Thursday, 10 September 2009

Facebook vs Twitter and the demographics of social networkers

Facebook makes you sharper but Twitter makes you thicker, according to one psychologist who claims the social networking site boosts a part of intelligence that is vital to success in life.

On the flip side, twittering away has the opposite effect. But keeping up to date with Facebook may have the same effect as playing video war games and solving Sudoku, said Dr Tracy Alloway of Scotland's University of Stirling.

It hones the ability to remember information and to use it, known as "working memory". Video games that involved planning and strategy, such as those from the Total War series, might also train working memory, says Dr Alloway in the Daily Telegraph.

Sudoku also stretched the working memory, as did keeping up with friends on Facebook, she said. But text messaging, micro-blogging on Twitter and watching YouTube were likely to weaken "working memory".

"On Twitter you receive an endless stream of information, but it's also very succinct," Dr Alloway said."

You don't have to process that information. Your attention span is being reduced and you're not engaging your brain and improving nerve connections."

However, networking – whether it be via tweets or Facebook – is a skill that can be learned, according to the blog TwiTip (

Networking engenders a community spirit – and one that is sorely needed if you spend your days at your keyboard in the privacy of your own home.

In fact, Facebook is our most used communication tool. A report from Nielsen in March this year found that by the end of 2008, social networking had overtaken e-mail in terms of worldwide reach. According to the report, 66.8% of internet users worldwide had accessed social networking or blogging sites, compared with 65.1% for e-mail.

Furthermore, social networks and blogs now account for more than 67% of all online activity. The likes of Facebook and personal blog sites such as Wordpress are growing twice as fast as any of the other four largest sectors (search, portals, PC software and email).

So what are the demographics?

Twitter users are more interested in sex, LinkedIn users watch soap operas and MySpace users don’t exercise, according to one study from Anderson Analytics.

Social network users’ top three interests are music, movies and hanging out with friends, and they use social media most to stay in touch with friends, family and classmates.

Not surprisingly, they do more online than non-users of social media, from watching videos to reading blogs to making purchases.

They are also four times more vocal than non-users when it comes to commenting on discussion boards, posting blog entries and uploading videos.

Nearly one-half of females visited social networking sites in Q2 of 2009, compared with 37.6% of men..

That percentage decreased as users got older, with only 43.1% of those ages 35 to 54 and 18.9% of users ages 55 and older visiting social networks. But what is attractive to advertisers is the huge jump in social network traffic across all age groups in the last 12 months.

Interestingly, an eMarketer report shows that over 50% of users visited social network sites at least once per day. And people are logging into social networks via office computers, home computers and mobile devices, showing how strong the connection to the social networks are.

In the UK alone, one in every six minutes a web user is online, is spent on a social networking site, with Facebook unsurprisingly leading the pack with the highest average time per user.

Users tend to spend a lot of time on social networks. The average social networker goes to social sites five days a week and checks in about four times a day for a total of an hour each day. A super-connected nine per cent stay logged in all day and are "constantly checking out what's new."

Social networkers' feelings about brands online in general are more positive than originally thought with 52% of users befriending or becoming a fan of at least one brand.

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