It's never been a stretch to connect that dot that people who are socially active on the Web may also be socially active in the non-virtual world. New research presents data that backs this theory up.
Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project on Jan. 18 said that 80 percent of Internet users participate in groups, compared with 56 percent of non-Internet users.
Pew polled 2,303 adults by phone from Nov. 23 to Dec. 21, 2010. Some 46 percent of the Internet users who are active in groups say the Web has helped them be active in more groups. One quarter of those active in groups say they discovered at least some of their groups online.
Moreover, 82 percent of social-media users, including people who use Facebook or some other social venue to share information, are active in groups.
"Use of the Internet, in general, and social media, in particular, has become the lubricant for chatter and outreach for all kinds of groups, ranging from spiritual communities to professional societies to ad hoc fan clubs," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project and one of the authors of a new report on the findings.
Approximately 62 percent of online adults use social-networking sites, while 12 percent use Twitter, the popular microblog service.
Roughly 48 percent of those who are active in groups say that those groups have a page on a social-networking site like Facebook. Some 42 percent of those who are active in groups say those groups use text messaging to communicate.
Rainie found these folks are more likely to post updates about group activities on their Facebook pages and in Twitter tweets, more likely than others to invite newbies into a group and more likely than others to be targeted for invitations to groups.
What does this add up to? Increased user engagement for social networks such as Facebook, whose 600 million-plus users have helped boost worldwide ad spending at the network to $1.86 billion, according to data from EMarketer.
EMarketer also said social networks fully accounted for 10 percent of ad spend in 2010. These facts, and Facebook's swift rise as an ad power, have other social-media merchants hungry for a place at the social-ad table. Twitter, too, will capitalize on this trend in 2011, with its promoted ad products.
Pew also found that 68 percent of American non-Internet users recognized the Web as a medium that facilitates group communication.
What are we to conclude about this glut of non-Internet users who understand the viability of the Internet as a communications medium? Awareness of the Internet's power to reach many people is keen.
Perhaps, one day, non-Internet users may find they have something they want to broadcast, and perhaps they will turn to the Web-maybe even a social network such as Facebook or Twitter-to communicate.
That would be ideal for Facebook and Twitter; non-Internet users are invisible from those social media, which is billions in lost ad revenue.