Social networking in the UK: Facebook soars, Bebo and MySpace drop

The latest Ofcom survey of internet usage is packed full of useful statistics and – even more helpfully – they are based on (a) proper research and (b) people in the UK. Many of the figures quoted are American – or American masquerading as global – and not infrequently are from selective sources of data.

Ofcom’s series of reports are therefore particularly welcome, with the latest one based on a quantitative survey that involved 812 in-home interviews with adults aged 16 and over from April to May 2009.

So what does the latest report tell us?

Choice of social networking platform

Amongst users of social networking, 89% have a Facebook profile (+27% on 2007), 21% on MySpace (-25%) and 19% on Bebo (-13%). Bebo and MySpace do still have particular niche strengths, but given the absolute figures and the trends, it is no surprise the Facebook is often the default choice for people looking to use social networking with their company or band.

Women more active then men

Females are more likely than males to have a social networking site profile (42% vs. 34%) and this gender gap also applies to the wider category of online content creation (i.e. creating content through a social network profile or through other services).

Overall 34% of internet users create content online (+12% on 2007), but amongst female internet users that figure rises to 39% and amongst males it drops to 28%.

There is also a clear trend across age groups, with 58% of 16-34 year olds creating content online.

Widespread content creation

The most popular form of online content creation is photo uploading (43% of internet users have done this), followed by setting up a social networking page or profile (38%) and then contributing comments to someone else’s blog (26%). The last figure is the most intriguing given how often blogs have a sea of “0 comments” messages next to posts. It suggests there is a lot more to learn about where and why people comment online.

Perhaps surprisingly, internet users in the DE socio-economic group are more likely to create content online than those in the AB group (38% v 27%), though that may be due to the younger age profile of DE internet users compared with AB internet users.

But websites, videos losing some popularity

However, it isn’t all a story of growth. For three types of content creation, more internet users now say that they are not interested in them than in 2007: uploading photos to a website (44% vs. 39%), setting up a website (71% vs. 67%) and making a short video and uploading it to a website (81% vs. 77%).

The website drop is not surprising given the other options now available for people to put content online, though the drop in interest in photo and video uploading is more surprising given that the technology to create and share photos and videos has continued to get cheaper, easier and more widespread.

It is though a healthy reminder that the snapping and filming iPhone user is a very atypical internet user – and in some ways becoming more atypical.

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