Social networks accounted for 12.4 percent of all UK internet visits in January this year, says Experian Hitwise.

Research by the web analytics firm revealed there were 2.4 billion visits to social networks by Brits at the start of the year, meaning social media has become the single biggest online activity for UK-based web users. January's figures for social networking visits were the highest of any month on record.

Experian Hitwise also revealed Brits are spending more time on each visit to a social network. The average time spent on a social network in January was 22 minutes.

Facebook was named the most popular social network, accounting for 56 percent of all UK visits to social media sites in January.

"While social networks of course compete amongst themselves for users, many of those users have a presence on multiple networks," said Experian Hitwise's research director, Robin Goad.

"One in every eight people leaving a social network visits another one immediately after, something that is encouraged by the connections that exist between the networks. Facebook, for example, is a key source of traffic for many smaller social networks; while almost a fifth of people leaving Twitter go on to visit another social network."

Hitwise said the biggest recipients of traffic from social networks are news and entertainment websites. In January 2011, social networks sent only 16 percent of their traffic to transactional websites (such as online retailers, travel companies and business and finance websites). By comparison, search engines sent 33 percent of their traffic to transactional websites.