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Consumers Spend 20-30% of Time Online in Social; Ad Tolerance Improving [Study]

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Consumers spend more time on social networks than on any category of websites; total time spent on social increased 37 percent YoY this July, at 121 billion minutes that month. PC users spend approximately 20 percent of their online time in social networks, while mobile users are even more prolific at 30 percent, according to a recent Nielsen study.

PCs are still the most popular way to access a social site, though mobile apps and mobile web access has risen 63 percent in 2012.

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Facebook continues to dominate the social scene as the most-visited social network in the U.S. 152.2 million visitors access Facebook via PC, while mobile apps see 78.4 million users and the mobile web is responsible for another 74.3 million. According to Nielsen, Facebook is multiple times the size of the next largest social site across each platform.

Consumers have countless social sites to choose from, with Blogger, Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn and Pinterest coming in after Facebook in order of popularity.

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“Consumer attitudes towards advertising on social media are still evolving,” noted Deirdre Bannon, Nielsen’s social media practice lead. “Though roughly one-third of social media users find ads on social networking sites more annoying than other types of Internet advertisements, research suggests there are opportunities for marketers to engage with consumers via social media.”

Google+ VP Bradley Horowitz slammed Facebook recently for “pissing off users” with in-stream ads on their social platform, something Google+ will never do, he said.

His comment was the topic of discussion in the final segment of SEW Weekly last week, with guests Carolyn Shelby from Tribune Companies and SEW Director Jonathan Allen. As much as Google+ fans and execs would like to believe Facebook users are angry, they don’t seem to be turning away from the site. Many don’t even seem to mind the ads.

“More than a quarter of social media users say they are more likely to pay attention to an ad shared by one of their social connections,” Bannon noted. “Additionally, more than a quarter of consumers are OK with seeing ads on social networking sites tailored to them based on their profile information.”

Facebook decision-makers are well aware of the delicate balance between the social and advertising experiences. Sheryl Sandberg told Q3 2012 earnings call investors they are testing and monitoring user engagement and sentiment carefully. Some revenue is moving from the righthand column to the newsfeed; Facebook is doing this intentionally, as “that’s where the action is on mobile.”

“We really don’t think user experience and marketer experience are in conflict. We think when we do it well, they work together,” Sandberg said at the time.

Nielsen’s report shows that tolerance to social advertising is increasing and social networking is no longer in its infancy. See the full Social Media Report 2012 for more insights.


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