The folks at Nielsen are pretty good at media market research and providing extensive (and more importantly accurate) data within various verticals including entertainment, advertising and recently, a growing industry which combines both:  Social Media.

In this year’s Social Media Report which Nielsen released earlier today, a staggering statistic was revealed regarding social media usage – Americans collectively spent 121.1 billion minutes on social networks in July of 2012 alone!

Nielsen's 2012 Social Media Report
Image Courtesy of Nielsen

According to the infographic published by Nielsen, 5.7 billion of those minutes were logged via mobile devices, 40.8 billion were through apps and somewhat surprisingly, 74 billion minutes were attributed to desktop/laptop users.  Even more surprisingly, apps and PCs experienced significantly more growth in this sector than smartphones and tablets.

What’s less shocking is Facebook’s continued dominance in the social media industry.  The world’s largest social network accumulated an average of over 300 million visitors per month this year.  Facebook also proved to be the most engaging network in terms of audience retention, as users spent more time on the site than any networks such as Google+, Twitter or Pinterest.

Speaking of Pinterest, the up-and-coming, visually-appealing social startup has earned the title of Fastest Growing Network of 2012, having grown by over 1,000% since 2011.  Blogger, Twitter, WordPress and LinkedIn were amongst the other top networks this year.

What do these stats mean for business owners?  Most importantly, they’re an undeniable indicator of social media’s staying power and usefulness as a marketing tool.  Every minute that a user spends on a networking site sharing, following and liking is another opportunity for businesses to achieve greater consumer awareness and gain new customers.  With literally billions of minutes a month being spent on social media, those opportunities are virtually limitless.

Furthermore, these statistics show that while Facebook is the most obvious target for Social Media Optimization & Social Media Marketing campaigns, rapidly emerging networks like Pinterest are truly capable of gaining market share and getting noticed in the social media landscape and shouldn’t be overlooked as potential marketing platforms.  The data speaks for itself: Social Media is a valuable resource for businesses and those not utilizing it are undoubtedly missing out on one of the world’s largest and most effective promotional outlets.

What are your thoughts on Nielsen’s 2012 Social Media Report?  I’d like to know your thoughts on how social media marketing will change in the year ahead.  Leave a comment below, send an email or a tweet with your opinions and insights on the future of Social Media!