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Go Global – Social Networks Around the World

March 18th, 2009

And the winner is….Facebook.

As promised, let’s revisit Global Faces and Networked Places by Nielsen,  this time for a look at the most popular social network sites around the globe.  Facebook took the lead from MySpace in 2008, growing their active global reach a whopping 168% to 29.9% and a global unique audience of 108.3 Million.  Thirty percent of all Internet users around the world visited Facebook in 2008.

MySpace comes in 2nd at 22.4%, followed at a distance by Classmates Online, Orkut and LinkedIn.

Facebook Leads in Global Reach

Facebook Leads in Global Reach

MySpace still held the lead in the United States, where it had built a solid following by the time Facebook emerged in 2004, but if this is still the case today, it won’t be for long unless something changes fast.  Facebook’s US growth rate will simply outpace MySpace soon.  

Gaining fast in global prominence over the last 2 years, Facebook is the most popular social network in Australia, Spain, Switzerland, France, UK and Italy.  In the UK, Facebook has almost a 50% reach, with 44% reach in Italy. Even in the US, where Facebook comes in second, it has a nearly 40% reach. 

Source:  The Nielsen Company

Source: The Nielsen Company

However, in several markets, both Facebook and MySpace have failed to gain market momentum, including China, Brazil, Germany and Japan, which are mostly led by homegrown social networks.  Japan and China (as well as the US) are dominated by social networks orginating in their own country, largely due to issues that include complexities of doing business and language barriers, that allowed local companies strong first-mover advantages.  China is led by 51, with MySpace at 5th and Facebook not even in the top ten. 

China's Most Popular Social Networks (Nielsen, 2009)

China's Most Popular Social Networks (Nielsen 2009)

The exception in this group to a native network dominating is Brazil, where Nielsen estimated Orcut’s reach at 70%, the largest domestic reach for a social network in any country.  What apparently started out as a contest by Brazilian students to make Orcut more popular in Brazil than in Orcut’s native US, has ended up Brazil’s third most popular internet site.

Why has Facebook grown so rapidly?  Nielsen attributes Facebook’s rapid growth to simple design, broad appeal, focus on connecting (not entertaining), innovative features and open architecture, member’s control over privacy and good old fashioned Media Coverage.