According to a time use survey compiled by comScore Media Metric, the average American spends 33.9 hours on the Internet every week. Depending on age and other demographics, this number can double! And for those lucky individuals whose occupations rely primarily on computers: the Internet commands their lives and they are never not connected.
Computers have drastically changed the technological landscape. The Internet has facilitated efficiency in a number of offline processes. We use the web to communicate with our family, friends and business acquaintances in real-time chats. Books and other multimedia are available for online viewing and instant download. We can even shop for gifts online – often offered at a deeper discount than in brick-and-mortar stores! The Internet has revolutionized the way that we live, as we now spend one-sixth of our lives in the digital world.
Exhibit 1: 100 Most-Visited Websites by category, according to Google Ad Planner
Where are we actually spending our time online?
Google has compiled a list of the 100 most-visited websites in the United States. (Being the modest company that they are, Google has chosen to omit their website and statistics from the study.) These 100 websites are sorted into six categories: social networking, search engines, shopping, entertainment, business and software.
The Internet can deliver information instantaneously, so naturally search engines and other information-related websites comprise the most popular category – sites ranging from web portals, such as Yahoo! and Bing, to encyclopedias and other how-to pages, such as Wikipedia and eHow. Closely tailing search engines are online shopping and other e-commerce websites – pages such as Amazon, eBay and Walmart – followed, in descending order, by the categories Entertainment, Social Networking, Business and Software.
Social networks are defined as any and all websites that are personal communities, professional networks, blogs, dating communities, deal of the day websites and other content sharing sites. It is significant that social media occupy the fourth largest category, as these websites have only gained popularity within the past few years. In fact, two of the top three websites in America are “social” sites. The number one site, Facebook, is the largest social network in the world with over 800 million loyal users. YouTube trails behind this social giant as the second most popular social network, and the third most popular website in the US.
Which social sites are Americans frequenting the most?
Americans have become fully absorbed in the social networking infrastructure. According to Nielsen, social media has engrossed 22% of our total time online. The chart, “Total Reach of Social Networks,” reveals the percentage of Americans that are logged-in to the 15 most-popular networks in the country. The most popular social network is Facebook, with a total national reach of over 67%. Close in proximity is YouTube, with 54.7% of the population viewing, sharing and commenting on videos posted by others around the globe. Other social networks are used by less than half of the population – networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn, and blogging websites such as Blogspot and WordPress.
Another sub-category of social networks has made it to the top-100. Within the past year, the deal-of-the-day industry has flourished. There are dozens of competing websites, but the two that have thus far generated the bulk of the traffic and seized the largest marketing share are Living Social and Groupon. Consumers flock to these websites for the great discounts on a variety of products, services and activities. Only 5% of the United States population is connected to these sites. However, in another year it is predicted that the reach of these sites will more than double as the popularity of these sites is accelerating at an enthusiastic rate.
Exhibit 2: Total Reach of Social Networks in the US, according to Google Ad Planner
Which Americans are on social networks?
Of the 310 million individuals in the United States, at least 210 million are actively participating in social networks. Who are these individuals? According to Google, the majority of users are women. Females are more active participants in social media than their counterparts. Women are especially more active on deal of the day social networks – where users typically register in order to receive coupons. In fact, the only social network where men have the greater presence is LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network. This may be correlated to the fact that men hold higher-level positions in the US workforce than women. Currently out of the running Fortune 500 companies, there are only 16 female CEOs (as told by USA Today). Even more shocking is that this is the greatest number of women that have ever held this position at the same time.
Exhibit 3: Social Media Usage by Gender in the US, according to Google Ad Planner
In regards to age, the correlation shows that younger individuals prefer more active social networks, whereas older individuals prefer networks where there is an emphasis on content retrieval. Senior citizens are most active on deal of the day sites, which provide coupons and other group discounts for those that chose to lead active lifestyles. On the other hand, the media of choice for younger generations appear to be networks where regular, active participation is encouraged. Teenagers and kids flock to social sharing sites such as YouTube and Photobucket, an image hosting website. For young adults, blogs and other weblog sites that facilitate comments and sharing are most popular. Overall, the group that has the largest presence on social media is adults. The majority of the users of the 15 most-visited social sites are between the ages of 35 and 54 years of age.
Exhibit 4: Social Media Usage by Age in the US, according to Google Ad Planner
How important are demographics?
The Internet and technologies that make the Internet more accessible for us have been strongly embedded into modern culture. Laptops, smart phones, tablets and mp3 players with Internet access are consumed by all age groups. Internet users flee to the web not just for information, but also to shop, communicate and consume multimedia. The increase in Internet consumption has led us to spend more time in the digital world and less time in the real world – one-sixth less time to be exact.
The media patterns of target audiences are changing. Marketers need to redevelop their marketing strategies in order to better influence target audiences and stimulate them to consume. The most successful advertisers are those that are able to reach their audiences through multiple channels. In modern America, this requires integrating an online marketing strategy.
Using the demographics of our ideal buyer persona, we can learn which websites our target audiences are frequenting. These trending websites will prove to be the best online locations to advertise to these individuals. If the ideal buyer is a 35 year old soccer mom, then research shows that it would be useful to advertise on deal of the day websites that women in this age group tend to frequent. Alternatively, if our ideal candidate is a business executive that works long hours for a prestigious law firm, LinkedIn advertisements would be the indisputable way to go.
All in all, social media shows us that demographics matter. Using factors such as age, gender and nationality we can determine an online marketing strategy that will lead to effective advertising results. More targeted marketing leads to increased sales and a healthier business.
“Average Time Spent Online per U.S. Visitor in 2010.” The ComScore Data Mine. 13 Jan. 2011. Web. 08 Nov. 2011.
“Led by Facebook, Twitter, Global Time Spent on Social Media Sites up 82% Year over Year.” Web log post. Nielsen Wire. The Nielsen Company, 22 Jan. 2011. Web. 09 Nov. 2011.
Petrecca, Laura. “Women ‘Fortune’ 500 CEOs Hits Record” USATODAY.com. USA Today. A Gannett Company, 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.
“Social Networks/Blogs Now Account for One in Every Four and a Half Minutes Online.” Web log post. Nielsen Wire. The Nielsen Company, 15 Jan. 2010. Web. 09 Nov. 2011.
“The 100 Most-visited Sites: United States.” Doubleclick Ad Planner. Google, Jan. 2011. Web. 03 Nov. 2011.
“US & World Population Clock.” Census Bureau Home Page. U.S. Census Bureau, 31 Oct. 2011. Web. 09 Nov. 2011.