Data update: Social media use around the globe

By Anne Collier

There’s a kind of global consciousness that can develop, to varying degrees, in people who use social media – witness, for one thing, the recent national survey of 18-to-24-year-olds in Brazil. But there are also fascinating cultural differences. In fact, seeing how people take to social media in different countries, seems to say something about how they socialize – not just how they engage in civic or social action, whether local or global. At least, that’s how news reporters frame the social-media data….

“Only 13% of online Japanese adults visit Facebook on a monthly basis, while social-media sites such as Mixi or Twitter fit Japanese internet users’ preference for anonymity and have been more successful in attracting them,” Ad Age cites comScore figures as showing. That’s compared to “the big cities of India and China,” where “it seems people can’t help being social.” In those cities of those countries, “nearly everyone who uses the Internet … is also active in social network [sites],” according to Forrester Research figures Ad Age also cites. The comparison’s a little apples to oranges, though, since comScore only tracked social site usage via computers, and Japanese do so much socializing and social gaming on their mobile phones. Still, the figures for percent of online users who use social sites, country by country, are pretty fascinating: 57.9% of Japan’s 73.5 million Net users aged 15+ use social network sites, compared to the US’s 98.3% of 188.5 million Net users; 89.6% of Germany’s 50.7m Net users; 96.3% of Mexico’s 21m; 87.2% of South Korea’s 30.8 million Net users.

“Cultures reveal themselves online. Italians are twice as likely to visit a social networking site as Germans,” reported the New York Times, citing the Forrester research. “The Japanese prefer anonymity and eschew Facebook, which demands real names, for the more flexible Japanese network called Mixi.” It added that Europeans and Americans don’t post much content but that we use social media heavily. Excuse me? People aren’t posting content when using social sites? An interesting reporter’s perspective. Anyway, Forrester and comScore got different figures for Americans’ online social networking: 86% of US Net users, according to Forrester, compared with 79% of European ones (and 98.3%, according to comScore, but Forrester was looking at adults, presumably 18+, and comScore at Net users 15+). The Times also reported that about 75% of Facebook users are outside the US now, as are more than half of Twitter users.

So I think the global consciousness doesn’t necessarily mean anything particularly uniform or unified – just (just!) an unprecedented sense of connectedness to other parts of the planet. It will be fascinating to see how this will affect us all; maybe it will a little like the way it has expanded the sense of solidarity and confidence in small gains that seem to be manifest in Brazil’s “bridge-youth,” as Brazilian research firm Box 1824 describes these young, globally minded local social activists. I agree with Forrester SVP Josh Bernoff that “online social activity reflects a universal human [need for] connection” that has always been a reality – see his three interesting takeaways from their study at the bottom of this blog post in Ad Age.

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