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Social networking: the new national pastime?

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This year social networking has taken the online world by storm. According to latest research Brits are logging on to social networking sites more than any other country in Europe, spending an average of 5.8 hours per month.*

UK social networking usage is now the highest in Europe, with 24.9 million unique visitors – 78% of the total UK online population – participating in social networking communities.

Clever companies, like eBay are due to set up their own social networking service based around shoppers’ interests, whilst smaller businesses have taken advantage of free online tools to build their online PR presence.

The online hangouts have also provided the public with the power to influence and voice their views, share interests and create new communities. I commend organizations like HSBC and Cadbury for listening to Facebook groups by responding positively to the “Stop the Great HSBC Graduate Rip-Off Group!!!” and the “Bring Back the Wispa” campaigns.

Another trend with Facebook I’ve noticed is that people are using it more for work as well as play. As a marketeer, I think it has the potential to become a new way of learning and gaining customer insight, taking away reliance on traditional market research focus groups.

Initially, it was great to use the tool for socialising and to catch up with old friends and family, but now I’m actually using it to network and learn about my professional field. It’s also great for teachers, SEO specialists and people with common interests. It’s slowly becoming my mini search engine tool too, giving people the choice to research, recruit, learn and socialise (out of work hours that is!).

Many people I speak with disagree or simply don’t like the way we are exposed by the concept of social networking…. But I think it’s like the mobile phone, eventually it will become accepted as the social norm. Having a phone on you all the time wasn’t always accepted, but now I don’t know anyone who doesn’t carry a mobile. Do you? 

* Research figures supplied by ComScore  www.comscore.com

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