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Social Media overtakes entertainment as most popular web destination

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Social networks are now the most popular online destination in the UK according to Experian Hitwise, overtaking the Entertainment category during January this year. But social networks still lag behind search engines as a source of traffic to transactional websites. In January 2011 social networks sent only 16% of their traffic to transactional websites such as online retailers, travel companies and and finance websites. By comparison, search engines sent 33% of their traffic to transactional websites.

Experian Hitwise’s research director Robin Goad commented: “Social networks have become a key source of traffic from many websites, particularly those distributing content and chasing ‘eyeballs’. But transactional websites – those selling goods or services such as travel or insurance online – still rely primarily on search for their traffic and therefore sales. Successful transactional websites will be those that learn to harness the power of social networks, driving traffic through to their own websites.”

During January 2011 social networks accounted for 12.4% of all UK Internet visits says the Experian Hitwise report entitled ‘Carpe diem – Seizing the moment in Social Media’. Across the 9,000 social networks monitored by Experian Hitwise there were over 2.4bn visits from UK Internet users during the month – more than in any other month on record. Social media continues to be the fastest growing sector online in the UK, and in 2010 alone visits to the Experian Hitwise Social Networks and Forums category increased by 17%.

The time spent on social media websites is increasing, with the average session time spent on a social network in January 2011 being 22 minutes.

Meanwhile a link between social media popularity and stock prices has been found in a new academic study from Pace University in association with Focusing on Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Nike, a significant correlation was found between social media popularity and stock prices. The data suggests social media popularity may be a lead indicator of stock performance.

The study looked at the daily movements in popularity for each company’s major social network accounts at three of the most popular services: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This data was then tracked against daily stock price movements for each of these companies, relative to an index of consumer stocks.

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