Australians world’s biggest users of social media

Australians are the world’s most prolific users of social media according to new data from the Nielsen Company.

The firm carried out a global comparison which suggested that Australians spend an average of six hours and 52 minutes per month on social media sites – well ahead of the US, which has the next largest social media usage at six hours and nine minutes per month.  

The reach of social media in Australia is also large, with Nielsen estimating a unique reach of 9.9m Australians per month. Although that figure should be treated with caution as double counting of users at home and at work is a major issue, it still signals that a large proportion of the country’s 22m population is engaging with social media.

Average time spend (h:m:s) on social media each month:

  1. Australia – 6:52:28
  2. United States -6:09:13
  3. United Kingdom – 6:07:54
  4. Italy – 6:00:07
  5. Spain – 5:30:55
  6. Brazil – 4:33:10
  7. Germany – 4:11:45
  8. France – 4:04:39
  9. Switzerland – 3:54:34
  10. Japan – 2:50:21

According to Nielsen, in December 2009  the global average in the countries it surveyed was five and a half hours per consumer on social media, making it the single most consuming online category, followed by online games and instant messaging. Social media’s usage was up 82% on the same time a year previously, with more than 300m social media users worldwide. Facebook was the biggest driver, followed by Twitter, Nielsen said.

Despite the impact of social media, Australia’s marketing industry has mostly failed to capitalise on it.

Late last year, The Population, Photon’s attempt to commercialise social media closed its doors. And although there have been some minor success stories – usually driven by the PR component of social media, there have also been some local marketing disasters, such as Toyota/ Saatchi & Saatchi’s ill-fated Clever Film Competition.


  1. Peter Williams
    31 Jan 10
    5:35 pm

  2. By contrast Australian businesses seem to be unsophisticated at connecting with their customers through social media.

  3. Ben
    31 Jan 10
    6:17 pm

  4. weird – nielsen netview reports higher numbers than that per month for facebook on its own …

    would be interesting to know how much time is spent on social media OUTSIDE of facebook.

  5. Mike Watkins
    31 Jan 10
    6:19 pm

  6. Works out to around 13.7 minutes per day. How long does the average person spend reading the paper each day??

  7. Suse
    31 Jan 10
    7:43 pm

  8. Networking sites are the greatest boundary, border & barrier breakers ever to exist.

    Australians are curious and love to connect.

  9. Ben
    31 Jan 10
    8:08 pm

  10. wonder how it compares to average TV consumption Mike … or radio …

  11. JWong
    31 Jan 10
    8:47 pm

  12. When you consider that Australia has a culture of mate-ship it is no wonder that online social networking platforms are so popular. And we’re very cynical towards advertising messages. An Aussie will sooner trust a mate’s recommendation over an advertisement.

    To take advantage of this new discipline, Marketers need to break through their inhibitions and come to the edge, engaging in dialogue with their customers. That is how you reach the Influencers. To date it has been treated as a vehicle for online promotions or hadballed to PR companies who fail to understand that citizen journalism is railing against traditional PR protocols.

    In short, you can’t watch from the edge to do effective Social Media, you need to engage and be an active part of online communities.

    Social Media can equate to cost effective, long term word-of-mouth marketing, loyalty and relationship marketing, that will drive sales and build brands, when utilised well.

  13. Jack o
    31 Jan 10
    10:11 pm

  14. Blah blah blah. There is still no true return on investment.
    Social media campaigns are just garbage. So many shonks out there peddling crappy marketing and all the while getting these unsuspecting and easily duped marketing departments in deep crap!
    Hello Toyota!

  15. JWong
    31 Jan 10
    11:38 pm

  16. Jack O FYI:

    Companies that are both deeply and widely engaged in social media surpass their peers in terms of both revenue and profit performance by a significant difference. In fact, these Mavens have sustained strong revenue and margin growth in spite of the current economy.

    Betty Crocker’s 2009 second-quarter earnings rose nearly 50% as a result of engaging social media.

    Starbucks recently announced a tripling in quarterly profits, and the average ticket – how much customers spend during a trip-climbed 4 per cent. This has been attributed partly to the use of social media across 11 platforms by a small team of six staff.

    I could go on…

  17. Super
    1 Feb 10
    12:24 am

  18. Being the laziest country in the world, it is no surprise Aussies are the biggest users of these time wasting avenues. If I find that Facebook isn’t banned on all public service agency computers by the end of the 2009-2010 financial year, I’ll be a Singaporean for tax purposes shortly thereafter.

  19. 5ft0
    1 Feb 10
    9:34 am

  20. That’s not surprising at all. It’s funny how companies haven’t grasped this at all – I wish Aussie companies would be more daring in their use of media, especially new media.

  21. AK
    1 Feb 10
    9:54 am

  22. Cam Gleeson
    1 Feb 10
    10:05 am

  23. Disagree with you Jack, we singularly use Social Media to market our business software around the world. In fact it works so well we dumped ad words. Yes it takes time and effort, but we think there is a return.

    Social media has lifted our page ranking, has lifted our sales lead rates from overseas, has driven over a 60% increase in traffic to our blog.

    I do agree with you though on the shonky software, specifically automated social media software. This is garbage, whether it works technically or not. The fact is social media works when you directly engage with people, not when you use it as a shouting or mass broadcasting medium. The automated software is just a shouting tool for lazy marketers.

  24. AndyS
    1 Feb 10
    10:08 am

  25. There are a few problems that organisations fail to overcome when it comes to using social media for marketing purposes:

    1. They try or are pursuaded by their PR companies to participate in every element of social media when really they should look at the specific social media tools that their audiences use to gather information and just focus on those.

