Nielsen: Social Networking Overtakes E-mail in Popularity

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

Yeah, I know, I’m behind in talking about this announcement that Nielsen made oh, like 24 hours ago. It’s like a lifetime in the digital stratosphere. This is about Social Networking overtaking email. I read that headline and I thought, “Wow”. And then my follow-up thought was “That’s no surprise!”.

There are those of you who are reading this with your chins dropping. Let me help you close the gap. Do you have any idea of how much time people spend on Social Networks? According to Hitwise, the average time spent on Facebook as of May ’08 is 20 minutes. That’s up 56% in just a year. That is staggering!

If you think about it, it’s not like the Universe suddenly gave us an extra 20 minutes per day (but boy could I use it). So, where does that 20 minutes come from? Well, my educated guess is that it probably comes from 2 places — TV viewing, and emailing. My husband would probably say time away from him. (Kidding honey!) I’d actually have to do more digging on this. It’s the time taken from our usual email exchange we have with our friends and relatives over what we did today, who we’re on the outs with, American Idol and why we just need to lose those extra 5lbs. Basically, Social Networking has infringed upon the To/Send, and it makes it easier to “stay in touch”. The To/Send takes time for goodness sakes. I mean, a whole 2 minutes to craft a thorough update.  But now, the definition of “staying in touch” has totally changed in our culture the past 3 years. What was a phone call or an in-person meeting, has now become a Text, a Tweet,  a DM, or writing on someone’s wall saying “What’s up?”

The point is, very quickly, that Social Networking is here to stay and only getting bigger, badder and deeper. Email, well, could it go the way of snail mail someday?

This is only one marketer’s perspective. Got a comment? Comment! Want to get in touch, email me at

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3 responses to “Nielsen: Social Networking Overtakes E-mail in Popularity

  1. I’d be very curious to see a ROI on social marketing as compared to email though – from a marketing prospective.

    I agree completely that Social Media is only going to get bigger, but I think the nature of it makes it harder to ‘sell’ customers.

    However, using it as a tool to gather emails and then following up with a ‘soft sell’ approach of newsletters may be a more beneficial approach, don’t you think?

    • Hey ThatGuySteve, thanks for reading my posting! Much obliged.
      I would totally agree, that the ROI on email is probably more robust. No doubt. Social Media and direct Email really have different functions, and one can support the other. Social Media can help build the email database and I’m in total agreement with you on the soft sell approach using email. I guess what was mind blowing to me is how fast it happened. Social Media’s #1 function is develop relationships — and then sell.

  2. Things are shifting, no doubt. But it’s still very much in the discovery phase. At some point, users are going to define the use of social media and email according to some kind of value proposition. Maybe something like “If it’s really important, I’ll use email, if it’s not, I’ll use Facebook.” How long will people want to continually check email, Twitter , Facebook, and LinkedIn every hour of every day?

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