A large number of smartphone owners may be accessing social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter through their handsets, according to new research.

Figures from comScore reveal Facebook was the most popular social service used by individuals in March, seeing more than 78 million unique visitors accessing the service through a mobile gadget.

This made it the second most popular site overall, being visited by four our of five smartphone owners. Google and its associated services – such as YouTube and Maps – was the most popular website for mobile users, with almost 97 per cent of people engaging with at least one of the brand's properties – accounting for 93.9 million unique visits.

The study, which examined the usage patterns of iOS, Android and RIM users aged 18 and over, also found the typical user spent more than seven hours engaging with Facebook through a mobile browser or application during the month.

By comparison, Twitter saw 25.5 million users visit in March, who spent an average of just under two hours on the service. However, this was significantly longer than the amount of time PC users spent on the micro-messaging site, which comScore said highlights the importance of mobile gadgets for applications of this type.

Another social networking site to show strong performance in March was Pinterest, which received 7.4 million views, making it the fourth most popular platform behind Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Recently, it was noted by marketing agency Tamba that the image sharing site more than doubled its user base between January and March 2012, from two million to four million.

The comScore study found dedicated apps are the most common way in which people interact with social services on their smartphones, accounting for 82 per cent of the total time spent online.

However, the method of access varied widely depending on the website, comScore observed. While 96.5 per cent of Twitter users used an application to view the site, 82.1 per cent of visitors to Microsoft's range of services did so via a mobile web browser.

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