Here are all of the posts tagged ‘China’.

Digital, Social & Mobile in China in 2015

by Simon Kemp in News

The latest report in our series of studies into Digital, Social & Mobile use around the world shows that the pace of digital adoption in China shows few signs of slowing.

You can read the full report in the SlideShare embed above (or download it here), but numbers don’t mean much on their own, so we’ll use this post to dig into the significance of the data and their associated trends for marketers.

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To get us started though, here are the key data headlines:

  • Internet Users: 668 million, a 6% year-on-year increase
  • Social Media Users: 659 million – more than the USA and Europe combined
  • Unique Mobile Users: 675 million, responsible for 1.3 billion mobile subscriptions
  • Mobile Internet Users: 594 million, accounting for 89% of all China’s internet users
  • Mobile Social Media Users: 574 million, up 15 million since this time last year

The year-on-year growth rates tell interesting stories too (note that the mobile figures in this slide represent the growth in mobile subscriptions, not unique users):

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We’ll examine each of these in detail in the sections below.

Internet in China
Roughly 100,000 people in China started using the internet every day over the past year – that’s more than one every second.

Much of this growth is being driven by improved mobile access, with close to 90% of the country’s netizens using mobile devices to access the internet. It’s worth noting that this is often in addition to PC-based usage too, but an increasing number of the country’s internet users are mobile-only, especially in rural areas.

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When it comes to the total volume of web traffic, PC-based access still dominates, with 56% of the web pages served to China’s netizens in the past month going to laptop or desktop computers. However, this figure is down 29% year-on-year, while the number of web page requests from mobile devices has jumped 136% to 42%.

These trends suggest that mobile usage will account for more than half of all China’s web activity by early 2016.

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Despite mobile’s promise of ubiquitous internet access, however, internet usage still isn’t evenly distributed in China, and a marked difference remains between urban and rural usage rates. Nearly two-thirds of China’s urban population now uses the internet every month, but barely 3 in 10 of China’s rural citizens are online:

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The good news is that connection speeds are up considerably on last year, with the average fixed-connection access speed up 17% year-on-year according to Akamai. It’s worth noting that the average mobile connection speed is considerably higher than that of fixed connections though, with the average connection in China now considered ‘broadband’ (i.e. 4Mbps or above).

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Social Media in China
The overall number of social media users in China grew more slowly than we expected over the past year, but this is more likely due to a change in behaviour, rather than a waning of interest in social media.

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It’s also worth noting that social media usage in China is already at a very high level, with the numbers suggesting that 99% of China’s internet community uses social media of some description.

The numbers for individual platforms tell the more interesting story though. QQ, Tencent’s ever-popular instant messaging service, still claims the country’s top position in terms of monthly active users (MAUs), and despite the vast majority of its users residing in China, it also claims the second-place spot in the worldwide rankings behind Facebook (click here to read more about the global picture).

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It’s worth noting that more people sign in to QQ via mobile devices each month than sign in to WeChat, but WeChat offers more varied services and functionality for both users and marketers.

User numbers suggest that QZone still dominates when it comes to traditional ‘social networking’, but WeChat (or Weixin, as it’s know in China) is quickly catching up, and is the platform that most users claim to use on a regular basis (note the difference between ‘use’ and ‘sign in’, the latter being the metric many of the platforms use to measure ‘active’ users).

For those who are still relatively unfamiliar with Chinese social media, Baidu Tieba may be a new discovery. Tieba, or “Post Bar” as the platform calls itself in its English literature, is a community that has grown up around specific areas of user interest related to the searches that people conduct on Baidu, China’s largest search engine.

Meanwhile, readers of our previous China reports (2013, 2014) will notice the absence of Tencent Weibo in this ranking. Tencent stopped publishing monthly active user figures for Tencent Weibo a number of months ago, and we have interpreted this to mean that the company has de-prioritised the platform in favour of its three larger ‘products’, QQ, Qzone and WeChat. Tencent Weibo appears to remain popular with many users though, with 38% of China’s internet users claiming to have used the platform in the past month (see below).

Research from GlobalWebIndex suggests that more than 6 in 10 internet users in China used WeChat in the past month. Sina Weibo comes in second, with 54% of survey respondents claiming to have used the service in the past 30 days.

