Facebook, Twitter: Social networks now UK's top online destination

But despite popularity, social networks still not cashing in on visitors...
Written by Shelley Portet, Contributor

But despite popularity, social networks still not cashing in on visitors...

Social networks such as Facebook and microblogging site Twitter have become the most popular online destinations in the UK.

A report by information services company Experian Hitwise shows that 9,000 social-networking sites received 2.4 billion hits from the UK in January 2011.

These figures suggest social networks have become more popular than entertainment sites, such as BBC's iPlayer, for the first time.

Facebook: Social networks received 2.4 billion hits in January 2011 but only passed on 16 per cent of traffic to transactional sites

Social networks had 2.4 billion hits in January 2011 but passed on only 16 per cent of traffic to transactional sites Image: Facebook

Despite this growth in popularity, transactional websites selling goods and services are still not benefiting from social-networking site referrals as much as they could, according to Experian Hitwise. Social-networking sites sent just 16 per cent of their traffic to transactional websites in January 2011, compared with the 33 per cent sent from search engines.

Ankur Shah, co-founder and CEO of Experian company Techlightenment, said in a statement: "Social networks and search complement each other. To reach new and existing customers, transactional websites need to use both channels effectively. Social networks, however, allow brands to tailor communication, reaching exactly the right audience at the right time."

Facebook still attracts 56 per cent of all social media traffic but the report found that the interaction between social networks was significant, suggesting businesses should have a diverse social-media marketing strategy.

Robin Goad, Experian Hitwise's research director, said in a statement that one in every eight people leaving a social network goes straight onto another social network.

"Facebook, for example, is a key source of traffic for many smaller social networks and almost a fifth of people leaving Twitter go on to visit another social network," he added.

The report released by Experian Hitwise also found that people are spending an increasing amount of time on social-networking sites, with the average visit lasting 22 minutes.

The report went on to highlight the diverse uses of social networks, which are increasingly used for recruitment and job seeking.

Social-networking sites are also becoming an important news source due to their ability to collate real-time updates. The report points to the coverage of the recent uprisings in Egypt and the 2009 Hudson River plane crash as examples of news coverage driven by social media.

LinkedIn is the latest networking site to jump on this trend with the launch of LinkedIn Today, a service that gives users news tailored to what their connections are reading and recommending.

Editorial standards