Each week, Facebook users double the time spent watching TV’s biggest event

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Fans watch the 2010 World Cup final in Cape Town. Photo courtesy of Flowcomm via Flickr

Citi analyst Mark Mahaney generated some buzz awhile back when he published a research note commenting that in August, for the first time, people spent more time on Facebook than on Google. Some argued it’s a sign that social marketing should begin to eclipse search engine marketing. Yet with Google recently announcing that its many services touch 1 billion people each week, clearly the importance of search is not fading. Instead, our approach to understanding the impact of both search and social applications needs to evolve.

In trying to decide where to focus their time in social media, many of the public relations professionals I talk to are seeking evidence of which sites attract the greatest mindshare. With all the mind-boggling statistics available on the amount of time half a billion people are spending on Facebook, having a presence there is a component of social media strategy for most organizations. But is Facebook the object of more human attention than any other media source or Web property?

There’s some evidence to suggest that’s the case, and yet, since no two minutes spent on Facebook are experienced in quite the same way by two different users, all of that attention seems very fragmented when viewed in the aggregate. Of course, that fragmentation is part of why Facebook is such a success: personalized news feeds, granular privacy controls and a variety of ways to interact mean that time spent on Facebook isn’t much like, say, time spent watching a sporting event.

Still, consider this: by FIFA’s estimate, about 700 million people watched the 2010 World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands, surpassing the 2008 Olympics in Beijing to become the biggest global television event of all time. At roughly 2 hours per person, that’s about 159,000 years spent by humanity watching the game. According to Facebook’s own data, at total usage of around 700 billion minutes per month, Facebook users roughly double in a given week the amount of time spent watching  the biggest TV spectacle ever.

Such comparisons are of little value, though, to someone who wants to know how much time people spent engaging in  with or being exposed to their organization, brand or product on the social Web. For that purpose, the best approach is to combine the Facebook Insights dashboard on your page with data from a tool like CisionPoint or the Cision Social Media Dashboard.

Ultimately, user behavior on Facebook amounts to a unique combination of communication and media consumption. Isn’t it interesting to watch that evolve?

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