It is well acknowledged that mobile devices are changing the way that we go online, and this revolution is now seeing nearly half of the world’s social network users visit sites via their phones, according to research firm Nielsen, which says the trend is most prevalent in Asia Pacific.

According to the statistics, courtesy of the company’s upcoming ‘State of Social Media Report’, 59 percent of social media users in APAC interact with Twitter, Facebook and other services directly from a mobile device. That’s notable, not just for passing the 50 percent threshold, but also because it is 12 percent higher than the global average and approaching double the 33 percent in Europe and the US.

The higher usage of mobile in APAC correlates with another finding, that the continent has the highest proportion of smartphone ownership among its Internet-connected populace.

The report — which polled 28,000 online consumers across 56 countries in February and is due out in full early December — found that smartphone ownership rates top out in APAC (44 percent), which is some way ahead of Europe (31 percent) and North America (30 percent).

nielsen 730x586 Report: Half of people that use social networks do so from mobile, Asia leads the way

There are a number of notable points to raise when considering Nielsen’s findings. While APAC is ahead when it comes to Internet users surveyed, smartphones are still very much a niche. While it may be a year old, research firm Vision Mobile’s 2011 report pegged smartphone penetration in Asia at just 19 percent, well behind the US (63 percent) and Europe (51 percent).

Those findings demonstrate that, while smartphone ownership is not yet mainstream in Asia, those that do own devices are more tightly attached to them. Indeed many smartphone owners in Asia may have ‘leapfrogged’ the PC altogether, with their smartphone becoming their main Web device.

Nielsen records more than 60 percent of social networks users accessing sites via their mobile in Singapore, Indonesia, China, Korea and Hong Kong. Actual smartphone penetration rate (per population) varies wildly among that bunch, from low penetration in Indonesia to more than 60 percent in Korea.

“Social media is the fastest growing media in history and today over three in five internet users globally use it,” said Yasir Yousuff, NM Incite Managing Director, APMEA. “Use of social media by consumers in Asia Pacific is higher than any other region in the world and with increasing ownership and reliance on internet capable mobile devices, we will see an exponential increase in cross platform behaviour and mobile social media engagement.”

What about the impact of social media? Zoning in on Asia, Nielsen foresees that social sites will “play a large role” in influencing consumer purchasing decisions, particularly around electronics. From canvassing its survey sample, it believes that more than 50 percent of Asians that use social networks will be influenced based on Twitter, Facebook, online product reviews etc.

Yousuff says that, though social media influence has long been a growing factor — as Twitter and Facebook both build out their advertising businesses — “a direct correlation between positive social media sentiment and actual intent to purchase” is emerging.

So brands and advertisers that consider Asia a laggard have some cause to rethink their approach.

Nielsen is preparing to release the full report next month, so we’ll have more details from its research then. The company says it uses age and sex quotas which, weighted to be representative of each country’s Internet consumers, are accurate to within 0.6 percent.

Related:

Internet use in Asia up 14% in 2012 as online population passes 1 billion: Report

Southeast Asia’s mobile Internet revolution is on track, according to new report

Nielsen’s top 2011 digital brands show few surprises, but there’s room for change in 2012

Headline image via THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images