About 3 weeks ago Edison / Arbitron released a study on the Social Habits of Frequent Social Networkers based on 1753 telephone interviews done in February 2010 from a national random sample of landline and mobile phone consumers.
Results of the survey are interesting and noteworthy yet I question if 1753 interviews can be extrapolated to map to precise numbers of hundreds of millions of Americans which this study does (that might be standard practice).
Here's what I found significant
- Twice as many people (48%) have a personal page on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or any other social networking site this year than two years ago; that's an entirely plausible result.
- Over the last year people who use social networking sites or services frequently (several times a day) increased by 12%; however users who infrequently use social networks (a few times a week) stayed the same. The study makes a claim that seems to contradict point 2 and states 39 million users go to social networking sites several times a day, more than double the 18 million users who did so in 2009. They get the numbers by working off the 1753 interviews and equating it to some the total number of social network users in the US based on panel data that Edison / Arbitron must have based on panel data.
- The study says more woman are on Social Networks than men (57% vs. 43%) - again, based on 1753 interviews. I think the percentages are probably not too far off but wonder if the sample size was too small.
- Students are most likely, as a group to be frequent social networkers (25%).
- I suppose it makes sense that people who are on social networks a lot will also be more aware of brands who are present there.
- There's a lot of mobile behavior stuff in the study including an interesting 55% who have played games on mobile devices - which may explain why Google is getting into Mobile Gaming and Online Gaming, in general.
- In fact, frequent social networkers are more likely to credit mobile phones as having the greatest impact on their lives as opposed to the general population overall.
- Also interesting is that frequent social networkers are much more likely to give up watching TV than the general population and are far more likely watch TV programming on the Internet (which makes it easier to give up watching TV altogether).
- People who are frequent Social Networkers will be twice as likely as the general population to purchase music by digital downloading it and are much less likely to buy music on CDs or not to buy music at all.
One of the main conclusions of the study is Americans who check their social networking sites several times a day are much more likely to be young and female (a conclusion I question). The study also says that frequent social networkers will also be following brands more closely than the average online American who isn't a frequent social network user.
I wonder if there is a way to test some of these ideas out - I know Comscore's Segment Metrix could provide information that might confirm if the information provided by The Social Habit study is as wide spread as it's asserted to be here - but I don't have access to Segment Metrix or any of Comscore's suite of audience measuring products - so I can't go there.
On the other hand I do have Compete.com and we can look at some sites that are popular social networks or services (like Pandora) and perhaps, see some of the trends mirroring the study - or perhaps, not.
For example, Compete.com says that 55% of Facebook visitors are female - that seems to dovetail with what the study says, but we can't segment frequent users of anything on Compete vs overall users - so most of the Social Habit survey can't be validated using tools that are easy to get hold of.
When I tried using Quantcast on Pandora I find only 2% of the visitors where frequent users and they generated 37% of all the visits - but that was far more than regular visitors (38%) that ended up generating 47% of all visits to Pandora.com.
I think the value of studies like this for an analyst like me is to suggest segmentation studies that are possible to do even with Google Analytics - providing one has access to the right sites - something that is very, very rare.
I think the study is interesting and worth writing about - yet answers only part of the puzzle of online behavior of frequent social networkers.