We’re not  going social on the Internet to buy stuff. We’re going social to say hello to family and friends. So if you’re a small business  talking with customers on social networks remember why they are there and see how your offerings can help them  better say “hello”  or better evoke that feeling of saying it.

Most of us who are online  — 66% of us —  use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn to connect with family and friends, says a new research report by the Pew Internet Project.

Apparently the old song of “make new friends but keep the old” is really the gold that fuels these social networks.

I’m drawn to meet with my tribe on the Internet, fellow travelers who enjoy a certain kind of  music, plan to change the world with social enterprise or really enjoy capturing the special light on a summer blossom. Pew found fewer of me than I had thought there would be: Only 14% of the users surveyed said that social media was a place where they connected around an interest. That counters my reasons. I’m on Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn precisely to have a chat with my geeky chums.

And when I am hanging with my Tweeple, I’m always making new friends. Perhaps because I am self-employed around work related to the Internet, it’s been that way for a long time. In the Pew study, only 9% of respondents said that making new friends was important.

Pew said that just 5% of  surveyed adults read comments by pubic figures on social media and only 3% use networks to find romance, which doesn’t surprise me.

Those of us using social networks to stay close to family can be any adult age, income, race or ethnicity or parental status, although women find the family connection to be very important. Seventy-two percent of women cite family connections as a major reason vs. 55% of men.

If you’re under 50, sustaining friendships is an important reason why you find yourself at the keyboard, Pew says. Seven in ten users in this age group cite their current friend connection as why they use  Facebook and its ilk, while more than half say that old friends draw them there. Pew says the lure of friendship for the under-50 crowd is significantly higher than for users ages 50 and older.

The results reported here are based on a national telephone survey of 2,277 adults conducted April 26-May 22, 2011. You can view the report — Why Americans use Social Media— at the Pew Internet and American Life site.