It’s interesting to note that Facebook, Google+ and Twitter all appear in this list too; they may be officially ‘blocked’ by the Great Firewall, but GlobalWebIndex’s research suggest that a considerable number of China’s netizens are getting round these blocks to access non-Chinese social platforms.

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87% of China’s social media users now access via mobile devices at some point each month, with platforms like WeChat helping to drive overall numbers up 77 million over the past 12 months – a year-on-year increase of 15% that equates to more than 200,000 new users every day, or almost 2.5 new users every second.

At 1 hour and 43 minutes per day, social media accounts for just under half of all the time that people spend online in China. The country’s social media users spend 23% longer using social media than they do watching TV each day, although it’s worth noting that much of this time overlaps, with many TV viewers engaging in ‘second-screen’ social media use at the same time.

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It’s worth noting that use of tablets appears to be down slightly year-on-year though, with 22% fewer web page requests coming from tablet devices in the past month compared to this time one month ago.

Mobile in China
With 675 million unique subscribers in China, almost half the country’s population now owns a mobile phone, and we fully expect to see the country pass this milestone before the end of 2015.

The number of mobile subscriptions in China rose significantly in 2014 too, with three new subscribers every second contributing to annual growth of 94 million – an 8% year-on-year increase.

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The number of mobile subscriptions in China is now very close to the number of people living in the country, which suggest that the average user still maintains close to 2 active connections.

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However, we expect that this ratio will reduce over the coming months as more and more people upgrade from feature phones to smartphones; the main reason why individuals operate more than one mobile contract is to benefit from intra-network deals, but data-powered communications such as chat apps and VOIP are more efficient and effective ways of achieving the same benefits.

Smartphones are clearly the must-have devices in China today, accounting for 90% of new handset sales. They already account for just less than two-thirds of all handsets in active use, and we expect their overall share to increase steadily over the coming months as more people renew their devices.

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When it comes to internet-powered activities on mobile devices, Chinese netizens appear to be particularly interested in checking the weather.

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China’s mobile users also appear to have embraced m-commerce, with reports suggesting that 20% of the country’s population have made a recent online purchase via their mobile device.

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E-Commerce in China
E-commerce more generally appears to be thriving in China, with almost one in three internet users buying online each month.

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The country’s consumer e-commerce market was worth more than a quarter of a trillion US dollars in the six months to June 2015, with the year’s biggest shopping event – Singles Day – still to come. Sales on Alibaba’s various sites exceeded US$9 billion in just one day last November, and there’s every chance that number will pass $10 billion on 11th November this year.

Conclusions
So what does all this mean for brands? Here are our three key tips, designed specifically for non-Chinese marketers looking to make sense of the world’s largest consumer market:

China’s Different: it’s obvious that the platforms that dominate in China are markedly different to those that marketers are familiar with elsewhere – even those in their Asian neighbours. However, it’s not just the platforms that are different; the ways that Chinese netizens use social channels is also markedly different, and marketers need to carefully adapt their approaches for China’s cultural and societal idiosyncrasies as much as for its technological differences. One size does not fit all when it comes to China, and marketers would do well to engage the expertise of a partner who understands the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’.

1-to-1 Social: The numbers in this year’s report highlight the growing popularity of chat apps – a trend that we’ve seen elsewhere in the world too. The growing popularity of chat apps presents a new set of opportunities for marketers, as many of the conversations that take place on these platforms are more private in nature, taking place between individuals and small groups (versus the public environments that Western marketers will know from Facebook and Twitter). In order to take advantage of the ‘intimate’ nature of these one-to-one conversations, however, marketers will need to explore new approaches to social media and content marketing, ensuring that the tactics they employ make it easy for audiences to find and consume content on one platform (e.g. video-sharing services like Youku or Tudou), and then share that content proactively via chat apps. This will require greater emphasis on highly engaging content and organic sharing, rather than an approach that relies on paid media to push mediocre content to the masses.

Social Selling: China’s netizens are already very comfortable buying things online, whether that’s through their PCs or via their mobile devices. The next big opportunity for marketers is to understand how the dynamics of social referral work in China, and use that to move from social engagement to social conversion.

If you’d like tailored advice on what these tips mean specifically for your brand, get in touch with our team in one of our 10 offices around the world for more information.

