a social network than engage in any other single category of web activity, according to The Nielsen Co.’s “State of the Media: The Social Media Report.”

Americans spend 22.5% of their web time on Facebook and other social networks; by comparison Americans spend 9.8% of their web time playing games online, the second most popular activity, according to the study.  Nielsen based its findings on a May analysis of consumer web habits.

Here are some of the activities that dominate Internet users’ time followed by the percentage of time spent on each activity:

• Social networks, 22.5%

Online games, 9.8%

• E-mail, 7.6%

• Portals, such as AOL or Yahoo, 4.5%

• Viewing videos and movies, 4.4%

• Search 4.0%

• Instant messaging, 3.3%

• Software manufacturers’ sites, 3.2%

• Classified and auction sites, such as CraigsList and eBay, 2.9%

• Reading about current events, 2.6%

With nearly 80% of Americans on social networks and those social channels dominating the amount of time consumers spend online, Facebook and its competitors are growing increasingly important for retailers, says Radha Subramanyam, Nielsen's head of social media analytics. That’s because 70% of online social network users shop online, 12% more than the average online adult.

"Social is now crucial to the purchasing process for many consumers," she says. 60% of consumers who use three or more digital methods to research a brand or retailer before making a purchase discovered details about that company on a social network. 53% of consumers follow a brand and 48% of shoppers have responded to a retailer’s offer on Facebook or Twitter.

"It is rare to buy something without consulting real-world reviews written by real people," she says. "That's sparking a revolution in which there is the mass production of information about products and services on a global scale that one can access at any time. If it a product is great that information gets out. And, if it isn't great, that gets out too. That means marketers have to adjust to the new reality."

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