Here are all of the posts tagged ‘Internet’.

Social, Digital & Mobile in Europe in 2014

by Simon Kemp in News

We’re delighted to announce the latest in We Are Social’s series of Social, Digital & Mobile Worldwide reports, this time with more than 250 pages of stats and behavioural indicators for 40 countries across Europe.

We featured a number of these countries in our global report just a month ago, but as you’ll see in this new report, many of the data points have already changed.

The critical changes are to the Social Media figures, with many countries seeing increases in monthly active user bases in the past couple of weeks.

The lovely folks at GlobalWebIndex have also given us permission to share figures from their fresh new Wave 12 study, released just last week. This new wave of GWI data brings us up to Q4 2013, and provides a hugely informative perspective on the freshest numbers and behaviours for the region’s biggest economies.

The Global Picture

As we saw in the APAC report, online landscapes never stay the same, so we start this report with another fresh look at the global landscape.

The main difference in this report is the number of active social media users, which has grown by almost 2 million active users since our APAC report just 2 weeks ago:

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Internet in Europe

Europe has impressively high levels of internet usage, with 7 countries around the region registering penetration of more than 90%.

Iceland and Norway lead the way, with 95% each.

Penetration in the Ukraine lags the rest of the region by some way, but is still on a par with the global average of 34%.

On a regional basis though, more than two thirds of Europe’s population is now online:

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The total number of internet users around the region is also impressive, with Europe now counting more than half a billion people online:

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In terms of time spent online, it’s the Eastern side of Europe that leads the way, with internet users in Poland and Russia spending an average of 4.8 hours on the net each day.

Italy leads the way when it comes to mobile internet usage at an average of 2.2 hours per day, while Irish, Spanish and Polish internet users all spend an average of almost 2 hours per day connected via mobile devices:

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Social Media in Europe

At the start of 2014, Europe boasts almost 300 million active social media users, accounting for 40% of the region’s population:

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However, when it comes to platforms of choice, the social media landscape in Europe is split in two.

Facebook dominates in Western Europe, with 37 countries around the region accounting for a total of 232.2 million active users – roughly 19% of the platform’s total global user base.

To put that in perspective, these countries account for less than 8% of the total world population.

Eastern Europe is still a VKontakte stronghold though, with users in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus accounting for more than 60 million active accounts.

Facebook is present here too, and its user base continues to grow in these countries, but the world’s favourite social network currently only claims 12.4 million monthly active users across these 3 countries combined.

As with internet penetration, Iceland also leads the way in terms of social media penetration, with 70% of the country’s population using Facebook in the past month.

Malta puts in an impressive showing at 58% penetration, with Scandinavian countries rounding out the rest of the top 5:

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Time spent on social media continues to account for a large part of overall online activity too, with Italy and Russia – the most ‘socially active’ nations in Europe – spending more than 40% of their connected time on social media:

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Meanwhile, mobile social continues to grow in importance around the region, with two thirds of the region’s social media users regularly accessing via mobile devices:

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This is still considerably lower than the same proportion in APAC though, and accounts for a penetration rate of barely 26% of the total regional population.

The figures vary considerably between countries, with more than half of the populations of Norway and Iceland connecting to Facebook via a mobile device in the past month:

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At 30 million active mobile social users, the UK leads the way in terms of absolute numbers, while Germany, France and Italy all register 20 million active users each:

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Sub-Regional Pictures

We’re pleased to include overviews for each of Europe’s sub-regions too, with 7 distinct analyses showing how the online landscape varies across the ‘continent’:

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Each of these sub-regional analyses provides a top-level picture of key stats, helping marketers to plan multi-market activities with greater ease.

For illustration, here’s the overview for Northern Europe, which covers Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden:

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In-Depth Country Analysis

We’ve included an in-depth analysis of the local picture for 40 countries in this report, with a wealth of stats and behavioural indicators for each nation.

In particular, we’re delighted to include data for Spain, which was the most-requested country following our global report a few weeks ago.

