The Social Networking Experience

According to Nielsen’s new U.S. Consumer Usage Report 2012, nearly 120 million people within television homes own four or more TV sets, and 16% of television homes own a tablet. Smartphone owners officially make up the majority of mobile subscribers, as 56% owned a smartphone as of Q3 2012. Additionally, the number of social media users continues to increase across all platforms as consumers use social networking as a vehicle to navigate the media universe.

The personal computer is still at the center of the social networking experience, but consumers are increasingly looking to other devices to connect on social media. Time spent on mobile apps and the mobile web account for 63% of the year-over-year growth in overall time spent using social media. 46% of social media users say they use their smartphone to access social media; 16% say they connect to social media using a tablet.

While Facebook and Twitter continue to be among the most popular social networks, Pinterest emerged as one of the breakout stars in social media for 2012, boasting the largest year-over-year increase in both unique audience and time spent of any social network across PC, mobile web, and apps.

As of June 2012, more than 33% of Twitter users had actively tweeted about TV-related content. Some 44% of U.S. tablet owners and 38% of U.S. smartphone owners use their devices daily to access social media while watching television.

Whether through a computer or mobile phone, consumers continue to spend increasing amounts of time on the Internet. Time spent on PCs and smartphones was up 21% from July 2011 to July 2012. App time more than doubled during this period as more smartphone owners entered the market and the number of available apps multiplied.

Overall Unique U.S. Audience


July 2011

July 2012


Mobile Web




Mobile apps








Source: Nielsen Social Media Report, January 2013

When it comes to accessing social content, it's all about mobile, particularly apps. App usage now accounts for more than a third of social networking time across PCs and mobile devices. Compared to last year, consumers increased their social app time by 76%, spending more than seven times more minutes on apps than the mobile web.

While the social media audience via PC declined 5% from a year ago, time spent increased 24% over the same period, suggesting that users are more deeply engaged, says the report. And, though the computer is still the primary device used to access social media, the last year saw significant increases in usage, most notably through tablets and Internet-enabled TVs.

Connected Media 2012


% of Respondents



Mobile web




Internet enabled television




Game console


Handheld music player


Source: Nielsen Social Media Report, January 2013

41% of tablet owners and 38% of smartphone owners use their device daily while in front of their TV screen. Social networking is a top activity on both devices, but people aren’t just chatting with their social connections, they’re also shopping and looking up relevant program and product info.

Nearly a quarter of people aged 18-34 use social media to comment on what they like/dislike about a storyline while watching. Adults aged 35-44 are the most likely to discuss television programming with their social connections

Simultaneous TV/Mobile Device Usage, U.S.


Mobile Phone


Visited a social networking site during the program



Looked up information related to the TV program being watched



Looked up product information for an advertisement seen on TV



Looked up coupons or deals related to an advertisement seen on TV



Source: Nielsen Social Media Report, January 2013

While a third of people find ads on social networks to be annoying, more than a quarter of people are more likely to pay attention to an ad posted by a friend:

  • 33% agree that ads on social networking sites are more annoying than other online ads
  • 26% are more likely to pay attention to an ad that has been posted by one of their social network acquaintances
  • 26% are okay with ads that are ID'd based on their profile information
  • 17% feel more connected to brands seen on social networking websites

To access the PDF file for more insights on the consumer media universe, please visit here.


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