Social networks the most popular online destination in the UK

Social networks the most popular online destination in the UK

Social networks registered 2.4 billion UK Internet visits during January 2011

User engagement the key to social networking success

Social networks still lag behind search engines as a source of traffic to transactional websites


London, 16 March 2011 – For the fi­rst time ever, social media has become the single biggest activity online in the UK, overtaking the Entertainment category during January according to “Carpe diem - Seizing the moment in Social Media”, new report from Experian Hitwise.

During January 2011 social networks accounted for 12.4% of all UK Internet visits. Across the 9,000 social networks monitored by Experian Hitwise there were over 2.4 billion visits from UK Internet users during the month - more than in any other month on record.

Social media continues to be the fastest growing sector online in the UK and in 2010 alone visits to the Experian Hitwise Social Networks and Forums category increased by 17%.

User engagement the key to social networking success

Not only are people visiting social sites more regularly, the time they spend on these websites is increasing, with the average session time spent on a social network in January 2011 being 22 minutes.

The range and diversity of social networks is also on the up. Facebook may be the dominant social network in the UK, accounting for 56% of traffic to the industry during January, but social media users are rarely tied exclusively to just one social network. Indeed, the interaction between different social sites is significant, as users dart between multiple networks in order to chat to their various groups of friends and associates.

“While social networks of course compete amongst themselves for users, many of those users have a presence on multiple networks,” commented Experian Hitwise’s Research Director, Robin Goad. “One in every eight people leaving a social network visits another one immediately after, something that is encouraged by the connections that exist between the networks. Facebook, for example, is a key source of traffic for many smaller social networks; while almost a fifth of people leaving Twitter go on to visit another social network.”

Social networks still lag behind search engines as a source of traffic to transactional websites

Social networks account for 13% of traffic sent to other websites in the UK, but they play a much bigger role in sending visits to content based websites than transactional ones. The biggest recipients of traffic from social networks are news and entertainment websites; in January 2011 social networks sent only 16% of their traffic to transactional websites (i.e. online retailers, travel companies and business and finance websites). By comparison, search engines sent 33% of their traffic to transactional websites.

Robin Goad commented: “Social networks have become a key source of traffic from many websites, particularly those distributing content and chasing ‘eyeballs’. But transactional websites – those selling goods or services such as travel or insurance online – still rely primarily on search for their traffic and therefore sales. Successful transactional websites will be those that learn to harness the power of social networks, driving traffic through to their own websites.”

Ankur Shah, co-founder and CEO of Techlightenment, an Experian company, said: “Social networks and search complement each other.  To reach new and existing customers, transactional websites need to use both channels effectively.  Social networks, however, allow brands to tailor communication, reaching exactly the right audience at the right time.”

To download a copy of the full Experian Hitwise report, “Carpe diem - Seizing the moment in Social Media, please visit



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