Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon have overtaken entertainment as the most popular online activity in the UK.
Social media sites were the most-visited of all genres in the UK web space as of January 2011, according to analysts at Experian Hitwise.
Hitwise found that social networks accounted for 12.46% of internet visits in the first month of 2011, with a huge 2.4 billion visits from UK users alone. This was the highest level ever recorded across the 9,000 social networks it monitors.
The former leading genre was entertainment sites such as the BBC iplayer and channel 4’s homepage which slipped to 12.18% for the month of January.
Facebook accounted for 56% of all social media visits but the report from Hitwise said people rarely used just one social networking site.
'While social networks of course compete amongst themselves for users, many of those users have a presence on multiple networks,' said Robin Goad, research director at Experian Hitwise. 'One in every eight people leaving a social network visits another one immediately after, something that is encouraged by the connections that exist between the networks.
The blurring of social networks and entertainment sites can be seen as accountable for the rise in UK traffic to the likes of Twitter.
Robin Goad said: “The relationship between the two categories is getting a lot closer with more and more people sharing content from entertainment sites on social sites, such as Facebook. Increasingly social networks are playing host to content from entertainment sites. This doesn’t mean people are no longer visiting entertainment or content sites, but it just means they are now interacting more with the material they watch often first via a social network – after a friend has shared a link on a site like Facebook – rather than going direct to the source’s site.”
Hitwise also revealed that the amount of time spent on social media sites has increased, with the average session time now being around 22 minutes.
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