You’ll find all the numbers you need for each country in the full SlideShare presentation (as featured at the top of this post), but just to whet your appetite, here are the numbers for Spain:

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And there we have it – another bumper collection of online facts and stats.

Do get in touch if you’d like some help making sense of these numbers, or if you’d like us to work with you to turn these insights into an actionable strategy.

And don’t forget we have offices all across Europe too, so if you’re looking for on-ground support, be sure to get in touch with our teams in London, Paris, Milan and Munich:

Europe Contacts

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Be sure to check back  to our blog regularly for more reports in this series too. In addition, we’ll be sharing some great strategic resources and forward-looking studies over the next few weeks as well, so why not sign up for our email newsletter to make sure you don’t miss a single one?

Sources for all the above data are listed in the full report. We’d especially like to thank GlobalWebIndex and GSMA Intelligence for their help in providing data for these reports, and for allowing us to publish their valuable data.

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Social, Digital & Mobile in APAC in 2014

by Simon Kemp in News

Following on from We Are Social’s hugely popular Social, Digital and Mobile Worldwide in 2014 report from last week, we’re very pleased to share an even more detailed look at the online landscape around the Asia-Pacific region.

It also turns out that a week can make a big difference when it comes to online data; in the past 7 days, and with the help of some of the 200,000 people who’ve viewed our Global report, we’ve found some even fresher stats to the ones we published in last week’s report.

These new discoveries have had a particular impact on India’s stats, where figures for internet users have changed from 151 million to 213 million. Internet figures for Indonesia have also almost doubled, to 72.7 million.

These changes have had a significant impact on the regional and global totals too, so we’ll begin with a refreshed look at the stats from the very top.

The Global Picture

Following revisions to a number of countries, the number of worldwide internet users now exceeds 2.64 billion, representing global penetration of 37%:

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Following our report last week, we also received a number of queries regarding the difference between mobile subscriptions and actual mobile users, so we’re delighted to be able include a new chart comparing the two in this report.

We’ve teamed up with the wonderful team at GSMA Intelligence for this, and they’ve been kind enough to let us share this valuable data in the report – here’s the APAC picture:

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In order to understand the context in which people use mobile devices, it’s also important to understand how people pay for their subscriptions (contracts), and whether they have access to potentially faster mobile data connections.

The chart below offers more detail on both these areas, detailing how many people have pre- vs post-paid contracts, and using 3G as a proxy for the likelihood people could access faster internet if they chose to take out a relevant mobile data plan:

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Asia-Pacific In Context

APAC is home to almost 3.9 billion people, accounting for just under 55% of the total world population. The region hosts just under half the world’s Internet users, and 52.2% of the world’s active social media users:

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Internet

Although internet user data for a number of countries around the region hasn’t been updated as recently as we’d hoped, APAC has still shown impressive growth in recent months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 150 million new users since our previous report in October 2012 – many of which were in India and Indonesia:

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However, internet access is still far from a universal reality around APAC, and penetration rates in some countries remain surprisingly low:

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It’s interesting to see how the average number of hours spent on the internet varies around the region too, both in terms of desktop / laptop access, as well as the time spent on the mobile web:

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It’s important to note that the figures in the chart above are based on claimed time spent on the internet, rather than on actual traffic. This has two important consequences:

  • The data will, in part, reveal the story that people choose to tell about their internet use, rather than the exact number of minutes they spend connected
  • However, in a similar way, this ‘claimed’ data helps to avoid over-counting internet usage when someone is connected to the internet, but not actually making use of it (e.g. the browser is open in the background while someone works on another, non-internet related application).
  • There may also be some variations across cultures in what people consider ‘internet’ access. For example, someone who streams music through a service like Spotify for the whole day may not consider this ‘time spent on the internet’, even if we could argue the opposite is also true.

Social Media

2013 was an impressive year of growth across almost every aspect of the social media world in APAC, with chat apps in particular seeing stunning growth thanks to platforms like WeChat, LINE, and Kakaotalk.

