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We are now, more than ever before, realising just how small this little planet of ours really is. Our social circles, once insular, are now vast networks of people around the world. These networks have been driven by the ability for a regular Australian to jump online and create blogs, videos and photos that other people want to see.

Australians are embracing social networking sites in large numbers according Nielsen Online’s second annual Consumer Generated Media Report, released today.  In the report, some truly staggering numbers have been uncovered, the most stunning of which is the fact that around 6.5 million Australians now belong to an online social network.

The clear winner is YouTube with 73% of respondents using the site regularly and in close second is FaceBook on 69%.  What makes this interesting is that last year those numbers were much lower with YouTube at 64% and FaceBook sitting at only 37%.  Other popular sites include MySpace at 50%, Flickr at 24%, Blogger at 15% and Photobucket at 20%. 

Twitter scored only 7% but the fledgling network will undoubtedly have a big year in 2009 due to it receiving a great deal of attention when embraced by politicians during the Obama/McCain US presidential race. It is also the hot new pastime of celebrities such as Ewan McGregor, Ashton Kulcher and Britney Spears (to name a few) so it has definitely been noticed by the teen market.

The Nielsen report also has data to make consumer electronics manufacturers stand up and take notice.  More than two in five Australians tend publish opinion on products, services and brands across their social networks.

“Australians are adopting consumer generated media with gusto,” notes Melanie Ingrey, Director, Market Research, Nielsen Online. “It’s surprising to see just how involved we are becoming – CGM has certainly burst onto the scene and is now a very real mainstream media in Australia. If companies are not listening to what is being said about their brands and products through this media, they should be.”

 

This is a key point for corporate marketers as 23% of online Australians interacted with a company via a social networking site in 2008, while one quarter created their own media directly on a manufacturer’s website either by simply commenting or by uploading photos and videos.  2009 should be a call to arms for corporations who want to tap into this burgeoning market.  The opportunity certainly exists to develop brand awareness; they just need to find a way to get it done without alienating their customers.

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