Facebook Finds Greatest Number of Friends in America: Nielsen

As Facebook's global reach continues to grow, U.S. users are still far and away its largest audience, Nielsen reports.

As social networking behemoth Facebook prepares for its epic initial public offering, the analysts over at Nielsen took a look at where Facebook€™s user base of more than 900 million people hangs out. Unsurprisingly, the United States was home to the most unique visitors to Facebook from home or work computers in March, when the data was collected, with 152,763,000 visiting the site.

This works out to an active reach of 69.6 percent, meaning just under 70 percent of all those who were active online that month from computers in the U.S. logged onto Facebook. €œMore than two out of three Americans who were active online visited Facebook,€ the report explained, noting that the rate was lower than in markets including Brazil, New Zealand and Italy. €œAs recently as August 2011, Facebook overtook Orkut as the top social networking site in Brazil; it has continued to grow its audience since then,€ the report noted.

In New Zealand, Nielsen counted 2.6 million visitors, the second-lowest after Switzerland (just under 2 million) but the highest active reach, with 79.8 percent of all active Web users visiting the site. Facebook€™s second-highest active reach was in Taiwan, where 77.9 percent of all Web users visited the site in March, for a total audience of just over 11 million. In Brazil, where Facebook has an active audience of 38,138,000, about 76.7 percent of those who were active online visited the social networking site.

Facebook had the lowest active reach in Japan, where it counts an audience of 14.8 million: Just under a quarter (24.4 percent) of total Web users in that country visited Facebook. The next-lowest active reach, in Switzerland, was more than double, at 50.3 percent of active Web users. Although Facebook€™s reach is certainly impressive, users in certain markets€”take Japan, for example, where Facebook places fifth overall among social media sites€”visit other social media sites like blogs.

Facebook launched in 2004, and within five years, it had overtaken MySpace to become the largest social networking site in the world€”a position it has held ever since, according to Nielsen€™s statistics. By 2009, the site had become a major success worldwide, boasting 10 million unique U.K. visitors by April 2008 and 10 million visitors each in France, Spain and Germany by the end of 2009.

Nielsen noted New Zealand, Taiwan, the United States, and Australia use Hybrid measurement, which includes sources in addition to home/work computers. In the U.S., Nielsen€™s online panel measures the activity of more than 200,000 Internet users across more than 30,000 sites, and extends to more than 500,000 panelists worldwide.