New research shows that social media use has become a regular habit for three quarters of the online population.
In a survey of 1,700 U.S. Internet users, Nielsen Online found that 73 percent engaged in social media at least once per week. Engagement was defined as reading a blog, visiting a social network or reading (and/or commenting on) a message board. The research pegs the total U.S. social media audience at 127 million.
The Nielsen study, commissioned by women-focused blog network BlogHer and NBCU's iVillage, found that Facebook is becoming a major attraction for a broad swathe of the population, rivaling the reach of traditional media channels. Of the online population, 47 percent visit Facebook daily, according to Nielsen, nearly rivaling the 55 percent that watch TV. Facebook daily use easily beats out other traditional media like radio (37 percent) and newspapers (22 percent).
In fact, social gaming is a daily habit for a huge number of people.
According to Nielsen's survey, 32.7 million people play social games daily. That is equal to newspaper readership and more than double the readership of magazines in the sample. Social games are polarizing, however, as over 50 percent said they never play them.
For all its buzz, Nielsen found Twitter is still a niche activity for all but a small segment of the online population. Yesterday at its developer conference, Twitter boasted 105 million registered users. According to Nielsen, just 11.4 million (6 percent) use it daily.
BlogHer and iVillage commissioned the research to determine the role of social media in the lives of women versus the general population. It found little differences between the sexes when it comes to social media adoption, with women slightly more likely to tweet and blog while men overindex for watching videos.
Blog reading remains a niche activity for online users, with just 11 percent saying they read them daily. It trailed message board readers (17 percent). BlogHer's audience, naturally, is more inclined to visiting blogs as a habit, with 77 percent reading them daily and 96 percent weekly. The BlogHer audience sample also identified blogs as trailing only search among ad-supported media in purchasing decisions.
BlogHer COO Elisa Camahort said the popularity of social networking is not stealing time and attention from blogs.
"It's like any media progress we've had," she said. "Nothing is killing the other media source. Blogs are still where substantive conversations are happening. It's not on Facebook."