The growth of social: GlobalWebIndex 6


Every wave of research tells us something new but each one has also shown that social media is deepening its reach month-by-month and year-by-year. GlobalWebIndex founder Tom Smith exclusively explains the implications of their latest research.

Social networking is the fastest-growing active social media behaviour online, increasing from 36% of global internet users in GWI.1 to 59% managing their profile on a monthly basis. This is followed by updating a micro-blog, which increased from 13% to 24% and uploading video, which increased from 21% to 27%.

The most social engaged internet market in the world is China where 84% of internet users contribute at least once a month to either social networking, blogging, video uploading, photo sharing, micro-blogging and forums. Next in line are Russia, Brazil and India, demonstrating how BRIC markets dominate the social landscape.

In the UK the figure is 64%, in the US 60% and in Germany 52%, demonstrating that even in less social markets, contributing online is still mainstream.

What this means for brands is that social networks have become a key brand contact point for nearly a third of consumers. In GWI.6, 59% of global internet users had visited a brand website in the last month, 29% had liked a product or brand and 24% had visited a branded social network profile. The preference for social brand interaction is more marked in emerging internet markets such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where 50% of users had visited a branded social network page in the last month.

Based on these statistics, it’s clear that social networking can now deliver mass reach for brands and the trend is most visible among younger internet users with 16-24s much more likely to “like” a brand or product than older age groups, for example. However micro-blogging remains a far more targeted social strategy with just 9% had retweeted a branded post and only 13% had opted to follow a brand on a micro-blog.

Consumers that interact with businesses in the social media space do expect something in return with future discounts, better customer service and personalised recommendations cited by all age groups as the leading motivations.

Such expectations are significantly higher in emerging markets with Argentina, Philippines and Brazil indexing highest across a range of areas, demonstrating how consumers in these markets are particularly open to building relationships with brands online.

But the growth of social media as a genre does not mean success for all platforms. Google+ is firmly in the growth phase but there are also concerns about Facebook with increasing evidence from the US, it’s first big market, that users are become less engaged.

Our data also shows the massive growth of Google+, which is already the world’s second biggest social network. Our data indicates that a massive 22% of social network users now have active profiles – peaking in India at 49%.

By contrast while the number of visits to Facebook continues to grow across all platforms but the world’s largest social network has reached saturation among active internet users in more and more markets, with user growth restricted to growth internet markets such as India, Indonesia and Brazil.

More importantly across three waves of research in 2011, Facebook users on a global basis have reduced the frequency of key Facebook activities including sending a digital present, searched for new contacts or sent message to friends.

GWI.6 data shows Facebook fatigue spreading in the US from the early adopters who we identified as disengaging in GWI.5. Declines in social networking activity such as messaging friends fell 12% over the six waves of research, searching for new contacts fell 17% and joining a group 19% among all Facebook users in the US.

Something to think about if you are considering investing in the world’s most hyped IPO.