Social media has reached mass maturity, with more people than ever are participating in social networking sites, according to a new report by the social media consulting group Trendstream.

The Welcome to Social Entertainment – Annual Report 2011 is part of an ongoing web study called the Global Web Index, which surveyed 51,000 consumers globally between July 2009 and September 2010.

During these time periods, consumer participation in real-time social networks and microblogs grew 20 percent, according to the study. Yet forum participation declined 11 percent, blogging fell 4 percent and the number of people engaging in online conversations decreased. These shifts represent a trend in real time interaction that has drastically shifted social networking, the report states.

The Shift To Social Entertainment

This new shift to real-time interaction has radically changed the impact of social media by “creating an ongoing shared agenda and conversation that steers consumer involvement towards reacting and interacting with live events and discourse, rather than creating their own agenda or content,” the study said. This shift to “social entertainment” means more people will utilize social networking sites to filter the content they consume.

Social networking website Facebook and microblogging site Twitter are leading this change. Of the 51,000 people that participated in the study, 10 percent make updates on Facebook daily and 24 percent update weekly. When it comes to microblogging, 5 percent update daily. Only 29 percent of study participants said they used a microblog, but more than half said they updated their profile on a social networking website.

Microblogging continues to evolve into a platform for sharing professional content, instead of just personal content, according to the study. The number of people who linked to news stories and posted updates about a particular product on their microblogs increased by more than 10 percent his year, but people who posted updates about personal photos decreased 5 percent.

Business Use of Social Networking

More than ever, businesses are embracing social media as a business tool, the study found. The advertising and marketing industry are the two biggest industries using social media, while far behind them are the sectors of IT, retail, healthcare and financial services. This adoption has been bolstered by the fact that consumer trust levels of companies with a social network presence rose by nearly 50 percent, compared with the 2.5 percent rise in trust associated with televised content.

“These are truly encouraging findings for all businesses who have immersed themselves in a social media campaign already, and will provide that extra level of reassurance for those CEOs who have until now felt reluctant about the potential worth of such a venture,” said SEO company QueryClick.