We’d like to offer our special thanks to GlobalWebIndex for allowing us to use their data in this report. We’d also like to thank CNNIC, Ericsson, GSMA Intelligence, StatCounter and Akamai for the public data they share that makes these reports possible. For more details on data sources, please see the full report.

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Tencent: The Growing Giant

by Simon Kemp in News

Tencent 2014Q1

Tencent released its Q1 results earlier this month, including the latest monthly active user figures for its various social platforms.

As the chart above shows, Tencent’s platforms have attracted a huge share of the world’s social media users, even if the majority of those users are still based in China.

Despite this geographic focus, Tencent now accounts for 3 of the world’s top 5 platforms, driven by the continuing growth of QQ, Qzone and WeChat:

We Are Social - Largest Social Channels May 2014

Qzone alone now accounts for around 40% of the world’s social media users.

Moreover, the impressive growth of WeChat (Weixin), both in terms of its active user numbers as well as the platform’s functionality, suggests that Tencent is still far from reaching its peak.

Is it only a matter of time before the rest of the world joins the Tencent family?

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Social, Digital & Mobile in China 2014

by Tianyu Xu in News

The social, digital and mobile ecosystem in China is unlike anywhere else on earth.

With a wide variety of home-grown platforms, technologies and behaviours, understanding the Chinese digital landscape can be both daunting and difficult.

Hopefully, our new report will help to demystify things.

Continuing our series of studies into digital trends and developments around the world, our new China report profiles a variety of critical data points, including the penetration rates of different technologies, the top-ranking social platforms, and a wealth of interesting facts and figures on Chinese netizens’ behaviour.

You’ll find full details in our SlideShare report embedded above (and available for free download by clicking here), but here are some of the report’s highlights:

Country Overview
China’s population exceeds 1.36 billion people, with urban areas accounting for more than half of the country’s residents. 51% of the country’s population is male.

Social, Digital, Mobile in China 2014

Internet
China’s 618 million Internet users represent 45% of the country’s population, and account for almost a quarter of the world’s internet users – for reference, here are the latest global stats:

Social Digital Mobile Worldwide

(You can find more global stats here)

The majority of China’s internet users live in urban areas, with fewer than 1 in 3 living in rural parts of the country.

Beijing (75%), Shanghai (71%) and Guangdong (66%) have the highest Internet penetration of the country’s administrative regions:

Chinese internet penetration by region

Instant messaging (IM) is the most popular online activity in China, with CNNIC quoting in excess of 530 million active users across platforms.

However, Tencent’s QQ, China’s most widely used IM platform, boasts more than 800 million active accounts, suggesting many Chinese IM users may manage multiple accounts.

Social Media
Although QZone claims to have the highest number of active social networking users at 625 million, Weixin (WeChat) and Sina Weibo are the current ‘darlings’ of Chinese social media, with 355 million and 129 million monthly active users respectively:

Top social networks in China (active users)

Brands continue to be highly active on Sina Weibo, contributing to a reported 153% year-on-year growth of Sina Weibo’s advertising revenue in Q4 2013.

In terms of the users themselves, and reflecting a behaviour pattern we see on other social platforms across Asia, China’s micro-bloggers can’t seem to resist checking Weibo immediately after food:

When do people use Weibo

Weixin (WeChat) users are actively using the platform’s various chat features like text and voice voice messaging , as well as its social networking features like ‘Moments’:

Top activities on WeChat

It’s worth pointing out that WeChat is now the world’s second biggest active chat app service, and is still growing at a staggering rate:

We Are Social - Chat Apps User Numbers April 2014

Mobile
Roughly half of China’s population now owns a mobile phone, with each user maintaining an average of nearly 2 active SIM subscriptions.

The ubiquity of mobile devices makes them China’s internet tools of choice, with 81% of the country’s netizens accessing the Internet via mobile handsets:

How people connect to the net in China

In line with this, mobile shopping and mobile payment services experienced significant growth during 2013:

Top mobile internet activities in China

eCommerce
Online shopping as a whole is hugely important to China’s economy, contributing almost US$300 million in 2013 alone.

Group buying is particularly popular, and was the fastest growing online activity in China, with a robust growth rate of 69% in 2013.

Fastest growing online activities in China

If you need more numbers, be sure to check our full 95-page report above for loads more useful and interesting stats.

