Mobile Drives Adoption Of Social Media In 2012: Apps & Mobile Web Account For Majority Of Growth; Nearly Half Of Social Media Users Access Sites On Smartphones

Research firm Nielsen and NM Incite, a joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey, today published a comprehensive look at the state of the social media ecosystem in 2012. Consumers now spend around 20 percent of their total time online using social networks via their personal computers, and 30 percent of their time online visiting social networks on mobile, the report found. In addition, time spent on social media in the U.S. across both platforms grew 37 percent to reach 121 billion minutes in July 2012, up from 88 billion minutes in July 2011.

Mobile devices are aiding in growing these numbers, with consumers’ time spent using social media mobile apps and mobile websites accounting for 63 percent of the year-over-year growth. Forty-six percent of social media users say they use their smartphones to access social media, and 16 percent say they use social media on a tablet.


Driving home the point about mobile’s impact on consumers’ increased time online, is the fact that the U.S. mobile web audience as a whole climbed 82 percent (July 2011 – July 2012), the app audience jumped up 85 percent, while the PC audience dipped 4 percent during that time.

In terms of total minutes spent using these platforms, mobile apps were up 120 percent, mobile web up 22 percent, and PC usage up 4 percent.

Social Media Usage

Not surprisingly, Facebook is the most-visited social network in the U.S., seeing 152.2 million visitors via PC, 78.4 million visitors using mobile apps, and 74.3 million visitors using the mobile website. Remember, of course, that the same user may visit Facebook using any one of those three channels at any time, so you can’t simply total the numbers to gain insight into Facebook’s U.S. traction.


Google’s Blogger is the second most popular social network (58.5 million), followed by Twitter (37.0 million), but the report also notes that Pinterest saw a surge of growth in 2012, with the largest year-over-year increase (up 1,047 percent to 27.2 million) in unique audience and time spent on social networks across PCs, mobile web and mobile applications.

Pinterest was given special attention in this year’s report, with a deeper look into its growing audience, which spent 1,255,225,000 minutes on the site via PC, 120,486,00 via mobile app and 720,973,00 minutes via the mobile web. The network still skews largely female, with 70 percent of PC users, 84 percent of app users, and 72 percent of mobile web users female.

Nielsen - Pinterest

Another change to the social media landscape is the continued growth in the so-called “second screen” – that is, turning watching TV into a more social experience by using a smartphone or tablet alongside your TV viewing. The report found that, as of June 2012, over 33 percent of Twitter users had tweeted about TV-related content. Also, 44 percent of tablet users in the U.S. and 38 percent of smartphone users use their devices daily to access social media while watching TV. In other regions, the trend showed even higher traction: mMore than 50 percent of Latin American users interacted with social media while watching TV; and in the Middle East and Africa, over 60 percent did.

Nielsen Second screen

For marketers, Nielsen and NM Incite cautioned that consumers’ attitudes toward social media and advertising were still evolving. One-third of social media users said they found ads on social networks more annoying than those elsewhere on the Internet. But on the flip side, over a quarter said they would be more likely to pay attention to an ad shared by one of their social media connections. Another quarter(+) said seeing ads on social media sites was okay when they’re tailored based on their profile information.

Nielsen social media ads

Less divisive was consumers’ thoughts on social care, meaning customer support through social media. On average, 47 percent of users engaged in social care, 70 percent of whom did so monthly. One in three said they preferred social media to contacting a company by phone.

More data on this topic and others are available in the full report, out now.