A new report by Nielsen sees social medias influence growing, with online product reviews the third most trusted source of information behind family and friends.

According to the report, 74% of the world’s internet population has visited a social networking or blogging site and internet users now spend an average of six hours per month on social media.

Australians still lead the world in social media engagement – spending the highest global average time per month on social media (seven hours). The report found a contrast between Australian use and the global experience, being that Australians congregate online around forums of interest (e.g. parenting forums). It also indicated that 62% of Australians online visited at message board or forum in 2009.

Our professional profiles are also important, with LinkedIn seeing a 99% increase in unique audience numbers from Australian between July 2009 and May 2010.

“The findings we’ve uncovered in this social media report highlight, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that social media is here to stay and needs to be taken seriously by the broader business community, from the CMO to the CEO,” notes Megan Clarken, managing director of Nielsen’s online business in Asia Pacific.

“With three quarters of the global Internet population now participating in some form of social media, businesses can no longer afford to simply observe the social media phenomenon, they need to embrace it.”