Numerators And Denominators

That social networking has grown enormously in the past couple of years is no great shock. As Facebook has crept into the lexicon of the mainstream, more and more middle-of-the-bell-curve Americans are beginning to add “status updates” to their list of online habits. In our most recent Edison Research/Arbitron Internet and Multimedia Survey (a nationally representative, landline/mobile telephone survey of 1,753 Americans 12+), we quantified the recent growth in Americans who maintain profiles on one or more social networks, a figure that has doubled in two years.
The more remarkable finding, however, was the percentage of Americans who use social networks and also check those social sites and services several times per day. This figure, which was 18% in 2009, grew to 30% in 2010. Think about that for a moment. Those of us who see audience research are used to observing an inverse relationship between size of audience and time spent with a given media. In other words, as a given channel grows beyond its core of early and potentially more passionate users, it picks up more secondary and tertiary users – greater reach, but lower frequency, as it were.
That’s not what we see with social networking, however – the growth curve is far too sharp, and usage (especially with mobile usage opportunities) is becoming more and more habitual with more and more people. Basically, with the number of Americans using social networks surging, and the number of times per day that they use these sites and services growing sharply, both the numerator AND the denominator in this equation are growing, which is a truly remarkable feat.
All of this adds up to a whopper of a number: while the percentage of Americans who use social networking sites and services several times daily has increased by 67%, the actual number of Americans who use social networking sites and services several times daily has more than doubled, from 18 million to 39 million.

That, as we say in my business, is a big number.

2 replies
  1. Derek
    Derek says:

    I’m curious if you can attribute some (or most) of that growth to mobile apps and the growth in smartphone users? Or is it across the board?

  2. Tom Webster
    Tom Webster says:

    Growth in the user base is across the board, but the growth in usage frequency is certainly being helped along by mobile access.


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