Facebook now accounts for 1 in every 6 page views in the UK

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Manhattanbound traffic
Image by LarimdaME via Flickr

Facebook accounts for 1 in every 6 page views in the UK. It is the most popular social network in the UK, with 55% of all visits to such sites, and contributes to social networks now accounting for 11.5% of all internet visits in the UK. This data from from a recent report from Hitwise looking at use of social media and social networking sites. It shows the growing importance of social media not just as a place to engage your audience, but also as a traffic driver.

With 11.5% of all internet visits, social media sites now account for more activity online than the combined visits to Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Social media continues to increase its lead over search engines and as it does so its roles as a source of traffic is taking ever-increasing prominence. Whilst Google remains, the largest driver of traffic to UK sites, now 1 in 10 visits originates from Facebook - making the social network the second biggest driver of traffic as well as the most visited social network. It lead the pack by considerable distance - with YouTube in a distant second place.

And this figure is growing. Taking just online retail sites as an example, the Hitwise report shows that traffic from social media sites has risen by 13% in the year to September 2010 with 9.1% of visits to all online retailers now coming from social media. This supports our own experience with Jimmy Choo, where we are seeing traffic from Facebook to the ecommerce site increasing at an astonishing rate month-on-month.

So social networks are not only taking an increasingly important part of our online experience, but also a real driver of traffic. Brands should acknowledge this and build a social media strategy that acknowledges social media as a place to engage and also to drive traffic to their ecommerce or other sites. Understanding where social media plays in the ecosystem of your brand online, how your outreach on social networks, blogs and other such sites sits alongside your main site, is critical. Build a real and clear understanding of who you are engaging, where. And make sure you are capitalising on this growing and increasingly important pattern of social media sites driving real traffic. Including a true social search strategy to compete with and compliment your existing SEO strategies.

Download the Hitwise report: Getting to grips with Social Media

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Social Media: it’s bigger than you might think

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We know that social media and social networks are big and that it is growing. And two reports out this month seem to confirm this for both the US and the UK.

First, in the US, the latest report from Pew Internet on Adults and Social Networks shows that membership of social networking sites in the US has increased over  the last four year. In fact it has increased more than four-fold, from 8% of US adults in 2005, to 35% of US adults in 2008. Impressive growth and a seemingly impressive statistic: more than one in every three adults in the US has a profile in a social network. That’s more than 27 million people in the US using social networks.

In the UK, research from Hitwise reports that social networks account for 10% of UK internet traffic during the Christmas period at the end of 2008. On one day (Christmas Day in fact) 1 in every 22 UK Internet visits was made to just one social network, Facebook, up 69% on the previous year.

Both of these reports are impressive and show the power and reach of social networks, and in particular how traffic and membership has grown rapidly in the last few years. However, I suspect both underestimate the scale of social media, social networking and online communities.

In 2008 we saw a rapid increase in both online communities, and websites adding a social layer - introducing widgets or social media tools. Whilst there has been considerable and significant growth in social networks, there has been a real surge in people engaging on other sites and communities online.

The Pew Internet research, for example, includes the main social networks (and indeed some others) but does not include Ning communities, those using Meetup, Delicious, LiveJournal or even Twitter. Let alone the large online communities such as TripAdvisor, or the more niche online communities such as Nike+.

It’s not that either of these pieces of research are intentionally missing things out, but more that they are looking at just a part of the picture. I think we are missing all the data we need to complete this. We don’t know how many people are taking part in online communities, but anecdotal evidence from the communities that we run at FreshNetworks would suggest that there are a lot of people who join online communities but are not members of social networks. This would mean that the total number of people engaged in social media, using tools and engaging online is much bigger than we might think. Potentially much much bigger.

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Social networking more popular than porn

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It’s official. Where once pornography was the most popular thing searched for on the Internet, social networking has now taken its place. So says research reported in today’s Daily Telegraph. The finding comes from the the work of Bill Tancer, Head of Research at HitWise, and is based on analysing the search habits of 10 million Internet users.

Porn has long been the most popularly searched subject on the web, indeed Tancer’s research shows that a decade ago one in every five searches performed was porn-related. Today that figure is closer to one in ten, with a significant drop in searches among the 18-24 year olds. More people are searching for social networking. As Tancer observes:

As social networking traffic has increased, visits to porn sites have decreased. My theory is that young users spend so much time on social networks that they don’t have time to look at adult sites.

I agree in part with Tancer’s observation. It is probably true that young people are spending more time on social networking sites than on adult sites. But I am not necessarily convinced that it is because they are spending so much time on social networks that they don’t have time for porn. Rather I think that this research reflects a growing maturity in the way we use the Internet.

The real progress we are witnessing with Web2.0 is that we are moving from an environment where information (be it news, product information or even pornography) is pushed out on the web by publishers, to one where the web is more about the way people interact. When it was just about pushing out information then the main reason people used the Internet was to find something that they couldn’t find elsewhere, or that wasn’t easily available to them. This was fertile ground for pornography, making it easier for people to find and view in relative privacy. Now the web is about interacting, about finding people and answers to questions rather than just information that others have put online. In this environment there are so many more things that people can do online. They can find people like them, they can ask questions of people in similar situations and they can interact with real people rather than just with content uploaded by publishers.

So while I agree that people spend more time on social networking than ever before, I think the real reason that social networking has overtaken porn on the web is more to do with the ever increasing opportunities that the web now presents. It is suited to more things and to interactions rather than just viewing content. The web has developed and it is no longer the place it was.

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How social media changes the world for good

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There’s a great set of slides from Neil Perkin about online communities and marketing. He shows how social media is changing and the impact it is having. How the changes in social media are permanent and having a profound impact upon communications.

I think the presentation is great and, although there are many out there talking about communities and marketing, this is really clear and a good tool to use with people getting used to the changes in media and communications and the opportunities and challenges this is presenting them with.

In particular I like the emphasis on both how social media is actually leading a fundamental change in what we understand by communiciations and marketing, but also on how it is actually a human and not technology-driven change. Social media is exactly that, social.

See Neil’s slides below:

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