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The worldwide status of Social Networks – Notes and Statistics on the Internationalisation of Social Media

Posted by John Horniblow on Feb 16, 2010 in General, marketing 2.0, Online Media, Social Media Marketing, User experience |

written for  http://blog.label.ch

The most important reason for the meteoric growth of Social Networks is something called “The Network Effect”. This equates to a tipping point when the value of a communications network to its users rises exponentially with the number of people connected to it. In the past year, we have witnessed one such rising star, Facebook ( but it begs the question is it the only one? ). It took 5 years for Facebook to reach 150 million users and then a further 8 months to double that number. Today, according to Facebook Statistics, it has 400 million users. In 2009 we saw Facebook become almost ubiquitous in every conversation swirling around Social Media and social networks. It was the year in which Facebook exploded into a global phenomena, dominating the Social Networking market worldwide as it became an international social network giant. While its dominated the english speaking press and displaced MySpace its not the only Social Network in the world.

To believe that Facebook or english speaking social networks are the only “players in Social networks” worldwide would be nothing short of one sided owed to very narrow perspective of the hyper connected world we live in. According to Wikipedia, there are some 1.5 billion members worldwide. Across the world there a number of culturally, language, local and regionally driven social networks , that both singularly and accumulatively pose the question whether Facebook can dominate the world in Social Networking. As startling as it is, the ” Facebook Network Effect” is not only a Facebook phenomena and its also occurring across other Social Networks in the world , albeit with different speeds.

So lets look at some of the Facebook statistics and the insights they bring.

Facebook Top growth by country – Dec 31st 2009


Facebook usage by % population of country – Dec 31st 2009

Demark and Norway while not in the top 25 countries reveal even high % population penetration

Norway Facebook users = 2,256,080 % population = 48.5%

Denmark Facebook users = 2,262,260 % population = 42 %


Some of the insights coming out of Facebook’s 2009 growth are :

  • The 35+ demographic now represents more than 30% of the entire user base
  • The 55+ audience grew enormously at 922.7% in 2009
  • Facebook’s largest user base, US, grew from 42 m to 103 m in 2009, a 144.9% growth rate
  • SE Asia reprsents and huge growth potential – Indonesia grew to 14.1 m a 1536.7% growth rate , Philippines grew to 8.4 m a 2046.8% growth rate in 2009
  • Taiwan’s user base grew to 5,490,300 a 4763% growth rate in 2009
  • Facebook accounts for 7% of all time spent online in the U.S, 111.9 million US visitors in December 2009 double that of December 2008
  • In Orkut’s biggest markets (Brazil, India ) Facebook saw growth ( number of users and number of users relative to population, however, is still very low )
  • Facebook has almost colonized Europe and it is extending its domination with more than 80 millions users at the start of 2010
  • Facebook is growing well in Africa amongst the internet connected population

A review of State of Social Media World from the international perspective shows some other great observations of the growth and importance of Social Networks across the globe.

world map of social networks

Italian Vincenzo Cosenza’s blog , Vinco, publishes a visual map of the worlds social networks upon which can see the changing geographical spread of social networks. Facebook in the past nine months has seemingly homogenised the map somewhat. However, our research indicates that in some countries the map may not be correct and it hard to get an accurate number of the exact numbers. In India , Orkut still ranks as the number one social network , and while Facebook enjoyed good growth and made inroads into the Philippines and Indonesia, Friendster still dominates the SE Asia region. So the light green spread of Facebook indicated on Vincenzo’s map remains relevant in the Americas, Europe, Australia and Africa. It is worthwhile noting that in the South East African countries there are new social networks being created that we predict will compete significantly against Facebook in countries outside of South Africa.

“South Africa has shown for years that social networks in Africa will be run over mobile phones in the future. Mxit in South Africa, a mobile social network application with more than 5 million members, lets one engage in a community independently from location and time.

According to Appfrica, South Africa has 1.1 million Facebook members, Morocco 369,000, Tunisia 279,000, Nigeria 220,000, Kenya 150,000,and Mauritius 60,000. It is also Appfrica who presents an interesting little project, where Ugandans can interact Facebook through their mobile phones: Status.ug is a completely mobile gateway for Ugandans to also interact on Facebook. Appfrica estimates around 60,000 Facebook registered members in the Kampala area. Erik Hersman wrote on his blog about Sembuse, East Africa’s first mobile social network “Sembuse is a mobile social network. It’s a way for East Africans to connect with each other via short messaging, cheaper than normal SMS messages (much like it’s counterpart Mxit in South Africa).” # extract taken from The Next Billion – The Rise of Social Network Sites in Developing countries by Christian Kreutz

