Is the web simply a tool for chatter?


5 Aug 2010

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New research from The Nielsen Company has found that almost a quarter of time spent online is on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

These figures are impressive because just one year ago only 15.8pc of time was spent social networking, making this a 43pc increase, and it’s not all about posting Facebook updates or YouTube comments. In general, it seems as though the web has become a noisy hub for chit-chat as Nielsen found that just over a third of online time for Americans is dedicated to email, instant messaging and social networking combined.

A smaller-scale survey by social-media firm Simply Zesty carried out last year had a look at the social-media habits of the Irish. It found that 90pc of people have access to social networking sites in their place of work and 25pc of us spend an impressive two hours plus on these sites while still at work!

It’s not all social ‘notworking’ though: O2 Ireland carried out a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) study on social-media habits in May 2010 and found that sites including Facebook and LinkedIn are being used for business-networking benefits. Twenty-three per cent of SME executives are members of a business or professional social-media site. Specifically, 18pc said they have a profile on LinkedIn while 15pc are Facebook members and 10pc hold a Twitter account.

Blogging on the rise

Blogging is also growing – 9pc of SME executives in Ireland have a blog, in comparison to the 5pc who had one in 2009, and 13pc read and comment on other blogs out there.

While it’s interesting to see the personal and business benefits of networking and chatting online, is it not remarkable that with all of the things you can do online we are essentially just making it an extension of the handshake and the phone? What we really want to do is connect with others.

"Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the web, 40pc of US online time is spent on just three activities – social networking, playing games and emailing – leaving a whole lot of other sectors fighting for a declining share of the online pie," said Nielsen analyst Dave Martin of its latest study.

The most popular social networking site in Ireland is Facebook. There are currently 1.597 million of us using it, according to Facebakers.com, which means that about 36pc of the entire Irish population (circa 4.5 million) are posting, poking, pinging and ploughing (on FarmVille, that is).

In comparison to the Irish population online, this percentage shoots up to 56.43pc penetration. And it may very well be true that girls like to talk a little more than guys because of the 1.597 million Facebook users here in Ireland, 864,180 are female in comparison to the 720,940 guys – that’s 55pc female to 45pc male.

Breaking down the age demographic the majority of users (34pc) are aged between 25 and 34 years of age and the second biggest age group at 25pc is the 18-24 bracket. In comparison, user behaviour in the US is not much different: the split between female and male is 56pc and 44pc while the two biggest age demographics are only slightly different with 25-34-year-olds at 25pc and 18-24-year-olds at 24pc.

The US remains the top country on Facebook in terms of user base, with Indonesia coming in second followed by the UK, Turkey and France. Ireland enjoys 38th position but the user base is growing rapidly by the month.