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A recent report from comScore highlights the fact that social networking is today the most popular activity, worldwide on the Internet. 

Nearly 1 in every 5 minutes (20%) of the time spent online was for social networking in the month of October 2011. Further, this activity is indulged by 82% of the world’s online population.

Social networking has grown in popularity over the past few years, and has provided a new way for people to build more contacts, as well as making it easier for people to remain in touch with their existing friends and family who may be spread out across the globe.

The Rise of the Global Social Networking Audience
Source: comScore Media Metrix, Worldwide, March 2007 – October 2011

One of the major factors fueling the continued growth of social networks is the increased use of the Web through mobile phones, which help people to communicate even when they are on the go or in regions where they cannot access a wired connection.

Only five years ago, in March 2007, social networking was used by less than 500 million people, while email was the primary online activity, with 528.7 million users. By October 2011, the graph has changed drastically and social networking now accounts for 1,179.4 million users while email has only 916.8 million users. The social network graph continues to grow parallel to the growth of Internet usage.

Worldwide Regional Popularity

Asia-Pacific regional users constitute one-third of the world’s social networking population. However, Latin America accounts for the largest amount of time spent on social networks.

Percentage of Online Population Using Social Networking around the World
Percentage of Online Population Using Social Networking around the World
Source: comScore Media Metrix, October 2011

Another interesting finding of the report is that women are more social across the globe.

Facebook is of course the most popular social network, and has 55% penetration. Three-fourths of the time spent on social networks is on Facebook, and one in seven minutes spent online are on Facebook. Google+ is a fast growing social network, and it is the only network to have signed up 25 million new users in less than one month.

Inevitably, micro-blogging has also gained in popularity. Twitter is, of course, the most popular micro-blogging site – in October 2011, it was used by about 10% of Internet users worldwide.

Interestingly, these social networks are growing in popularity across all age groups. In fact, males and those above 55 years of age are the fastest growing group.

Revenue Lagging Growth

Social networks deliver the most online display ad impressions, but they do not generate the largest revenue. 25% of ads are displayed on social networks but they generate only 15% of the revenue.

U.K. Social Statististics

UK social networking snapshot
Snapshot of social networking in the United Kingdom
Source: comScore Media Metrix