NEW YORK: Some 43% of the "online community" in the US now use social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, a total that has grown from 27% a year ago, a study from The Conference Board and TNS has found. 

According to The Consumer Internet Barometer produced by the two organisations, which is based on a survey of 10,000 households in the country, over half of the Americans using social media services visit these sites at least once a day.

The majority of this group also "log on several times a day", including 25% who do so at work, and 10% that access these properties via their mobile phone.

Over three-quarters of respondents said they were members of Facebook, making it by far the most popular portal, followed by MySpace, with 42%, LinkedIn, with 17%, and Twitter, on 10%.

While 48% of women said they belonged to at least one social networking service, this figure fell to 38% among men.

Both genders used Facebook in equal number, while 47% of female social networkers regularly viewed material on MySpace, compared with 35% of males.

In contrast, 21% of men stated that they frequently used LinkedIn, compared with just 15% of women.

Social networking gas also increased in popularity among all age groups, including the over-55s, where the activity rate on the medium has risen from 6% to 19% in the last year.

In terms of identifying "whom they would like more access/interaction with", 15% of the panel accorded this status to "celebrities", while 14% chose their "favourite company", and 13% opted for "service providers".

Over 40% of the members of Twitter also said their main reason for using the site was to "connect with friends", while 29% did so to "update their status", and 26% liked to "look for news". 

Almost a quarter of "tweeters" used the service for "work-related" purposes, while two-thirds "interacted with friends”, and 30% were "interacting with family" or "following" celebrities.

The Consumer Internet Barometer thus argued that "members of Twitter also are likely to interact with TV shows, employers, co-workers, companies, brands and TV anchors and journalists."

Anita Watkins, senior vice president at TNS, said that "social media has transformed the way individuals connect and communicate with one another."

As such, "smart marketers are utilizing this behavior to their advantage by setting up online communities in which consumers can freely interact."

These companies are also "listening in to these conversations and harnessing the power of influencers to co-create their marketing strategies."

Data sourced from The Conference Board/TNS; additional content by WARC staff