Far from being the domain of teenagers, mobile social networking is proving most popular with affluent, well-educated professionals (ie people who can afford a smartphone). This is just one of many nuggets of information about our global social media habits contained in Universal McCann’s latest Wave 5 report.

The Wave reports, a series that annually tracks how consumers across the globe are engaging with the internet and advises businesses how to respond, have been on our radar at yourBusinessChannel for some time. We did an extensive interview with Universal McCann’s Tom Smith when the Wave 3 report was launched – way back when the big message for business was that a website was no longer a destination, because consumers were increasingly spending their online time on social networks.

Fast forward two years and things have changed again. With social networks increasingly dominating the internet, the headline topic in this year’s report is the socialisation of brands. Universal McCann have provided a nice slideshare summarising the report, but here are the outtakes I thought were particularly interesting for yBC and the people we work with.

  • People are increasingly using digital tools to manage relationships – social networking is now the largest source of social interaction, overtaking face-to-face in terms of the number of relationships people are managing this way.
  • New functions in social networks (eg blogging and video upload capability) mean consumers are doing more on fewer platforms. And on the subject of video, it remains an incredibly popular, accessible format.
  • But while personal blogs saw declining popularity (as people increasingly access this kind of content on social media), specialist subject blogs grew in popularity
  • Nearly 3/4 of the active internet universe claim to have managed a social network profile.
  • Mobile is a massive trend, with a clear correlation between mobile internet access, smartphone ownership and engagement in social media. Smartphone owners visit their social network profile on average 3.5 times a day, 18% more often than the average social network user. (And as I mentioned above, smartphone users are most likely educated males, aged 25 – 34, employed in a decision-making role on a medium to high income.)
  • Visits to brand sites are declining, but consumers are joining brand groups and communities. Free content was a motivation for 69.6% of people, but more wanted to learn (78.6%) and get access to advance product news (76.1%).

So, what does it all mean? As usual there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. According to Universal McCann, social media isn’t going away and marketing successfully in this environment all comes down to developing a smart, appropriate strategy. Or as they put it, “understanding the nature of social demand for each consumer, category and market is the key to creating a successful social media experience.”

Can’t argue with that.