Social Networking More Popular Than Email, More Profitable Than…Er…Um

Published on March 9, 2009
by John Paczkowski

nielsenHard to believe, but social networking has eclipsed email in popularity. The latest Nielsen survey (PDF) found that 66.8 percent of the global online population spends time at “Member Communities,” a category that includes both blogs and social networks. That makes social networking about two percent more popular than email, with one in every 11 minutes online globally spent on Facebook, MySpace, etc.

That’s a lot of Superpokin’….

Apparently our self-righteous outrage over Facebook’s tweaks of its Terms of Service or claims that social networks are haunted by sexual predators has done little to dampen our enthusiasm for them. “Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience,” said Nielsen Online CEO John Burbank in one of those “Fire: Hot, Bread: Good” announcements. “While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing. Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large.”

Unfortunately for the companies playing in the space, social networking hasn’t yet done the same for the advertising experience. Indeed, as Nielsen notes, “The current level of advertising activity on social networks isn’t consummate with the size–and highly engaged levels–of the audience.” Nor will it be, unless the sites figure out a way to exploit the personal data of their users without making them feel like their privacy has been invaded. Nielsen’s big idea for achieving that goal: trial and error. “New approaches to the ad model are required for this challenging and complex arena,” the company explains. “It will take time to work out the magic formula for successfully advertising in social networks. The diversity and personalised nature of the environment means standard ad models–such as contextual search and standard unit sizes–won’t cut it. Different approaches across ad units and ad inventory will have to be tried, involving a trial and error mindset.”

Trial and error, eh? That’s been Facebook’s strategy hasn’t it? And as I recall, it hasn’t exactly been working out too well

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