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Consumer-based word-of-mouth (WOM) information is viewed as the most reliable source of information about brands on social networking sites: 38% of social networking users say posts from other consumers are most credible, followed by posts from brands themselves (32%), according to a survey from InSites Consulting.

Information posted by journalists (7%) and marketers (3%) is viewed much less favorably.

Although 44% of social networking users say a brand's posting about itself is credible, fewer US consumers overall (37%) say the same.

Below, other findings from the 14-country Social Media Study by InSites Consulting

Top Entities Consumers Fan or Follow

Among consumers who have become a fan of something on a social networking site, most cite entertainment or celebrity profiles as among their favorites:

  • A band: 44%
  • A famous person: 40%
  • A brand: 35%
  • A non-famous person: 24%
  • Other: 17%
  • None of the above: 10%

Trust in the Security of Information

Although Facebook is the most popular social networking site among the countries surveyed, 34% of Facebook users say they have little trust that personal information from the site will not be shared with others, 28% have a lot of trust that information will not be shared, and 38% are neutral.

US consumers have more trust in their top social site: Just 26% of US Facebook users say they have little trust that personal information from the site will not be shared with others, while 31% have a lot of trust and 43% are neutral.

Overall, trust is higher among professional websites: 25% of LinkedIn users have little trust that personal information from the site will not be shared with others, while 42% have a lot of trust and 35% are neutral.

Social Networking Use Patterns

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Internet users use at least one social network site (roughly 940 million users worldwide).

Most social networking users (72%) are members of two social sites—and that use is often for personal rather than business reasons.

Users log in to such sites on average two times a day, while users of strictly professional social sites (e.g., LinkedIn) log in on average nine times a month.

Users are saturated: 75% of social networking users say they have no intentions to stop their current memberships and 43% say they don't feel the need to further expand their memberships to other social sites.

Over one-quarter of social networking users (26%) are "Addicts," those who log in on average 123 times per month and perform an average of 95 activities during that period. The typical Addict is a single female, age 18-44, who is concerned with building an image on her profile(s).

Nearly one-half (47%) are "Passive Users," those who log in on average 13 times a month and perform an average of 12 activities. The typical Passive User is a male, age 30-44, who has a Twitter account and who uses social networking mainly for professional reasons.

Worldwide, Orkut users are the most active: 87% of Orkut users log in at least once a week, compared with 76% of Facebook users, who log in to that site weekly, and 62% of Twitter users, who log in to Twitter weekly.

Among users of the top 3 social sites in the US, 85% of Facebook users log in once a week, as do 57% of Twitter users and 53% of MySpace users.

In the US, Facebook also has the strongest retention level: Just 23% Facebook users say they have reduced their activity levels on Facebook since they joined, compared with 64% of MySpace users and 43% of Twitter users.

Mobile Access

Over one-quarter (26%) of social networking users access social networks via mobile phone. Those who access social sites via mobile device...

  • Are more active than non-mobile users on social networking sites—logging in more frequently and using more activities.
  • Tend to be male.
  • Tend to be younger adults, age 18-30.
  • Are more likely to be "Addicts": 44%.

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.

Online Activities Performed

Most social networking users say they use social sites for personal reasons, such as sending messages (94%) and viewing photos (91%); 79% become members of groups and 58% become fans.

Overall, connected people have an average of 195 friends. However, across geographic regions/countries, average friend levels vary considerably. Notable examples:

  • Brazil: 360 friends per user
  • Portugal: 236
  • US: 200
  • UK: 172
  • W. Europe: 126
  • Asia: 63

Other findings:

  • 55% of social network users say they are not allowed to access their social network websites at work.
  • Facebook is the most common site to be blocked: 33% say access to Facebook is blocked at work.
  • 58% of social networking users say they have removed contacts (de-friended); that level is much lower among users of professional sites, such as LinkedIn (16%).

About the data: Findings are from the InSites Consulting survey of 2,884 Internet consumers in 14 countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, the US, Australia, Romania, Russia, and China. Collected from December 2009 to January 2010, the data are representative of each country's Internet population, age (18-55), and gender.

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