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social network growthSocial networks continue to grow, and increasingly they're becoming a core part of Americans' online lives. This according to a just-released Experian study rife with interesting numbers, but also with misleading terminology surrounding consumer social media habits, most notably the loaded (and misapplied) term "addiction".

The survey finds 43 percent of users say they visit social media sites (mostly Facebook) multiple times per day, up 28 percent over last year. Yet Experian's haste to dub this "addiction" or the more tacit implication this is somehow a boon for marketers must be tempered with what people are using social networking for.

In a nutshell, social network sites are quickly becoming as essential as email for people keeping in touch with family and friends - and to a lesser extent, colleagues. The report finds 17 percent of social networkers communicate with their parents and 22 percent connect with their children, up from 9 percent and 15 percent, respectively, a year ago.

Email has long been the #1 online activity. Search is #2. Social network communications are certainly supplementing the former, but are certainly no more deserving of the perjorative "addiction" label than is email activity.

Sixty-eight percent of social network users say they've become fans (or in more currently terminology, top social network brands by channel"liked") something on the sites they frequent. While it cannot be assumed that brands are fully accountable for all this activity, the report does rank the top brands consumers are connecting with socially, broken down by channel. Interestingly, lower-end retail sites such as H&M and Hot Topic top Facebook and MySpace, while the more upscale Nordstrom dominates Twitter. Heavy social networkers are more likely to be found in the Northwest, and in areas with heavy concentrations of colleges and universities.

The takeaway from the report is likely that as social network communications rapidly become as essential to consumers as email, it's rapidly becoming critical that businesses, partcularly B2C organizations, develop ways of integrating email communications with social media. But don't get carried away -- social networks have not replaced the email channel, and are unlikely ever to do so. However they are adding a level of choice  - and with it, complexity - to the marketing mix.

Rebecca Lieb

Published 25 June, 2010 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

Follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

160 more posts from this author

Comments (5)


Will Paccione

Good article. Though, is it possible to make the images bigger so I can read them? Thanks!

over 6 years ago


Scott Wallask

Yikes, where to begin -- the headline brings up a statistic that the story never addresses. I had to go the Experian Simmons report itself to see what it said to confirm your headline.

Also, the headline is misleading -- it's not half of US adults who visit Facebook each month, it's half of US online users. That's a big difference (180 adult Internet users vs. 228 million US adults).

Also, be careful with attribution. The research company is Experian Simmons. Experian (without Simmons) is one of the companies that keeps track of consumer credit scores.

over 6 years ago

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb, Digital Marketing Consultant & Author at self-employed

I stand corrected, Scott, and have updated the headline.

over 6 years ago


cristene aka hermione1 on twitter

Three things 1. I think you're wrong on social media replacing email. That requires a generational examination and much more data on the connectedness of people, devices and content. While I can't prove that assertion, I do know there is research underway to attempt to do so. With the adoption curve to social media increasing dramatically, the way content reaches us is different. With relevant geo-location data and the ability to serve information in real time, the timeliness of content is different. With the ability to place content in context to consumer and place, the content will change. Those three factors will create the equation that makes email far less important - at least in places where privacy is not as controversial an issue (read: US) Email will be expressly challenged by other other more op-tempo information. I'd take odds that email becomes the snail-mail of tomorrow in the next 24 months. This is even truer if you look at the volume of realistic emails triangulated for spam: http://www.trustedsource.org/ by McAfee As I said, without a solid user study across large populations, it becomes hard to trace, but the odds are in favor of more social, less private and better aggregated media. 2. addiction is an awful word 3. allow the images to be opened in a larger format, put a creative commons license on them if need be. Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz Chief Scientist, www.CovalentMarketing.com

over 6 years ago


Rebecca Lieb

Cristene, I don't think we disagree here. I couldn't agree with you more that email will not be replaced by social media. Rather, I tried to point out that social media activity seems to be reaching email levels, i.e. the #1 daily internet activity (search is #2). And "addicton" is indeed the wrong word to apply to any of this, as pointed out in the very first paragraph. Regards, Rebecca

over 6 years ago

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