While Facebook has made a push in the past year to engage more journalists, the social network lags behind Google and other platforms as a significant driver of traffic to news media sites.

In fact, only nine percent of U.S. adults get their news from Facebook and Twitter, although of that group, Facebook is used most frequently as a source of news.

That’s according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s State of the News Media 2012 report. The annual study included a survey of 3,016 U.S. adult users of Facebook and Twitter, conducted in January.

While the total number of social media news consumers is still small, this group also employs traditional methods of getting its news, such as going directly to news websites, using applications, or site aggregators, such as Google.

In other words, people aren’t relying solely on Facebook. And the Pew study also revealed:

  • More than twice as many digital news consumers follow news recommendations from Facebook than from Twitter, and that remains consistent across different digital devices (computers, smartphones, or tablets);
  • On any mobile device, seven percent get news on Facebook very often and 19 percent get news on Facebook somewhat often;
  • 27 percent of those who obtain news on Facebook do so via Twitter too, with 11 percent doing it somewhat or very often;
  • About 70 percent of U.S. adults get news links from friends and family on Facebook, not from (subscribing to) journalists and news organizations on the social network; and
  • Overall, 13 percent of digital news consumers follow news recommendations on both Facebook and Twitter.

Who are these Facebook news followers? Pew said they track very closely to the general U.S. population, and they are more likely to have children in their households.

Facebook is the more dominant of the social channels for driving news traffic, in part because of the site’s stickiness.

Based on Nielsen data, Facebook users stay on the site an average of 423 minutes each per month.

In contrast, adults only spent about 12 minutes per month on one of the top 25 news sites.

The addition of the social reader is another reason why news-consuming adults prefer Facebook, Pew said.

Although the numbers are small, there is a lot of opportunity for news sites to leverage Facebook even more, using ShareThis and similar apps, because the study showed that adults prefer to get news links from their friends and family.

Readers, how do you get your news when you’re on a mobile device?