If you want to inspire confidence, give plenty of statistics. It does not matter that they should be accurate, or even intelligible, as long as there is enough of them. – Lewis Carroll

Social Media has a rabbit hole quality to it. One pill makes us larger and one pill makes us small. We succeed or fail as marketers on a case-by-case basis – sometimes by design, sometimes by chance.

So, how do we wrap our hands around this ever evolving world of social media marketing? Statistics! Find out where the parade is and get in front of it! Of course, finding exact statistics on the hows and wheres of social media can be fraught with discrepancies.

Case in point. According to The Nielsen Company the 135 plus million Americans who visited Facebook in January spent an average of seven hours, twenty-four minutes and 12 seconds interacting with that platform. This is a time spent engaging (TSE) that dwarfs that of other sites.

Top 10 U.S. Web Brands for January 2011 (Home and Work Locations)
Rank Brand Unique Audience (000) Time Per Person (hh:mm:ss) MOM % Change in UA MOM % Change in Time PP
1 Google 153,623 1:21:00 -0.1% 6.0%
2 Facebook 135,622 7:24:12 0.0% 6.6%
3 Yahoo! 130,854 2:20:10 -1.1% 2.1%
4 MSN/WindowsLive/Bing 121,019 1:26:39 4.2% -0.8%
5 YouTube 103,868 1:21:54 -1.9% -0.1%
6 Microsoft 90,221 0:41:53 -0.2% -3.4%
7 AOL Media Network 76,173 1:58:31 0.0% -0.2%
8 Wikipedia 65,698 0:15:31 6.7% 6.8%
9 Ask Search Network 65,454 0:10:40 0.3% 16.4%
10 Apple 63,296 1:18:48 -6.2% -6.9%
Source: The Nielsen Company
Read as: During January 2011, 153.6 million unique U.S. people visited Google using PC/laptops from home and work locations

That works out to a rough average of roughly 14 minutes a day spent on Facebook. Intuitively, this seems kind of low, doesn’t it? Don’t we believe most people log on and keep it on all day long? And, if this is true, how does that affect how we – as marketers – reach people? If they are only engaged with Facebook for a quarter-hour a day what chance do we have to get their attention after they read and comment on their real friends’ status updates and view their video links. Talk about your narrow window.

But wait, there’s more.

According to a Royal Pingdom study people actually spend more time on Facebook. Their analysis revealed that the average Facebook user visits the site 40 times a month and spends an average of 23 minutes 20 seconds per visit. Their math says that the average Facebook user spends an average of 15 hours and 33 minutes a month engaging. This number makes a bit more sense to me but still seems way low, doesn’t it? And, if we are to take it as gospel we are still left with a narrow window of engagement (WOE) to reach potential customers on Facebook.

When you market on Facebook you are targeting the heaviest users – the ones who will see your posts, and will see your ads and will like your page. The casual user is not a prime prospect. Remember the 20/80 rule.

One last stat from the Nielsen project that might bring this into focus.

Average U.S. Internet Usage for January 2011 (Home & Work)
Metrics Current Month Previous Month % Change
Sessions/Visits per Person 59 57 3.5%
Domains Visited per Person 99 94 5.3%
Web Page Views per Person 2,750 2,656 3.5%
PC Time per Person 61:27:19 55:53:03 10.0%
Duration of a Web Page viewed 0:00:58 0:00:55 3.9%
Active Digital Media Universe 197,842,270 198,595,819 -0.4%
Current Digital Media Universe Estimate 242,999,000 240,813,000 0.9%
Source: The Nielsen Company

The average person spends less than an average minute viewing the average web page. They visit an average of three domains and hundreds of pages a day…but like butterflies in search of nectar they do not land in one spot for very long.

Except when it comes to social media. If the average person spends 25 minutes on You Tube every time they visit – how short is their stay on other web pages?

If there is any conclusion to be drawn by this it’s that social media is still growing and has become the virtual version of the town square or the local bar. The sheer volume of the engaged audience is too large to ignore. That is the big picture.

As for the ground level stats – remember, your mileage may vary. It is still a cluttered marketing world and social media just increases the noise.

Your thoughts?

Author: Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist, SMThree