Nielsen: Time Spent on Social Media Growing

Many consumers use smartphones to interact while watching TV

As more adults acquire smartphones, they’re spending an increasing amount of their time on social media—often while watching TV.

According to Nielsen’s Social Media report, 22% of the 25 hours and seven minutes adults spend with media is spent with social media. That’s up 36% from last year’s third quarter.

Millennials—18 to 34-year-olds—spend the most time on social media—6 hours and 19 minutes weekly or 24% of their total time spent on media. The share is up 21%.

The report says that share of media time spent on social media has jumped 64% among adults 50 years and up. They now spend 20% of their media time using social media.

A lot of those interactions are about TV. There were 14.2 million social media interactions about TV across Facebook and Twitter on an average day this fall in the U.S.

On Twitter 81% of the engagement with TV-related tweets come organically from audience tweets. The remaining 19% come from owned content.

Nielsen found that 30% of smartphone users said they use their devices several times a day while watching TV. Also 21% of the owners of tablets use them while tuned into TV.

On smartphones, 58% of users said they used Facebook while interacting with TV and 20% said they used Twitter. On tablets, 57% said they visited Facebook and 24% were on Twitter.

The top activities of smartphone users while watching TV were looking up information on actors, plotlines, athletes and teams; emailing or texting with friends about the show; sharing photos; reading conversations about the show on social sites; and watching shows because of something they saw on social media.

The shows with the most social media interaction during the fall were The Walking Dead, Empire, American Horror Story, The Voice, Monday Night Raw, Saturday Night Live, Grey’s Anatomy, This Is Us, Big Brother and Dancing With the Stars.

The increase in social media use mirrors penetration of smartphones.

According to Nielsen, 87% of adults have smartphones, up from 80% a year ago. Smartphones are even more ubiquitous among millennials—at 97% penetration, up 7% from a year ago. Smartphone penetration has also grown among the 50-plus set, up 12% to 77%.

Penetration is slightly higher among women (88%) than men (86%), though it is growing faster among men, Nielsen said.

Tablets show less popularity, though penetration continues to grow at a solid rate. Among adults, 65% have tablets, up 12% from a year ago. Growth is 16% among those 50 and older.

Personal computers are down 3% among all age groups.

Weekly reach for smartphone users is 73% or 176.9 million adults. Reach among 18 to 34-year-olds is 82%. Tablets reach 30% of adults, or 74 million, while reach via PCs is down to 29% or 70.2 million adults.

“With the ubiquity of the smartphone—now firmly in the hands of over 87% of the U.S. adult population, as well as tablets and PCs, brands and content creators at every level of the media ecosystem have a business imperative to reach these mobile consumers through social,” said Sean Casey, president, Nielsen Social. “And now we are seeing social media platforms not just providing a marketing opportunity, but pivoting to become media distributors as well, completing the trifecta of audience reach, advertising ROI and content delivery.”

By far, the top social network accessed via smartphone in September was Facebook, with 178.8 million unique users. Other top social sites reached by smartphone users were Instagram (91.5 million uniques), Twitter (82.2 million), Pinterest (69.6 million), LinkedIn (60.1 million) and Snapchat (52.6 million).

When consumers visit social sites, 57% said they visited a friend’s profile page. Other popular activities included commenting on a friend’s post, sending a message or email, watching a video and posting pictures.

Consumers also interact with brands on social networks. Their social activities include finding out about products and services, receiving exclusive offers, coupons and discounts, showing support for favorite brands and rating or reviewing a product or service.

Social media users are also more likely than non-social media users to make purchases online. Among the items heavy social media users have bought on the internet in the past 12 months are clothing or accessories, books, movie tickets, home accessories, airline tickets and health and beauty items.