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Social, Digital & Mobile in APAC in 2014

by Simon Kemp in News

Following on from We Are Social’s hugely popular Social, Digital and Mobile Worldwide in 2014 report from earlier this month, we’re very pleased to share an even more detailed look at the online landscape around the Asia-Pacific region.

It also turns out that two weeks can make a big difference when it comes to online data; in the past 14 days, and with the help of some of the 200,000 people who’ve viewed our Global report, we’ve found some even fresher stats to the ones we published in our last report.

These new discoveries have had a particular impact on India’s stats, where figures for internet users have changed from 151 million to 213 million. Internet figures for Indonesia have also almost doubled, to 72.7 million.

These changes have had a significant impact on the regional and global totals too, so we’ll begin with a refreshed look at the stats from the very top.

The Global Picture
Following revisions to a number of countries, the number of worldwide internet users now exceeds 2.64 billion, representing global penetration of 37%:

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Following our last report, we also received a number of queries regarding the difference between mobile subscriptions and actual mobile users, so we’re delighted to be able include a new chart comparing the two in this report.

We’ve teamed up with the wonderful team at GSMA Intelligence for this, and they’ve been kind enough to let us share this valuable data in the report – here’s the APAC picture:

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In order to understand the context in which people use mobile devices, it’s also important to understand how people pay for their subscriptions (contracts), and whether they have access to potentially faster mobile data connections.

The chart below offers more detail on both these areas, detailing how many people have pre- vs post-paid contracts, and using 3G as a proxy for the likelihood people could access faster internet if they chose to take out a relevant mobile data plan:

APAC mobile contract type

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Asia-Pacific In Context
APAC is home to almost 3.9 billion people, accounting for just under 55% of the total world population. The region hosts just under half the world’s Internet users, and 52.2% of the world’s active social media users:

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apac global share

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Internet
Although internet user data for a number of countries around the region hasn’t been updated as recently as we’d hoped, APAC has still shown impressive growth in recent months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 150 million new users since our previous report in October 2012 – many of which were in India and Indonesia:

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However, internet access is still far from a universal reality around APAC, and penetration rates in some countries remain surprisingly low:

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It’s interesting to see how the average number of hours spent on the internet varies around the region too, both in terms of desktop / laptop access, as well as the time spent on the mobile web:

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It’s important to note that the figures in the chart above are based on claimed time spent on the internet, rather than on actual traffic. This has two important consequences:

  • The data will, in part, reveal the story that people choose to tell about their internet use, rather than the exact number of minutes they spend connected
  • However, in a similar way, this ‘claimed’ data helps to avoid over-counting internet usage when someone is connected to the internet, but not actually making use of it (e.g. the browser is open in the background while someone works on another, non-internet related application).
  • There may also be some variations across cultures in what people consider ‘internet’ access. For example, someone who streams music through a service like Spotify for the whole day may not consider this ‘time spent on the internet’, even if we could argue the opposite is also true.

Social Media
2013 was an impressive year of growth across almost every aspect of the social media world in APAC, with chat apps in particular seeing stunning growth thanks to platforms like WeChat, LINE, and Kakaotalk.

We’ve chose to focus on social networks for this report’s data though, as they continue to offer the greater opportunity for marketers.

User figures and penetration rates for social networks still vary hugely around the region, but the overall trend is definitely upwards (note that MAU stands for Monthly Active Users):

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It’s worth highlighting that the figures for social media penetration often exceed those for internet penetration, especially in fast-evolving markets. There may be a number of reasons for this:

  • Social media stats are almost always more up to date than those for internet usage, largely because they are collected by a commercial entity on an on-going basis and published at least quarterly to help with advertising sales. In Facebook’s case, the monthly active user figures are available in almost real-time.
  • Many reports on internet usage and penetration omit mobile internet usage, meaning many mobile-only users aren’t included in the figures (partly because they’re more difficult to identify). In many emerging markets – particularly places like Indonesia or Myanmar – mobile-only use can account for a significant proportion of internet use. People accessing social media through mobile devices will be counted, however, meaning social media numbers are often a more accurate indication of actual internet use and penetration in these markets.
  • On the other hand, some people may have multiple social media accounts on the same platform, leading to a slight skew in the data, although we don’t anticipate this is the main cause for the difference between internet and social media usage numbers.