In other parts of Africa Facebook continues to grow the following table showing user numbers in Africa was complied by Possicon from the Webtrends Nigeria blog

Around Africa

Countries Facebook Users Internet Users % penetration
Egypt 2,573,080 12,600,000 20.4
South Africa 2,389,560 4,600,000 51.9
Morocco 1,275,780 10,300,000 12.4
Tunisia 1,136,880 2,000,000 56.8
Nigeria 1,029,300 11,000,000 9.4
Kenya 554,380 3,400,000 16.3
Ghana 354,380 997,000 35.5

” Egypt has overtaken South Africa as the largest country with Facebook users in Africa, though Facebook penetration in Egypt is much lower than south Africa, it show that there is room for more growth. For now, South Africa’s Facebook users seem to have reach climax as the growth rate is almost flattened. With the table above, Tunisia has the highest penetration up 11% from last November of 45%, given the number of internet users in Tunisia, the growth might not last for too long before it stops. Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria are the top countries in terms of Internet users and as such, we should expect growth from these countries. Morocco has just 12.4% of its internet population on Facebook while Nigeria with 9.4%. Ghana also shows a good Facebook penetration but insignificant as its internet users are still hinging below 1 million mark.” # extract taken from Web Trends Nigeria

Using this map and a number of other sources I came up with a conclusive picture of what the regional and local competition is for Facebook around the world.

Facebook’s Regional and Cultural Competition as of 31st Dec 2009

  • Qzone – 200 m users as of 31.01.09 , reportedly 300m as Dec 2009 , Main land China- more that 150 m monthly active users
  • Myspace – 130 m users – 115 m monthly active users, 15 languages has some 5 million artists and bands on MySpace Music and has plans to increase the development as a entertainment content network
  • Friendster - 115 m users – 61m unique users per month and 19 billion pages views per month predominantly SE Asia Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, India
  • Orkut - *100 m users – 48 languages – 51.09 m user Brazil , 20.02m users in India , 17.28m user in US.
  • hi5 - 80m users – 50 languages, main demographics 18 – 34 ( 67% of users ) *15m Mexico, *10.5m Thailand, *7m Peru, *7m Portugal, India, Latam , big interest in developing social games and entertainment content
  • Vkontakte - 61 m users- Russian (cyrillic ) speaking world inc. Eastern Europe , is a Facebook clone.
  • Cyworld – *16.2 m users – 33% of total population of Sth Korea , 90% of Sth Koreans in their 20′s are members of Cyworld.
  • Bebo - 40 m users – languages English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Polish
  • Maktoob- 36 m users, Middle East, bought by Yahoo , Aug 2009 combining 16m Maktoob users with 20m Yahoo users, originally an email service that has extended into social network and news content
  • Hyves – 9m users , The Netherlands only , 53% of total population of The Netherlands are registered users
  • iWiW – 4m users, Hunagry only, 40% of total population of Hungary are registered user through invite only

Sources : Alexa, Google,Kohl, Orkut, hi5, NYtimes, Techcrunch, iwiw blog vkontakte.ru, Maktoob
* Estimated user numbers

The numbers are significant and tell us that language, culture, location are strong determinants in the Social Network world. What is obvious is that while MySpace lost its dominance in the english speaking world it has a very special offering in music and youth culture that means its still a powerful force in social networks.

  • QQ, leader in China, is possibly the largest social network of the world (300 millions active accounts)
  • MySpace has lost its leadership everywhere (except in Guam)
  • VKontakte is the most popular in Russian (Cyrillic language) territories
  • Friendster still dominates SE Asia , while Facebook has seen high growth in this region in 2009
  • Orkut ( owned by Google) remains dominant in India and Brazil with Facebook making small and growing progress
  • Hi5 is still leading in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and other scattered countries such as Portugal, Mongolia, Romania
  • Maktoob ( bought by Yahoo in 2009) is the most important Arab community/portal and growing very fast , 6 million unique visitors in June 2008 to 21.8 million a year later
  • Cyworld, Hyves, iWiW, One, and other language or country specific social networks have user numbers that are very high % of population and maybe hard to compete with

The following chart is a ranking provided by Vinco on what social networks dominate in , what are arguably, the top ten Social media markets worldwide. The interesting note we have here is on the emergence of Twitter. It still has a long way to go for worldwide acceptance , however, it is important to note Twitter has spawned over 50,000 apps that tie into the service.

social networking platforms rankings

This blog is published and maintained by John Horniblow AKA BladeDigital ™ : On the Cutting Edge

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