Nielsen's "State of the Media: The Social Media Report," compiled in May 2011, looks at the role social media plays in consumers' lives. Americans spent 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook's site in May from computers at home and work, up 6% compared with the previous year. Blogger came in at No. 2 with 723 million minutes; Tumblr, 623 million; Twitter, 565 million and LinkedIn, 325 million.
Web properties heavily focused on search appear to trail considerably when it comes to minutes spent on the site. Yahoo, Google, AOL, MSN and YouTube fell well behind with 17.2 million minutes, 12.5 million, 11.4 million, 9.5 million, and 9.1 million, respectively.
Social needs to integrate strategies from HR to marketing to sourcing, said Radha Subramanyam, Nielsen's senior vice president of media and advertising insights and analytics. "Social is the world's biggest focus group," she said.
Keeping social in a silo continues to become the biggest mistake company execs make, Subramanyam said. "It's dangerous when social remains its own department in the company because it tends to get buried," she said, suggesting integrating social into other media such as search.
Since U.S. Internet users spend more time on Facebook compared with any other Web brand, the question is whether Google will integrate Google+ more closely with search. Subramanyam called Google's ability to sign 10 million people on Google+ in 10 weeks "impressive," and said other companies have built a strong foundation as well.
Tumblr has grown to become the eighth-largest U.S. site, jumping 183% to 11,870 in the past year. Blogs, groups and other sites remaining in the first generation of social media continue to do well, she said. The site became a popular conversation topic, generating an average of 21,280 messages and links per day to the site during May 2011.
About 60% of social media users create reviews for products and services to help others make choices. The medium has become fundamental in helping people make choices, which could explain Google's recent acquisition of Zagat -- which Subramanyam calls one of the "oldest forms of user-generated media" that moved to the mobile phone to support local businesses.
About 40% of consumers now use social services on mobile phones, but as Subramanyam points out, these social features are only second to GPS use on mobile. "It highlights that social has become a functional part of life," she said.
Social has begun to attract consumers who did not grow up with mobile services. More than twice as many people age 55+ now visit social networking sites on their mobile phone, compared with last year.
The report also analyzes how social media influences offline activities. When compared with the average adult Internet user, those who use social networks are 75% more likely to spend heavily on digital music; 45% more likely to go on a date; 47% more likely to spend heavily on clothing, shoes and accessories; 33% more likely to give their opinion on TV programming; 26% more likely to give their opinion on politics and current events; 19% more likely to attend sports events; and 18% more likely to work out at a health club.