We’ve also changed the way we report user numbers in this year’s report compared to our previous report in 2012, and we now only report monthly active user numbers (MAUs) for any given platform. This ensures a more reliable and actionable data set, and ensures organisations using the data have the most up-to-date picture of people’s preferences and behaviour throughout the region.

Facebook’s MAUs continued to grow across the region over the past year, adding 54 million by January 2014 in Asian countries alone (excluding countries in Oceania like Australia and New Zealand).

China’s Qzone added 25 million MAUs too, meaning that overall growth around the region is somewhere in the region of 80 million new active users – almost 10% growth year-on-year.

We opted not to include chat apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, LINE and Kakaotalk in this year’s analysis for a couple of reasons:

  • The way that people use these platforms remains largely one-to-one, so they offer less of an obvious mass engagement channel for brands compared to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Weibo (although we recongise that this is changing, especially with tweaks to WeChat’s platform);
  • The companies who operate these platforms tend not to publish monthly active user figures, and where they do, they aren’t broken down by country, making it very difficult for us to attribute usage by country.

However, for handy reference, the global user figures for each of the region’s largest chat apps are as follows:

  • WhatsApp: 400 million monthly active users worldwide
  • WeChat (Weixin): 270 million monthly active users worldwide
  • LINE: 300 million total registered users worldwide
  • Kakaotalk: 130 million total registered users worldwide

We’re pleased to offer time spent on social media for many of the region’s larger economies too, thanks to some great data from GlobalWebIndex’s Active Usage: Time Spent study, which they’ve kindly allowed us to share. You can find out more about this study here.

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As with the time spent on the internet chart above, this data is based on claimed usage rather than actual traffic information. This again means that data may be coloured by the story people wish to tell about themselves, but at the same time, it also helps to avoid over-counting time where people have social media open in the background.

Based on our qualitative research, many people keep social networks open throughout the day in a distinct browser tab or tool like Tweetdeck, but do not necessarily spend all that time actively engaging with the platform itself, so the data above should be used in conjunction with traffic-based numbers (where available) to paint a multi-dimensional picture of people’s behaviour.

It’s interesting to explore the above chart in the context of the societal norms of each country too; it appears that the time spent on social media is determined as much by a nation’s culture as it is by the speed or ease of internet access. In many countries where fast internet access is still a luxury, people still spend many hours engaging with social media, highlighting once again that social media are playing a huge part in the growth and evolution of the online landscape in APAC.

However, to enrich this story, it’s worth looking at the infrastructural elements too. Mobile devices play a huge role in Asia’s social media scene, so we’ve added an extra data set to this report to illustrate mobile social access in more detail:

mobile social users

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Mobile
The number of mobile subscriptions in APAC continue to grow steadily in the past 15 months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 200 million new subscriptions since our previous report in October 2012.

Although it’s likely that some of these new subscriptions constitute second subscriptions (e.g. an additional contract for work or personal use), the importance of mobile devices even in the region’s less developed nations highlights the critical role mobile plays in people’s daily lives in APAC.

While it can be tricky to identify the exact number of people accessing the internet through mobile devices, we have identified reliable data for two important indicators that offer valuable insights: mobile broadband subscriptions, and people accessing social media through mobile devices:

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It’s particularly interesting to note that the proportion of the population accessing social media through a mobile device is much higher than the penetration of mobile broadband, suggesting that many people continue to access social media through slower mobile connections.

You’ll find this data broken down for each country around the region in the full report.

The Individual Country Story
We’re delighted to announce that we now have social media and mobile data for every Asian country, as well as 4 key nations in Oceania.

Major additions to this year’s report are North Korea and Myanmar, and although the numbers aren’t likely to challenge China’s position as the dominant digital player in the region, it’s very exciting to see how online media are helping to open up some of the world’s most secretive nations.

In particular, Myanmar – or Burma, if you prefer – has surprised us with the sheer speed of growth, particularly when it comes to social media. From a country where Facebook was technically blocked barely 12 months ago, this Southeast Asian country now boasts well over 1 million Facebook users, and is still growing at an impressive rate:

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Despite these impressive numbers though, this still represents a social media penetration of just 2% in Myanmar, so there’s clearly plenty more potential for growth as the country continues its journey towards a fully open approach to the internet.

Even mobile subscriptions struggle to reach double-digit penetration, while the internet – albeit based mostly on fixed-line figures – languishes at just 1%.

However, 2014 looks like a promising year for Myanmar’s online landscape, and we’re looking forward to plenty more good news from them in the months to come.

The story in North Korea remains less clear; with the internet still officially blocked in the world’s most reclusive nation, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of what’s going on. However, Facebook themselves state that they now have 8,200 users within the North Asian state, 4,600 of whom access through mobile devices:

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It’s unclear how many of these users are actually North Korean citizens though, and we suspect that a significant proportion may be foreign nationals based in the country.

However, the fact that it is even possible for these people to access Facebook from within North Korea represents a step forward compared to the situation this time last year, so we’ll take that as a glimmer of hope for 2014.

We’ve also included data for Timor-Leste, which, although still small in absolute numbers, represents another reason for optimism, given the young country’s recent history.

East Timor’s social media population in particular is growing steadily, with 6% of the population – or 76,000 people – using Facebook at least once in the past month:

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As with many emerging economies, the numbers for internet usage in Timor-Leste are far lower than those for social media, mainly because it’s harder to measure the exact number of people accessing the internet.

Many people still access from shared devices in internet cafés or in places of work, and data is often collected by surveys that have taken quite some time to gather, analyse and publish.

Social media figures such as those made available by Facebook are almost real-time though, offering a more up-to-date and accurate picture of the online landscape within these fast-evolving digital ecosystems.

Excitingly, mobile phone subscriptions have already surpassed 50% penetration in Timor-Leste too, meaning many more people now have the opportunity to connect to the internet as soon as affordable mobile data plans become available.

Alongside figures for Australia and New Zealand, we’re also pleased to present some initial figures for Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Both nations play an important role in understanding the broader picture across Pacific nations, and the stories their data snapshots tell reveal some interesting insights:

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Fiji already demonstrates relatively strong internet and social media penetration figures, surpassing the regional average in both areas.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea still has plenty of potential for growth, with barely 4% of the population using Facebook in the past month. However, with mobile subscription penetration of 42%, it’s clear that Papuans have an increasing digital opportunity, and we’re confident these figures will all grow considerably during 2014.

We’re also pleased to share statistics on mobile social behaviour for all 30 countries in this study, ensuring marketers have a solid understanding of the opportunities to engage their audiences in a variety of settings and contexts – here are some example stats for Indonesia:

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As mobile increasingly becomes our predominant means of accessing online services and content, it’s likely that Asia-Pacific will continue to lead the world in defining the future of the online landscape.

The India Changes
Finally, given the major changes in its internet user numbers since our last report, here’s how the situation in India looks today:

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India Contract Type

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So there you have it – another week, another bumper collection of stats. However, given how quickly the data seems to be changing, it’s clear 2014 is going to be another vintage year for online growth. We’re already looking forward to next year’s APAC report!

Sources for all the above data are listed in the full report. We’d especially like to thank GlobalWebIndex and GSMA Intelligence for their help in providing data for these reports, and for allowing us to publish their valuable data.

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Social, Digital & Mobile Worldwide in 2014

by Simon Kemp in News

The astonishing growth of all things digital continues to gather pace around the world, as We Are Social’s new Social, Digital & Mobile Worldwide report on the key social, digital and mobile stats from around the world demonstrates.

It should come as little surprise that much of this growth is being fuelled by connected mobile devices, but this year’s data do reveal some interesting trends and anomalies, especially in relation to Japan and Korea.

You’ll find the complete story in the SlideShare deck above, but we’ve pulled out some of the highlights below.

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Internet
Adding up all the users in individual countries around the world, there appear to be around 2.5 billion global internet users today – roughly 35% of the world’s population:

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While this represents around 150 million more users than this time last year, these numbers may still be conservative. Reliable, recent data for some countries remains patchy, but the International Communications Union estimates that there are probably closer to 3 billion global internet users, with most of the difference made up by mobile-only connections.

Users are still not distributed evenly either, with some parts of the world still struggling to reach double-digit internet penetration. In particular, Africa, Central and Southern Asia all report relatively low numbers, although it’s worth highlighting that mobile internet users may contribute a significant – yet uncounted – increase in these areas.

