This is a Guest post by Paul Mains, from Language Trainers, a language tutoring service offering personalized course packages to individuals and groups.
It’s no secret that social media has exploded in the past decade. In 2005, less than one in ten Americans — a mere 7% — had an account on a social networking website. Nowadays, a whopping 65% of the population uses social media regularly.
Of course, the popularity of social media isn’t limited to just the United States. As global internet connectivity continues to grow, social media has become increasingly popular worldwide. However, different countries use social media in different ways — an important thing to consider for businesses seeking to expand their presence internationally.
Below, we will take a look at how various countries around the world differ in their use of social media.
Internet use around the globe
The global popularity of the internet is skyrocketing. As of January 2015, there are over 3 billion active internet users, constituting about 42% of the world population. This is a staggering 21% increase from January 2014, representing over 500 million new internet users in one year alone. To put this statistic in perspective, the world population grew 1.6% in the same timeframe, meaning that global internet penetration is growing over 13 times faster than the world population.
Of the 3 billion active users on the internet, about two thirds of them (just over 2 billion) have social media accounts, an increase of 12% from the previous year. And this growth isn’t just taking place on the computer: of the 3.6 billion mobile users worldwide, about 1.7 billion of them have social media accounts — 300 million more than in 2014.
The United states is one of the more internet-connected countries, with 87% of its population (280 million people) being connected to the internet. Many of the most popular social networking sites — including Facebook, Twitter, G+, and YouTube — were founded in the United States, so it comes as no surprise that a large proportion of these sites’ user base comes from the US naturally. For instance, the United States has more active Facebook accounts than any other country, with over 150 million unique profiles.
Interestingly, however, the United States does not lead the world in terms of the proportion of internet users that frequent social media sites. About three-fourths of internet-using Americans routinely log on to social media websites, trailing behind other countries like Egypt and the Philippines, in which 88% and 86% of internet users regularly visit social media sites, respectively.
In general, internet use in the United States matches the profile of other industrialized English-speaking nations like the United Kingdom and Australia, in terms of both internet connectivity and use of social media.
Overall, Latin America is less internet-connected than the United States; in Mexico, for instance, less than half of the population uses the internet. However, its internet users are among the most active worldwide on social media. Among those who have social media accounts in Mexico, an average of 3 hours and 52 minutes is spent daily on social media websites. In comparison, US social media users spend only 2 hours and 43 minutes logged on to social media.
This trend is consistent throughout Latin America. In Brazil, social media users spend, on average, 3 hours and 47 minutes browsing social media; in Argentina, this same statistic reaches a whopping 4 hours and 20 minutes.
There’s reason to believe that this increased activity on social media leads to a more trustful attitude toward shopping on social networks. A recent study in Brazil found that 77% of Brazilians feel positively about shopping and buying on social media. In contrast, a similar study found that just 34% of people in the United States said that they value social media when making purchasing decisions.
In terms of the total number of Facebook accounts, India is second to the United States, with about 109 million unique Facebook users. However, compared to India’s population of over 1.2 billion, this represents only a small sliver of the population. Still, it’s a 31% increase from 2014, so the number of social media users is likely to continue climbing.
Interestingly, in India, the vast majority of internet use takes place not on the computer, but rather via mobile phones. In 2015, 72% of web page views took place on a mobile device, with just 27% taking place on laptop and desktop computers.
Countries in Eastern Asia feature starky different use of social media, especially compared to English-speaking countries like the US and the UK. Japan, for example, is similar to the United States in terms of internet connectivity, with 86% of the population consisting of active internet users. However, only 24 million people — less than 20% of the population — have active social media accounts. Further, among Japanese social media users, the average daily time spent on social media websites was just 40 minutes — significantly lower than in most other countries.
China’s infamous Facebook ban has drastically reduced Facebook use among the Chinese population. Perhaps because of this, China is home to many social networking sites that are unfamiliar to the rest of the world. Its two leading websites, Weibo and Renren, have a combined total of over 500 million users — an impressive feat, especially considering that only about 650 million people in China (less than half the population) regularly use the internet.
Reaching an international audience
Social media allows individuals and businesses the unique chance of instantly and easily reaching an international audience. However, it must be done strategically — as we’ve learned, marketing to Chinese clients using Facebook will most likely end up a fruitless endeavor.
There are plenty of ways social media allows you to easily reach an international audience. On Facebook, you can target posts and ads to certain countries, allowing you to broadcast different (and translated) messages to Facebook users depending on where they’re located. Twitter does not offer such an option; instead, many companies create separate Twitter accounts based on language and geographical location.
Ultimately, despite social media’s quick rise to international prominence, it’s still a field very much in its infancy. As its presence continues to expand worldwide, so too will the best practices for reaching a global audience.
Do you use social media to reach an international audience? Have you found any interesting differences in social media habits across countries? Let us know — leave a comment below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Mains is a TEFL Certificate English teacher at Language Trainers, a language tutoring service offering personalized course packages to individuals and groups. Their teaching materials, free online level tests and other resources are publicly available on their website.