MHB WEEKLY: By the students, for the world

Social Media’s Grip on the World | January 24, 2011

Five years ago, the social media movement was contained in college and music communities. Today, by comparison, it consumes unprecedented amounts of people’s lives — and by tomorrow, the numbers will only grow. In 2004, Facebook was created in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has since wrapped its tentacles around the globe: in its top two countries per capita, Brazil and Italy, the site reaches 86% and 66% of active internet users. Pundits have written entire ebooks predicting where these trends will ultimately lead, but it’s hard to say for certain what the future holds. For now, here are some interesting facts.

While it’s common knowledge that Facebook is the go-to social networking site for most Internet users, some might find it surprising that Facebook is used by 54% of the world’s online population. English remains Facebook’s most commonly-used language, with over 52% of users accessing the site in English in May 2010. Logging on to check one’s profile, however, has undoubtedly become a global — and therefore multilingual — phenomenon. According to InsideFacebook, English, Spanish, French, Turkish, Indonesian, Italian, German, Chinese, Portuguese and Arabic were the site’s top ten languages last spring — and with Facebook being accessed in different languages by users all over the globe, social media marketers should consider which strategies are most effective across cultures and languages.

The average social media visitor spends 66% more time on these sites than a year ago — up to six hours in April 2010 versus three hours and 31 minutes in 2009. The increase has been induced in two ways: first, more and more companies are regarding social networks as important platforms for communication and advertising, so they have already invested and will continue to invest more resources online; second, the heightened interest of consumers due to the attraction of social sites has lead certain experts to predict that social media will overtake texting and traditional calling in terms of popularity in as few as four years. Combining these two reasons, it’s clear why visitors spend more time on these sites than they did before.

As for social networking by country, Australian users average the most time on sites like Facebook and MySpace: at seven hours and 19 minutes per month, they beat out U.S. users (six hours, 30 minutes) by nearly an hour. Given that the population of the U.S. is more than 13 times that of Australia — there are just 22 million Aussies, compared to 300 million in the U.S. — it’s somewhat surprising that Australians spend more time on networking sites than Americans. On the other hand, the U.S. is not that far behind — and, based on its aforementioned population, America still contains the largest active Facebook community by far.

Facebook’s presence in Japan, meanwhile, is relatively small, at a 3% user rate. The Japanese actually have their own social network, Mixi, which entered the Japanese market before Facebook. Compared with Facebook’s ordinary layout, Mixi is designed with brighter colors and animated characters, and its Japanese users often employ fake names or nicknames to create social network accounts or write blog posts. In contrast, Facebook requires users to provide their real names and other information — their birth dates, email addresses, even their schools or universities. Out of fear of identity theft, the Japanese avoid such self-identification on the web. Moreover, the Japanese seldom emphasize their personal identity; as members of a collectivist society, they focus more on groups than the individual. For these reasons, Facebook is not widely used in Japan.

For more stats — some mind-blowing, some merely intriguing — head here to read ten of the most interesting social media trends of the last year.

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    Established in 2009 at USC, the Master's of Science in Human Behavior is designed to equip students with knowledge of consumer psychology, social media and market analysis skills. This is our blog. Subscribe

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