Social Media Use in the Developing World Supported by Rising Internet Penetration

By some estimates the number of social media users in the world has reached one billion – a figure that is expected to rise rapidly in the coming years. In terms of major social media sites, Facebook is estimated to have more than 800 million members, YouTube 800 million monthly users, Twitter 400 million monthly users and LinkedIn 150 million users. In addition, there are a plethora of other, lesser-known social media sites that have nevertheless begun to attract scores of users, including video networks like Tubearoo, tutorial sites like WikiHow, professional networking community sites like Gather and Care2, and niche sites like Small Business Brief, where members post articles related to important subjects such as entrepreneurship.

All of this has significant implications for businesses, which will need to aggressively engage social media users across a range of platforms in order to stay ahead of the competition. Fortunately, using social media and engaging users (i.e., current and potential customers) is usually free of charge, aside from the time commitment involved. Of course, it is also important for businesses to engage in careful market research to understand key social media trends.

As indicated by a number of recent studies, citizens in developing countries are more likely to use social media than citizens in fully developed economies. For example, on a global level the Philippines, Israel, Turkey, Chile and Argentina have the highest rates of Facebook penetration, according to figures from Comscore. Further, figures from a recent Ipsos study indicate that social media use is highest in Indonesia (83 percent of the country’s citizens are classified as social media users), followed by Argentina at 76 percent, Russia at 75 percent and South Africa at 73 percent. Highly developed Japan, meanwhile, was at the bottom of the Ipsos rankings at just 35 percent

One of the key drivers of high social media use in the developing world is rising internet penetration. Although developing economies still lag behind the West in penetration, they have registered significant improvements in recent years. Some estimate that developing countries now account for 62 percent of the globe’s total number of online users, up from 44 percent in 2006. Meanwhile, Google has predicted that the number of internet users in India will triple over the next few years.

Within specific country contexts, it also clear that public officials in developing nations are prioritizing information and communications technology (ICT) spending programs in order to boost internet penetration rates. In a recent country study on Malaysia, Oxford Business Group indicated that broadband household penetration rates in the country had increased from 10.9 percent in 2006 to 53.5 percent in 2010. In large part, this impressive increase was due to the significant investment in ICT made by the government under a series of national development plans. By 2015, ICT analysts in Malaysia expect the country’s internet penetration rate to reach 75 percent, creating, in the words of Oxford, “some 25 million internet users nationwide.”

For more world business insights, you might also like following Jana Treeck from Oxford Business Group. Also see Jana Treeck Oxford Business Group Twitter page.

Social Media has changed the way consumers and brands connect, it has become intrinsic to a brands marketing mix. Watch this video and find out more useful facts.