Over the last few years social networking has emerged as a truly global phenomenon, and today Facebook is known to be the favourite site of young and old across many countries around the world. The numbers speak for themselves: in March 2012, 806 million people age15+ visited Facebook.com on a worldwide basis.
In March 2007, social networks had a global audience of less than 500 million visitors, representing just 56 percent of the world’s online population. In those days, as Thomas Friedman put it, ‘Twitter’ was a sound, the ‘cloud’ was in the sky, ‘4G’ was the name of a parking space... and ‘Skype’ for most people was a typo.” Email reigned supreme as the king of communication channels online, and the word ‘friend’ was just beginning its metamorphosis from the rigid uni-dimensional noun it was to the ubiquitous, transformative verb it has become. Since then, the digital landscape has changed immensely. Social networks, which provide platforms for online users to connect, share, and build relationships with others online, have forever altered the lives of individuals, communities and societies all over the world. The growth in popularity of social networking has also created and engendered new online consumer behaviours.
Facebook has been at the forefront of the social media movement and quickly amassing users across regions and countries, helping friendships transcend borders despite any cultural differences. Local competitors often struggled to keep users engaged and prevent internet users from ‘testing’ Facebook as the world’s largest social network spread its tentacles. The more users it attracted, the more incentive existing users had to engage and participate, helping forge a strong ‘network effect’ which today makes it very difficult to for users to leave. The switching costs for the average user have become too great. With more global users continuing to join Facebook against minimal churn, it’s no surprise that Facebook now has a billion users in its sights.
Over the past 27 months, or roughly 800 days, Facebook has overtaken local competitors in 8 additional markets and is now the most popular social networking site in 39 out of the 44 countries on which Comscore reports individually. Only China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam have different market leaders in terms of audience size.
Interestingly, 3 out of these 5 countries rank among the fastest growing global markets for Facebook. In Vietnam, Facebook increased its user base by 270 percent over the past year, while it grew 84 percent in Japan and 78 percent in South Korea.
In countries where Facebook’s user growth has matured, such as the US, additional growth in usage continues to come from new devices such as smartphones. The Facebook mobile app ranked within the top five apps on both iOS and Android, securing the #3 spot among iPhone users (80 percent reach) and the #5 position with Android users (69 percent reach).
For many of us, Facebook is part of the fabric of modern life – not just in one country – but around the world. So far it is the only truly global social network and there are no immediate signs of change on the horizon.