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Web audiences across 10 countries spent an average of 5.5 hours on social networking sites in February 2010, up from more than 2 hours in February 2009, but about half an hour less than US Web users' average, according to the Nielsen Company.

Below, additional findings issued by Nielsen from the 10-country study.

The US has the largest unique social networking audience, but Italian and Australian Web surfers spend the most time on social sites: In February, Italian social networking users spent an average of 6 hours and 28 minutes on social sites.

Next were Australians, who spent an average of 6 hours and 25 minutes, while US social networking users spent an average of 6 hours and 2 minutes on social sites during the month.

By February 2009, the active unique audience to social networks had reached 314.5 million, up 28.8% from 244.2 million in Feb. 2008.

In the US, the average active unique audience reached 149.3 million in Feb. 2010, up 29.7% from 115.1 million in Feb. 2009.

Looking for real-world examples of businesses achieving their social media marketing goals? Our 47-page case-study collection, Facebook Success Stories, shows you how to increase brand awareness, target specific markets, promote new products, and create communities that engage users. Also check out The State of Social Media Marketing, a 240-page original research report from MarketingProfs.

Ranked by unique audience reach, Facebook was the world's top social networking site, accounting for 52% of active social users. MySpace ranked second with 15%, followed by Twitter (10%), LinkedIn (6%), and Classmates Online (5%).

Facebook users logged nearly three times (19.2) more sessions than MySpace users (6.7), while Facebook users spent more time online per session—an average of nearly six hours (5:52:00) per user. 

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