Americans Increasingly Hooked On Facebook, Twitter

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Social networking sites are swallowing an increasing amount of America’s online surfing time, new research has revealed

A new report from Nielsen Company titled “What Americans Do Online” has revealed that social networking sites and online games are surpassing web portals like Yahoo and email in usage terms.

Nielsen surveyed 200,000 users from June 2009 to June 2010 and found that the amount of time users spent on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the cadre of social sites grew from 16 percent to 23 percent.

Web 2.0 Sea Change

Social network use was followed by web games at 10 percent. Games such as Zynga’s Farmville overtook email in the No. 2 slot for time spent online for the users polled. Half of all Americans using the web spend some time playing games, Nielsen said.

It’s the sign of a sea shift. Web portals such as Yahoo and AOL and their associated email clients are symbols of the Web 1.0 period, which appears Jurassic-like for people in bed with current, popular Web 2.0 technologies.

Nielsen analyst Dave Martin told BusinessWeek that Facebook is ostensibly the new email:

“You can start your daily online experience on Facebook and perform many essential communications functions,” Martin said. “In the past, you might have to log into Yahoo Mail and then log into MSN Messenger and then maybe check the Yahoo home page for new, breaking news.”

Indeed, web users spent only 4.4 percent of their time on portals in June compared to 5.5 percent of the time from June 2009.

Email Now Old School

Time spent sifting through email dipped to 8.3 percent from 12 percent, meaning users are clearly doing conducting messaging and collaboration tasks with Facebook, Twitter or other social sites.

Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and others of their ilk are paving the way for new revenue opportunities in social advertising and virtual goods.

Facebook’s like button is proving popular, with more than 300,000 websites installing it to help let people see what their friends are interested in.

Amazon, for example, offers a button that lets users connect with Facebook to see what other people are interested in.

Twitter last month launched its @earlybird account to let users share promotions for movie tickets and travel websites.

Zynga, already a fixture on Facebook with Farmville and Mafia Wars, has banked some $520 million (£329 million) in investments from VCs and Google, which will use Zynga at the core of its social network strategy.

Combined, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have close to one billion users, or roughly 20 percent of the population, all over the world.

Advertisers can capitalise on these websites, as well as location-based services from Foursquare, Brightkite and Gowalla, by coming up with innovative campaigns.

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