    2. Those at the cutting edge of social media (particularly the ones who like everyone to know they’re at the cutting edge) fail to grasp that the majority of the population are still getting to grips with something these cutting edge exponents feel is dated. This creates a confusing environment for organisations who should just, again, research into how the audience they are trying to reach gather their information rather than focus on the latest breakthroughs in social media land.

    After all, it’s not always about being the first to develop a marketing campaign utilising a new social media tool. It should generally be about the audience you are trying to reach and how best to appeal to them.

  26. Larry
    1 Feb 10
    10:15 am

  27. “To take advantage of this new discipline, Marketers need to break through their inhibitions and come to the edge, engaging in dialogue with their customers. That is how you reach the Influencers.”

    stop. stop now. there are already enough people speaking in riddles.

  28. Craig
    1 Feb 10
    10:33 am

  29. Mike,

    The average Australian doesn’t read newspapers.

    Online newspaper sites are moving into social tools to aid distribution, so they are becoming part of social media anyway.

    Regarding Facebook – the actual release by Neilsen gives you info you can use for a breakdown.

    “Facebook was the No. 1 global social networking destination in December 2009 and 67% of global social media users visited the site during the month. Time on site for Facebook has also been on the rise, with global users spending nearly six hours per month on the site.”

    So from this, using the average, Australians spend just under 6 hours per month (in December 2009) on Facebook and about an hour on other social media sites in total (15%).

    Of course, if Australians are above average users of Facebook – as they are of social media overall, according to Neilsen – this percentage of time spent on other social media sites could be lower.

    This would vary by demographics – Facebook has about 7 million active Australian accounts according to their ad system, but Australia may have up to 10 million active social media users according to Neilsen.

    Even with a 10% overlap between work and home (with different identities), this leaves 2 million Australians using social media other than Facebook – all the time.

  30. anon
    1 Feb 10
    11:18 am

  31. @Larry – thanks for saying what I was thinking! :)

  32. jerrys
    1 Feb 10
    1:53 pm

  33. Always hard to put these kind of pr releases into useful context.

    Walk into any facebook using teenagers bedroom and Facebook is used differently to most other sites. It’s the classic always on in the background app, usually with an instant messaging client also open and a couple of other sites as well. Then they go and watch TV and come back.

    Would expect social gaming is driving the time spent metrics.

    The Australian online audience has always been disposed towards hangingout online. Haven’t really seen any analysis that shows the reason for this behaviour – technology distribution in households, immigrant nation, bond with american popular culture etc.

  34. TerryT
    1 Feb 10
    3:30 pm

  35. Extraordinary how an aggregated figure can mean so much, and so little at the same time.
    Consider this: Facebook time in the workplace averaged 1hr 34min per month – that figure hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 12 months (Jan-Dec 09). However, what has changed significantly is market share of the workplace audience – up from 24% in January 09 to 40% in December 09. That’s an estimated workplace audience of 2.2m (based on ABS stats indicating 5.48m full-time employees have web access in the workplace: Dec 09). You people deserve silver service, not soup kitchen hospitality.

  36. John Grono
    1 Feb 10
    7:20 pm

  37. Ben, I don’t have radio data to hand for Time Spent Listening, but TV averages around 3 1/4 hrs a day and has for the past two decades. So, it’s roughly two days of TV equals a month of Social Media. I wonder why the budgets are they way they are?

    Also, the data quoted for Social Media may even be “per active user” rather than per head of population – remembering that there a lot of people put there without a connection and a heap without a SM login. Maybe someone from Nielsen could clarify.

    Now, Craig. “The average Australian doesn’t read newspapers”. What a clown. I just wonder how the two national newspapers (The Oz, and the AFR), the two largest newspapers in Sydney (SMH and Tele) and the two largest newpspapers in Melbourne (Herald Sun and The Age) manage to SELL just under a HALF A BILLION copies a year (OK, it’s only 486m) if the average Australian isn’t reading them – especially when we remember that every newspaper purchased is ‘passed-on’ on average to at least one other person.

    Just some real-life perspective folks.

  38. Ben Shepherd
    1 Feb 10
    7:37 pm

  39. John how dare you come in here with your real statistics and lack of hysteria!

  40. John Grono
    1 Feb 10
    8:44 pm

  41. Ooops. Letting facts get in the way of a good story again eh. Me bad! I promise I won’t do it again (well at least in this post).

  42. Craig Ashley Russell
    2 Feb 10
    8:33 am

  43. @Larry and Anon (you coward) If you two can’t understand that simple statement THEN WILL YOU PLEASE GO BACK TO SCHOOL!

  44. Brian McCauley
    2 Feb 10
    10:08 am

  45. Who thinks Twitter is worth using as a marketing tool really? As a global brand it’s probably a good idea but what about the Australian market? twitter is trying to become more about mates and less about celebrities and brands so that’s gonna decrease opportunities more. What does anyone think?

  46. JWong
    2 Feb 10
    10:47 am

  47. Twitter in Australia has already proven to be a great driver of custom for the hospitality industry. It is also shown to be particularly useful for retailers as a medium for broadcasting special events, sales and customer service. Service companies are also seeing positive CRM results. FMCG are slower to venture into the area however, but could benefit from integrating API technology with their logistics data to guide customers to stockists and give directions on usage of their products.

    Twitter is an opt-in medium. Customers choose to follow their favourite brands, hoping to have the inside knowledge and be the first to hear of new products and offers. They also pubicly seek advice, which is transmitted to friends and followers. While Twitter is often utilised to complain about a poor service experience, smart businesses recognise this as an opportunity for companies to publicly address an issue and come out with a positive before needing major crisis management.

    At this stage of its development, it is already evident that Tweeting connects businesses directly to their core customer as long as they engage in dialogue, rather than merely broadcast in the manner of an above the line message.


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