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Contrary to speculation that social networking communications would replace traditional email, the amount of time consumers spend exchanging personal email has held steady: 71% of online consumers spent 20 minutes or more weekly exchanging email with friends and family in 2009, the same level recorded in the previous year, according to a new survey from Merkle.

In addition, nearly two-thirds (63%) of social networking consumers use the same email account for their social networking alerts and messages as they do for the majority of their permission, or opt-in email.

Below, other findings from Merkle's View from the Social Inbox, which explores consumers' use of and attitudes about online social media and related email use.

Two-thirds of online consumers surveyed (age 18+) are active on top social networking sites. Those sites used by consumers at least once a week are the following:

  • Facebook: 53%
  • YouTube: 33%
  • MySpace: 18%
  • Twitter: 10%

Some 34% of consumers are not active on any of the top social networking sites.

Social Media Consumers Are Active Email Users

Over two-fifths (42%) of social networking consumers check their email account at least four times daily, compared with 27% of those not socially networked.

In addition, 48% of social networking consumers spend 45+ minutes weekly with personal email, compared with 40% of those not socially networked.

However, the use of social networking may not be the only driver of such behavior, according to Merkle. Part of the variation is likely due to the age skew of social networking consumers, who are younger and tend to check their personal email accounts more frequently than adults overall.

Mobile Email Use

Consumers with Internet-enabled phones are more avid users of email: 50% of mobile email consumers are "hyper email checkers"—those who check their personal email account at least four times daily—compared with 32% of traditional email users.

The trend is more evident in some age groups: 57% of mobile email consumers age 30-39 access their personal email account at least four times daily using their Internet-enabled phone, compared with 42% of online adults.

Meanwhile, 28% of social networking consumers use mobile email, compared with 14% of those not socially networked.

Looking for solid, substantiated information about email from the industry's best resources? The 67-page Email Marketing Factbook featuring 39 charts tells you about email usage, what captures users' attention, and how organizations are using email to reach customers. This email factbook consists of chapters 1 & 2 from the larger Digital Marketing Factbook a 144-page compilation of data and 110 charts that also covers search engine marketing and social media.

Email Use by Age

Overall, younger email users check their personal email accounts more frequently. However, the time they spend with email skews lower compared with older age groups: 60% of online adults age 18-29 spend over 20 minutes weekly with personal email, compared with 87% of those age 65+.

Social Networking Use by Ethnicity

Facebook is popular among Asian-Americans: 71% of online Asians surveyed use Facebook at least weekly, compared with 52% of online African-Americans and 53% of online Hispanics. Asian-Americans also lead in regular YouTube and Twitter use.

Other findings:

  • Online consumers with undergraduate degrees are more likely to be regular Facebook users (61%) than MySpace users (13%). There is little variance in the use of Twitter and YouTube by education.
  • 20% of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter users have posted or shared something from permission email to their social account(s), indicating the importance of an integrated email marketing strategy.
  • 92% of online consumers read online reviews at least occasionally for products and services they are interested in, with little variation by age, gender, or ethnicity. The majority of activity in this space is consumption rather than creation: 49% have posted an online review, with just 10% posting more than two.
  • 27% of online consumers actively read blogs, up five percentage points from the previous year. Demographic differences exist in readership: 32% of consumers under age 40 read blogs, compared with 32% of consumers age 40+. 

About the data: Findings are from Merkle's annual View from the Inbox study, an online survey of 3,281 US adults age 18+ conducted during fall 2009.

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