STAMFORD: More than half of US consumers who regularly use social networking sites have signed up to become "friends" with a brand, and a fifth would like to receive more communications from their favourite products via this medium, Anderson Analytics has found.

According to the market research consultancy's figures, around 110 million people in America use social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace at least once a month.

Based on a survey conducted among 5,000 adults – and detailed interviews with a quarter of this panel – the company found that 52% are "friends" with at least one brand.

Some 17% of this sample also said they viewed products with a presence on these portals more favourably, while 19% took the opposite view, and 64% were essentially ambivalent on this measure.

A further 20% of contributors stated they would like to receive more information from brands via social media services, with 35% disagreeing with this idea, while 45% were "neutral".

Overall, the average user of web properties like Twitter and LinkedIn visits these sites on five separate days each week, typically doing so four times a day for around 15 minutes at a time.

Within this group, 9% of netizens stay signed in to their portal of choice throughout the day, and are "constantly checking out what's new."

In terms of selecting their online "friends", 45% accord this status only to their family and users they know well, while a further 18% solely link to people they have met face-to-face.

However, some 10% of Anderson Analytics' respondents admitted they would agree to become the "friend" of anyone willing to do the same with them.

Facebook was said to have 77 million regular visitors in the US, with the typical member having 121 "friends", as well as an average income of $61,000 (€43,399; £37,345).

Some 80% of its users are white, while 40% are married and 6% are retired, and 75% agree that the self-defined "social utility" is their favourite website.

In all, 59% of the people registered with the Palo Alto-based service increased the amount of time they spent using it during the last six months.

Members of Twitter have an average income of $58,000, and are more likely to buy products such as books, coffee, cosmetics and films online than users of other social networks.

Typically, they have 28 "followers" and are tracking the posts of 32 other "tweeters", but 43% of users also said they could "live without" the social messaging platform.

MySpace currently has a regular audience of 67 million Americans, many of whom have become less active on the News Corp-owned asset in the last six months.

The material they post to the site is typically centred around their personal interests, friends and family.

Overall, MySpace also has a higher proportion of black and Hispanic users than any other of the major social networks, at 9% and 7% respectively.

Furthermore, some 60% of its regular visitors are single, while 23% are students, helping distinguish it from Facebook and Twitter.

LinkedIn, by contrast, is the only social network where men outnumber women, with 57% of users belonging to the former category.

With an average income of $89,000, users are interested in networking with business contacts, alongside broader concerns from news and politics to employment-related issues.

eMarketer has also recently predicted that adspend levels on social networks will fall by 3% in the US this year, to $1.1bn, compared the growth rate of 10.2% it predicted in December 2008.

MySpace will see revenues decline by 15% to $495m, while Facebook will register an increase in revenues to $230m, and will surpass its main rival in revenue terms by 2011.

Data sourced from AdAge/Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff