2011 Global Social Network Halftime Report

The following is a post from Kevin Olivieri, TIG Global Social Media Analyst.

Every six months here at TIG Global, we like to take an in depth look into social media activity across the globe. Perhaps more than ever before, social media has risen to a prominence previously unseen over the last six months. Facebook has expanded to over 750M users, Twitter and LinkedIn reached mainstream audiences, and social networks enabled revolutions across the globe. Without further adieu, here’s the 2011 Global Social Network Halftime Report.

Why this is important
As we’ve seen over the past few years alone, social media is a powerful platform connecting brands and consumers like no other online platform before. With the ease of e-commerce transactions and 1/6th of our time online spent on social networks, businesses are spending more money putting together online campaigns on the most popular social networks in efforts to reach and influence consumers.

For an industry such as the hospitality industry, attracting international clientele is a key part of business. Common thought would be to just put together a Facebook campaign approach and wash your hands of it. While that would work in most countries, some of the biggest emerging (and established) markets use other social media platforms than Facebook or Twitter. This post report will hopefully make you aware of which social networks are ideal influencers around the world.

The worldwide impact of social media
Perhaps the strongest news this year, stronger than revenue through Facebook or LinkedIn’s IPO, was the role social networks played in social revolutions across the globe. Users in these countries took to social media to organize protests, communicate with one another, and share information with the world in efforts to rally support for their various causes. These revolutions exemplified just how powerful these networks are in the sense of building communities, a movement brands could only dream of attaining.

Facebook is still King, Twitter and LinkedIn continue to grow
Unlike MySpace before it, Facebook has been able to capitalize on their growth as they’ve continued adapting to attract and maintain hundreds of millions of users from every edge of the planet. This, coupled with the largest user base on the internet, has led to Facebook becoming the primary social network in 119 of 134 countries. Interestingly enough, Facebook’s numbers have dipped in the USA. Even so, only 4% of people under 50 in the United States DO NOT use Facebook.

Picking up for the slack in the USA, Brazil has shown strong growth as a key target market on Facebook. Another surprise is the fact that Europe is now home to the biggest Facebook presence, while North America drops to #2. And unsurprisingly, Facebook is still not allowed in China and Russian’s are still avoiding the network, reluctant to adopt despite its success in other regions of the world.

Twitter Surpasses 200M Users
Not only did Twitter reach over 300M accounts, but 70% of accounts are now located outside of the United States AND they also grew in key markets to become the # 2 social network behind Facebook. These markets include France, Germany, and The United States to go along with Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  Additionally, 13% of online adults now use Twitter, a significant increase from 8% in November of last year. And the tweets per day have gone from 50M to 140M over a year.

LinkedIn’s Big Year
Perhaps the social network that making the most headlines this month was LinkedIn, as it IPO’d earlier this month – making it the first major social network from the USA to do so. The results were impressive as the stock went from a believed $35 to opening around $90 and rising as high as $122 on opening day. It has since stabilized around its current price around $90 after dropping as low as $60 in mid-June.

On the user side, LinkedIn added more features to their platform and reached a milestone as the company celebrated their 100 millionth user in March of this year. LinkedIn also debuted as the # 3 most popular social network in the United States, behind Facebook and Twitter. This goes along with their 3rd place role in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Oh, and it should be mentioned LinkedIn IS allowed in China.

The move from local networks
The number of relevant social networks across the globe is dwindling. Local networks are losing users en masse to Facebook, and why not? If you’re interested in connecting and sharing ideas with people from all over the world, you’ll join Facebook. This is an important factor for businesses to consider when developing strategies for international social media marketing campaigns. Determine which network is most relevant for your target audience, and roll the out campaign there.

Asian Growth, Facebook in China?

As you can see in this chart, Facebook is growing slowly but surely in Asia. It’s good for Facebook to see that Japan has more than doubled in the last six months (biggest growth in Asia by %) but unfortunately, a recent study shows there may be too many cultural hurdles for mass adoption in Japan. Twitter, meanwhile, continues to grow in Japan through new accounts and local partnerships. Not-so-conspicuously absent from this list is China. But will that change? Only time will tell.

Late last year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited China and met with executives of several big internet leaders in the Chinese market. This visit, along with the meetings, set the rumor mill ablaze as many people signaled this as the precursor to Facebook’s entrance into China. Rumors heated up again earlier this year where it was expected the popular Chinese networking site Baidu would partner with Facebook to put together a censored version of the platform to leap over cultural hurtles and appease the local government and their stringent guidelines. Since then there hasn’t been much noise (except another scheduled China visit) but I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook is in China by the end of this year (2011).

Facebook vs Orkut in Brazil, Interesting Developments in Russia
No country grew its user base more substantially than Brazil did over the last six months. Brazilians on Facebook more than doubled their presence, leaping from 8.5M Facebook users to an astounding 20.6M users and growing. This growth comes on the heels of a seemingly stagnant prior year for Brazil in 2010. Orkut still has control over the social networking market in Brazil, but Facebook is edging closer and closer to becoming the premiere social network in Brazil. If this growth can continue or even increase, Brazil will make Facebook its social network of choice, letting Orkut fade out into oblivion.

Russians, who have thus far managed to avoid using Facebook, are seeing a two social networks battle it out, between V Kontakte and Odnoklassniki. V Kontake is the market leader in Russia with over 118M accounts but Odnoklassniki has gained a lot of steam the last few months, becoming Kazakhstan’s top social network and growing rapidly in Russia with over 100M accounts.  Facebook on the other hand, has 5M users in Russia. Twitter is reportedly skyrocketing in Russia as well, so we will look for developments there.


Advertising and Revenues: F-Commerce, Display Ads, and Promoted Tweets
Social networks are actively shedding their start-up mentalities and focusing heavily on generating much needed revenue to remain self sufficient without funding rounds. The last six months has seen this transition. These social networks have appealed to perhaps the most important demographic, small businesses, with new advertising and e-commerce opportunities.

Earlier this year Facebook made a very important change to one of their long-held policies, allowing for custom iframe applications to be built within the Facebook platform and used on Pages. This change opened the door for all businesses on Facebook to port in their existing shopping experiences and booking engines to the Facebook platform. The opportunity for commerce through Facebook makes the platform even more attractive, as it has now turned fanbases into customer opportunities. Some business have already begun doing so; and doing so very successfully. American Eagle, Levi’s, OpenTable, and Ticketmaster, to name a few. Expect to see more businesses grow this type of presence in the coming months to take advantage of this fertile buying environment.

Last year Facebook made a little over $1.86B in revenue from Facebook ads. This year, not only is it expected to eclipse that mark, it will also big the Internet’s biggest deliverer of display ads over search giants Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

Twitter is also actively pursuing ways to generate advertising revenue. It was recently announced they will be including sponsored tweets into all users Twitter streams. Considering the backlash over their iPhone app and ads earlier this year, Twitter really needs to get this right and find an innovative and affordable way for small businesses to get involved in advertising on the Twitter platform.

The future
Google finally went public with their newest foray into social networking with a Facebook competitor called Google +. The social product boasts many impressive features and new features including group photo chat and group texting. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the product is not a new social experience for users, but they must be on to something, as today it was announced that Google +1 has already reached 10 million users, so it is definitely one to watch.

Additionally, Facebook is already reportedly working on including those features into their platform over the course of the year so it really makes you wonder – why would people sign up for a social network that’s pretty much the same as the current social network that is connecting users worldwide?  Seems redundant, but again…only time will tell.

As 2011 progresses, expect more of the same growth. I think Twitter will grow throughout the globe and establish itself as the de facto number two social network in a majority of countries worldwide. LinkedIn will continue serving its niche and see a big spike in their account growth due in part to its success on Wall Street, putting itself as the number three social network worldwide.

I know there was a big hullabaloo regarding Facebook’s numbers dropping in the USA but I don’t think that’s sign of a worrying trend for the platform. Facebook will grow with older demographics getting involved in the USA, and the world wide possibilities, at the time of this article being written, are looking very promising.

A trend I see in Brazil I believe will spell the end of Orkut and give Facebook the position of number one social network in the country. And something I didn’t think would realistically happen any time soon, Facebook being allowed in China, is now looking like a distinct possibility.

Should be an exciting second half of 2011!

Do you have any predictions for what will be the next big thing in social media? Sound off in the comments section and let us know!

Interested in ramping up your online strategy? Check out the full suite of TIG Global interactive marketing tools, send us an email, or give us a call +1 301.841.4700(US) | +44 (0)20 3004 9468(UK)

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