December and October busiest months for social media

Social media continues to be one of the fastest growing industries online. Between September 2010 and September 2011 visits to Social Networks and Forums have increased by nearly 11% and, if you saw my Internet clock blog last month, social media accounts for nearly a quarter of all time spent online. But when are people engaging with social media the most?

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We took a look at the UK Internet visits to the Social Networks and Forums category each month between 2009 and 2011. We then averaged those visits across the months to see the seasonal trends with social media.

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What this shows is that social media usage is at its lowest at the beginning of the year and climbs throughout the course of the year towards a peak in December. Over the last three years December has always seen the peak of online visits and in fact last Christmas Day Facebook overtook Google for the first time ever in terms of UK Internet visits. We know that Christmas is a very social time and a time for sharing messages with loved ones, friends and family, so the increased visits to social networks during December is to be expected.

More generally, what this graph shows is that social media observes two seasonal trends. The first is an early summer peak in visits in June, before a decline in visits in July and August. This seasonal dip in July and August can be explained by summer holidays where people are more likely to go abroad and therefore less likely to be using social networks. The second seasonal trend is a recovery in visits in September and October before a yearly peak at Christmas. With students starting university terms, kids going back to school, and the working population returning from holiday this would account for the increased interaction in September and October before the Christmas surge.

In particular what we’ve seen in September data is a resurgence in market share of visits to Facebook, which bounced back after the summer dip to account for nearly 52% of all visits to a social network.

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The message here for brands who want to capitalise on social media traffic is to start implementing their social strategy now rather than waiting for Christmas. As October is the second busiest month of the year for social media visits we are expecting over 800 million hours to be spent on social networks this month, which represents a huge opportunity to engage with new and existing customers online.

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