The explosion in social networking may be even greater than imagined. The time that people in the U.S. spend on social network sites is up 83 percent from a year ago, according to a report from market researcher Nielsen Online.
Facebook enjoys the top spot among social networks, with people having spent a total of 13.9 billion minutes on the service in April of this year, 700 percent more than in April 2008, Nielsen said. Minutes spent on Twitter soared a whopping 3,712 percent to almost 300 million, versus around 7.8 million from the same month a year ago.
Former top dog MySpace watched its usage drop nearly one-third to around 4.9 billion minutes, from 7.2 billion in April 2008. MySpace still scored the number one spot for online video among the top 10, thanks to its users streaming more than 120 million videos from the site for April of this year.
"We have seen some major growth in Facebook during the past year, and a subsequent decline in MySpace," Jon Gibs, Nielsen's vice president for online media and agency insights, said in a statement. "Twitter has come on the scene in an explosive way perhaps changing the outlook for the entire space."
But the report also offered a cautionary note: the social networking user can be fickle, quickly bouncing from one service to another. "Remember Friendster? Remember when MySpace was an unbeatable force? Neither Facebook nor Twitter are immune," said Gibs. "Consumers have shown that they are willing to pick up their networks and move them to another platform, seemingly at a moment's notice."
Despite its growth and popularity, Twitter may be especially vulnerable to users who don't stick around. Another Nielsen report from April found that 60 percent of Twitter users--dubbed Twitter Quitters by the media--abandon their tweets after only one month of use. Only about 30 percent of users on MySpace and Facebook jump ship.
Nielsen Online, part of the Nielsen Company, measures consumer use of online and mobile services and other related media.