The analytics firm said traffic to social networks accounted for 11.9% of all UK internet visits during May, while search engines accounted for 11.3%.
Facebook received more than half of the social network visits in the UK (55%), almost triple the number YouTube had. Google remains the most visited website overall.
Twitter is now the third most popular social network in the UK, ahead of Bebo and MySpace.
May was the first month social networks have been more popular than search engines in the UK. But Experian Hitwise said Facebook doesn’t yet dominate the UK social network market to the extent that Google dominates the search market.
Together google.co.uk and google.com accounted for nine in every ten web searches carried out in the UK during May. Google UK was the most visited site, accounting for 9.29% of all visits, while Facebook accounted for 7.04%.
Robin Goad, Experian Hitwise’s research director, said, “Although social networks and search engines perform different functions, they both act as gateways to the wider internet. This data illustrates the key role that social media now plays in so much online behaviour.
“The majority of online marketing spend is currently diverted towards search, and this is likely to remain the case in the short to medium term,” he added. “Search remains the primary source of traffic for most websites, particularly in sectors that account for the majority of online transactions, such as retail, finance and travel.”
This story first appeared on newmediaage.co.uk