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Age doesn't matter, and 5 other social networking revelations

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comScore's dramatic usage metrics should serve as a guide to your company's 2012 social media strategy and marketing plans.

Internet trends research firm comScore has released its year-end report on worldwide social networking activities, and as you might expect 2011 was a breakthrough year that will reshape how businesses need to market and communicate in the 12 months ahead -- and beyond.

The report, "It's a Social World: Top 10 Need-to-Knows About Social Networking and Where It's Headed," is chuck full of statistics that can drive strategy decisions. Here are the six biggest factors that should drive 2012 strategy decisions:

  1. Social networking is the No. 1 Internet use. The time that people spend in social networks was roughly one out of every five minutes, reaching roughly 82 percent of the "Internet population" age 15 and older. The research doesn't distinguish between where people log in, but I bet more individuals use social networks during work hours than we would expect.
  2. It's not just young people. comScore reports that people age 55 and older represent the fastest growing demographic on social networks. The estimated penetration grew to 80 percent in October 2011, up 10 percentage points from July 2010. That means if your group has been delegating social networking activities to the younger members of the team, it probably is time to reconsider that strategy or risk alienating potential allies.
  3. Mobile devices are accelerating access. In the United, two out of every five smartphone users log into a social network on a daily basis. Approximately two-third of the Internet users studied by comScore access a social network at least once with their mobile phone during the month of October 2011. So, if your company has a policy against using social networks during working hours, there is a pretty good chance that people are sidestepping that mandate by logging on with their smartphone (which may or may not be their own device).
  4. Facebook dominates. Apparently, one out of every 7 minutes that people spend online is dedicated to Facebook visits. Approximately 55 percent of all Internet users studied by comScore are using Facebook. If your company continues to argue that Facebook as the "personal" social network, it probably is missing a lot of potential visibility among potential fans and customers.
  5. Terseness counts. comScore reports that Twitter usage leapt 59 percent in the past year, reaching 1 in 10 Internet users. Two other microblogging services that don't dominate as many headlines reported even faster growth: Tumblr grew by 172 percent, while Sina Weibo in China grew 181 percent. So, brevity of message remains paramount.
  6. The United States DOES NOT rank among the top ten countries for social networking engagement. comScore figured out the "most engaged" countries for social networking by gauging how many hours Internet users spent in social networks during the month of October 2011. The average worldwide was 5.7 hours. The No. 1 nation for social networking engagement was Israel (11.1 hours), followed by Argentina (10.7 hours) and Russia (10.4 hours). The United States averaged 6.9 hours per person. So, time to eliminate U.S.-biased social network thinking. Social media strategy increasingly will require a very local point of view.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure