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Tom Smith, founder of GlobalWebIndex, exclusively talks us through their latest research into social media usage around the world.
The internet is social. After years of treating social as if it were something separate from the rest of the digital eco-system, we now have the data to show that they are – as we always knew – one and the same.
Our latest report Social Platform Adoption Trends 2012 found that 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.
But that doesn’t mean that everyone is posting photos or messaging friends. As social has become more mass market, the way that users are engaged has been changing. Peer to peer conversation is falling (messaging friends falling 16% from 69% of social network users in Q2 2011), while interaction with brands, content and photo sharing is becoming more important.
Similarly 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, one implication is that they’ll increasingly turn to people in the public eye or well-known organisations for interesting content.
The rise of the passive social users is not a negative. Sliding levels of peer-to-peer conversation are being replaced by the consumption of content, videos or applications. This is a great opportunity for brands.
One thing we have known about social media for a long time is that the vast numbers of new internet users now coming online in emerging markets will be the ones that power growth.
For Facebook it will be new users in markets such as Brazil and India, where social media is mass market and internet penetration is growing rapidly that help it grow numbers. Relentless growth of emerging internet markets 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.
The challenge for Facebook is finding a way to make money not just from the platform’s users in wealthy developed markets but increasingly in these new markets.
Such fast-growing internet markets will define how social services are shaped into the future and the opportunities for brands to build global reach and positioning without investing in traditional media are huge.