Social media websites are drastically altering the manner in which online users behave. Together with blogging websites, they account for almost 10% of all Internet time. {Source: Nielsen "Global Faces", March 2009}. These sites have taken consumer attention to the next level and provided businesses with an opportunity to improve engagement with audience, by allowing them to create content. Social media has also helped syndication of content beyond traditional means to a wider, global audience.

Social media statistics are definitely important. But you need to interpret them, observe trend movements and evaluate usage from multiple dimensions. You can find a host of social media statistics for 2009 below. Feel free to add more sources to enhance this list!

Nielsen Online has revealed that social networks and blogs are now the 4th most popular online activity ahead of personal email, Member communities are visited by 67% of the global online population, time spent is growing at 3 times the overall internet rate, accounting for almost 10% of all internet time.

MySpace remains the most popular social media site in the US, capturing 31.95% of all social media visitors. Globally, however, MySpace falls behind Facebook as the leading social media site. Facebook recorded 65.7 million unique visitors in 2009, as compared to 54.1 million at MySpace.

MySpace Demographics from Quantcast

LinkedIn’s traffic increased drastically during the recession. According to ComScore, it’s increased from about 3.6 million unique monthly visitors a year ago to 7.7 million now, Adage, March 2.

Quantcast data on Twitter indicates that is a top 500 site that reaches over 4.1 million U.S. monthly people. The site attracts a more educated, slightly more female than male, young adult audience. According to the Nielsen, March report unique visitors to Twitter increased 1,382 percent year-over-year, from 475,000 unique visitors in February 2008 to 7 million in February 2009, making it the fastest growing site in the Member Communities category for the month. According to Comscore, April, worldwide visitors to Twitter approached 10 million in February, up an impressive 700+% when compared to a year ago. The past two months alone have seen worldwide visitors climb more than 5 million visitors. U.S. traffic growth has been just as dramatic, with Twitter reaching 4 million visitors in February, up more than 1,000% from last year. In fact, latest report based on the findings of Pew Internet & American Life’s daily tracking survey on Americans’ use of the internet released in October 2009 shows 19% of internet users now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves, or to see updates about others. According to Twitterholic, the top three people on Twitter (Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres and Britney Spears) have more combined followers than the entire population of Austria.

Twitter Demographics from Quantcast

Facebook has grown from 100 million to 200 million users in less than 8 months. If it were a country, it would be bigger than Brazil. Its traffic has grown immensely in one year’s period, especially in Europe where it grew 314%. According to comScore, it has grown a staggering 2,721% in Italy from February 2008 to February 2009. In other European countries, its growth was also immense: 999% in Spain, 607% in Belgium, 518% in France, 499% in Switzerland.

According to InsideFacebook, Facebook’s popularity is growing in every age/gender demographic. However, the fastest growing segment is women over 55. Facebook is growing faster with women than men in almost every age group. Women comprise 56.2% of Facebook’s audience, up from 54.3% late last year. 45% of Facebook’s US audience is now 26 years old or older.

According to compete, Digg is at 36 million uniques and is growing fast again, despite a dip in traffic in February. Frequently cited as Digg’s main competitors, Reddit and StumbleUpon are also growing, but they have a long way to go before they come anywhere close to Digg. According to the February 2009 statistics released by Clean Cut Media, YouTube us the #1 video site on the web, with 300 million visitors each month.

Digg Demographics from Quantcast

Nielsen Online’s latest research shows that social networking is now more popular than email. According to the study, 66.8% of Internet users across the globe accessed “member communities” last year, compared to 65.1% for email.

comScore has indicated that Russia has the most engaged social media audience with visitors spending 6.6 hours and viewing 1,307 pages per visitor per month and is the #1 social network.

This unmatched growth in social media has a lot of internet marketers thinking about how they can use the social media to drive additional traffic to businesses. With the number of options and ever-increasing user-base, it is very likely that social media sites will continue to attract more and more businesses.