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Social media is on the up and up but Facebook is slowing in developed markets

GlobalWebIndex, which claims to be the world’s largest and most detailed ongoing global research study into consumer behaviour online, has published its latest report Social Platform Adoption Trends 2012. The analysis is based on interviews with more than 152,000 individuals in 31 internet markets over seven separate waves of research. The latest fieldwork took place in Q2 2012.

Which is quite a lot. Here’s what they’ve come up with. Among other things it suggests that the appeal of Facebook is waning in developed markets.

Facebook: Facebook users are the most active of all the global social platform users with 64% of account owners contributing in the last month via PC, tablet or mobile. Six hundred and fifty-three million people had used the platform in the last month, a 40% increase year-on-year of which 43% (273m) were active via mobile.

Google+: Thanks to integration the rest of the Google product range, G+ has 336m active users, a 58% increase in the past six months. China, India and Indonesia dominate usage and globally 120m active users have shared photos through the service while 108m have hit a +1.

Twitter: Although a staggering 517m users have created an account, only 262m have used the platform in the past month.

Five key trends in social media:

Social media is the internet: Social media is so ingrained into the modern internet experience that a staggering 90% of all internet users now have an account on at least one social service and 70% of them contributed in the past month.

Emerging internet markets dominate growth numbers for the big name social services and the top five markets for owning and being active on social profiles are Indonesia, China, South Korea, Philippines and Russia.

Passive users are transforming social: When social media arrived, it was very much about consumers publishing to the world and peer-to-peer communication. The situation today is shifting rapidly. Increasingly, social media and the social platforms are enabling consumers to follow and stay up to date with people in the public eye. Consequently contribution levels are falling with messaging friends falling 16% from 69% of social network users in Q2 2012.

Social Platform Adoption Trends 2012 finds that on Twitter, although 517m have created an account, only 262m have actively used the platform in the past month and just 48% of these had posted a tweet. On Facebook, 192m of the 845m people who visited Facebook in the past month did not make a single contribution.

As users become more passive over time and increasingly turn to people in the public eye or well-known organisations for interesting content, social will increasingly become a broadcast channel.

Emerging markets will power Facebook onwards and upwards: Facebook continues to demonstrate epic growth, topping 1bn accounts by the end of Q2 2012. Growth is now entirely driven by new users in markets such as Brazil and India, where social media is mass market and internet penetration is growing rapidly. There has been a recent decline in the US and other mature markets such as Sweden, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The relentless growth of emerging internet markets like Brazil, Indonesia and India, will according to our three years of trend data, enable Facebook to hit 1.5bn users by the Q3 2013 and 2bn users by the end of 2014.

Pinterest becomes an international hit: The new star of social has certainly made a massive impact, already signing up 53m active users. This is rapid growth for a product that only came out of beta in August 2012.

This a demonstration of the globalisation of the internet as only 16m of these active users originate in the US, with China (11m), India (8m) and Brazil (1.8m) leading the international growth charge.

Photo sharing dominates social usage: Sharing photos is by far the most important activity on all the devices used by Facebook users. Eight-two per cent of active Facebook desktop PC users have shared via PC, 60% of mobile users via a mobile and 57% of tablet users via a tablet. It outranks messaging friends, posting status updates or sharing links.

This is replicated (at a lower level) in Google+ – where 120m active users have shared photos and is also the second-most important activity in Twitter – 41% – after posting comments on your daily activities, which scored 48%.

“Mass-market social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have truly enabled all internet users to become social,” says GWI founder Tom Smith. “They are globalising the internet by providing localised services that users across the world are adopting as their default internet experience. Fast-growing internet markets will continue to drive user base growth and will define how social services are shaped into the future.

“Despite this globalisation in platforms, local trends remain distinct, with every country showing different patterns of usage. It’s never been more important for brands and marketers to understand their users.”

Indeed not. But it doesn’t get any easier does it?

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