NEW YORK: A majority of consumers in 65 countries covered by a new study see social media sites as an integral part of their social lives.

Wave 7, produced by UM, a division of IPG Mediabrands, claims to be the first social media survey on a global scale that has tracked consumer interaction with the new technologies over the past seven years.

It found that 56% agree that social networking has become an integral part of their social lives with one-third of Americans adopting an "always on" mentality and 71% of Chinese internet users active on a microblog.

US consumers turn to social media primarily for entertainment and distraction whereas consumers in Brazil, Mexico and Australia regard education as a key motivation for social networking.

Almost 70% of global consumers expressed concern about internet privacy, but more than 43% said they were in favour of brands using personal data if it improved their online experience.

This attitude in turn has led to a 10% rise in consumer membership of brand communities, which the report argues proves that greater understanding of consumer needs can improve engagement.

Huw Griffiths, global chief performance officer at UM, said new technologies are designed to inspire human interaction and conversations and that it has become "critical" for brands to become a part of that interaction.

"Even the most superficial online social engagement is driven by a consumer need," he explained.

In other findings, as reported by Campaign, smartphone penetration has registered exponential growth, increasing from 44.8% in 2012 to 73.4% this year.

The past year has also seen a 34% increase in the number of people who use their smartphone to manage their social media profile while tablet ownership has almost doubled to 33.3%.

Elsewhere, Microblog usage rates have grown from 14.9% in 2010 to 51.9% in 2013 with Chinese users, at 86.2%, the most prolific.

Data sourced from IPG Mediabrands, Campaign; additional content by Warc staff