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With reference to the continued growth in internet penetration, it seems clear that mobile connections will account for the vast majority of new sign-ups in the coming months. As the chart below highlights, the distribution of mobile penetration matches much more closely to the distribution of the world’s population, meaning most people around the world now have a realistic opportunity to access the internet:

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The cost of mobile data clearly remains a barrier in much of the remaining world, but as costs continue to fall, and as the benefits continue to increase, it’s likely we’ll see more and more people in the developing world putting increased importance on reliable internet access.

Social Media
Social channels continued to show strong growth over the past 12 months, with top social networks adding more than 135 million new users in the course of 2013.

This number is slightly misrepresentative of actual growth though, as we’ve decided to focus solely on monthly active user figures to report social media usage in this year’s report. As a result, some numbers may appear lower than they did this time last year (when we used total registered user numbers for some platforms), while the actual growth in active usage may appear smaller than it really was.

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Due to the different usage contexts, associated behaviours and opportunities for brands, we’ve also chosen to treat chat apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat separately to social networks in this year’s report.

However, these platforms continue to capture significant interest from users and marketers alike, a trend reflected in their huge active user bases:

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It also appears that social media is now an engrained part of the lives of people across different demographic groups. This increased ubiquity may result in some changes to the specific demographic bases of individual platforms, but even if people’s habits are changing, it appears that people are moving from one social platform to another, rather than deserting social media in its entirety.

Despite this increasing ubiquity, though, social media penetration remains unevenly distributed around the world:

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As might be expected, mobile is playing an increasingly important part in the social media landscape. Facebook reports that almost three quarters of its 1.2 billion monthly active users around the world access the platform through mobile, while on any given day, almost half of its users are mobile only.

The importance of mobile is mirrored across other platforms too, with Twitter increasingly a mobile-dominated platform, and platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat and Instagram depending entirely on a mobile ecosystem.

Mobile
Given the above, most marketers have now accepted that mobile devices are people’s most important devices, but the opportunities they offer continue to evolve at a staggering pace.

Connected mobile devices have already outpaced more traditional means of internet access such as laptops and PCs, while smartphone sales now outnumber those of feature phones around the world too.

The number of mobile subscriptions jumped by 173 million in 2013, and the number of active mobile subscriptions around the world now equates to roughly 93% of the world’s population.

Penetration rates are more healthy all over the world too, with two-thirds of Africa’s population now mobile powered. Meanwhile, many regions – including those in the developing world – have penetration levels far in excess of 100%:

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Mobile broadband access has exploded around the world in recent months too, and 1.5 billion people now have access to relatively fast internet from their mobile devices:

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A Regional View
While the picture in many Western countries has converged, there are a number of areas around the world that maintain their idiosyncrasies. In particular, China and Eastern Europe continue to prefer local social networks, while Africa, Central and South Asia are considerably under-represented when it comes to internet penetration:

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Asia
The world’s most populous region saw another strong year of growth across all things digital in 2013.

China’s social media giants continue to post strong growth, whether it’s active users on Qzone, or the incredible growth of Weixin (WeChat).

However, both Japan and South Korea have seen some fragmentation of the social media landscape, with chat apps like LINE and Kakaotalk continuing to gain momentum. Neither company releases monthly active user numbers though, so it’s hard to know exactly how these platforms compare to the more traditional networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Interestingly, however, ‘claimed’ usage of social media in both countries differs dramatically from the picture painted by Facebook’s monthly active user numbers, suggesting that Northeast Asia’s netizens may be harnessing a wider variety of platforms.

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Facebook continues to lead Twitter in both countries though, and appears to maintain its top spot almost everywhere.

China and countries in Eastern Europe host the few exceptions to Facebook’s global dominance, with Qzone and VKontakte claiming the top spots in a handful of nations.

However, with more than 1 billion monthly active users, it’s safe to say that Facebook will continue to play a central role in the social media landscape in 2014 too.

The Local Picture
We’ve gone into an extra level of detail in this year’s report too, offering insights into the local digital ecosystem across 24 of the world’s biggest economies:

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Alongside offering the key digital indicators, we’ve also collated some key behavioural indicators, including time spent on the internet and on social media, as well as the prevalence of important activities on connected mobile devices.

You’ll find all the facts and figures for each country in the complete 180+ page report on SlideShare (as embedded at the top of this post).

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