We’ve chose to focus on social networks for this report’s data though, as they continue to offer the greater opportunity for marketers.

User figures and penetration rates for social networks still vary hugely around the region, but the overall trend is definitely upwards (note that MAU stands for Monthly Active Users):

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It’s worth highlighting that the figures for social media penetration often exceed those for internet penetration, especially in fast-evolving markets. There may be a number of reasons for this:

  • Social media stats are almost always more up to date than those for internet usage, largely because they are collected by a commercial entity on an on-going basis and published at least quarterly to help with advertising sales. In Facebook’s case, the monthly active user figures are available in almost real-time.
  • Many reports on internet usage and penetration omit mobile internet usage, meaning many mobile-only users aren’t included in the figures (partly because they’re more difficult to identify). In many emerging markets – particularly places like Indonesia or Myanmar – mobile-only use can account for a significant proportion of internet use. People accessing social media through mobile devices will be counted, however, meaning social media numbers are often a more accurate indication of actual internet use and penetration in these markets.
  • On the other hand, some people may have multiple social media accounts on the same platform, leading to a slight skew in the data, although we don’t anticipate this is the main cause for the difference between internet and social media usage numbers.

We’ve also changed the way we report user numbers in this year’s report compared to our previous report in 2012, and we now only report monthly active user numbers (MAUs) for any given platform. This ensures a more reliable and actionable data set, and ensures organisations using the data have the most up-to-date picture of people’s preferences and behaviour throughout the region.

Facebook’s MAUs continued to grow across the region over the past year, adding 54 million by January 2014 in Asian countries alone (excluding countries in Oceania like Australia and New Zealand).

China’s Qzone added 25 million MAUs too, meaning that overall growth around the region is somewhere in the region of 80 million new active users – almost 10% growth year-on-year.

We opted not to include chat apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, LINE and Kakaotalk in this year’s analysis for a couple of reasons:

  • The way that people use these platforms remains largely one-to-one, so they offer less of an obvious mass engagement channel for brands compared to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Weibo (although we recongise that this is changing, especially with tweaks to WeChat’s platform);
  • The companies who operate these platforms tend not to publish monthly active user figures, and where they do, they aren’t broken down by country, making it very difficult for us to attribute usage by country.

However, for handy reference, the global user figures for each of the region’s largest chat apps are as follows:

  • WhatsApp: 400 million monthly active users worldwide
  • WeChat (Weixin): 270 million monthly active users worldwide
  • LINE: 300 million total registered users worldwide
  • Kakaotalk: 130 million total registered users worldwide

We’re  pleased to offer time spent on social media for many of the region’s larger economies too, thanks to some great data from GlobalWebIndex’s Active Usage: Time Spent study, which they’ve kindly allowed us to share. You can find out more about this study here.

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As with the time spent on the internet chart above, this data is based on claimed usage rather than actual traffic information. This again means that data may be coloured by the story people wish to tell about themselves, but at the same time, it also helps to avoid over-counting time where people have social media open in the background.

Based on our qualitative research, many people keep social networks open throughout the day in a distinct browser tab or tool like Tweetdeck, but do not necessarily spend all that time actively engaging with the platform itself, so the data above should be used in conjunction with traffic-based numbers (where available) to paint a multi-dimensional picture of people’s behaviour.

It’s interesting to explore the above chart in the context of the societal norms of each country too; it appears that the time spent on social media is determined as much by a nation’s culture as it is by the speed or ease of internet access. In many countries where fast internet access is still a luxury, people still spend many hours engaging with social media, highlighting once again that social media are playing a huge part in the growth and evolution of the online landscape in APAC.

However, to enrich this story, it’s worth looking at the infrastructural elements too. Mobile devices play a huge role in Asia’s social media scene, so we’ve added an extra data set to this report to illustrate mobile social access in more detail:

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Mobile

The number of mobile subscriptions in APAC continue to grow steadily in the past 15 months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 200 million new subscriptions since our previous report in October 2012.

Although it’s likely that some of these new subscriptions constitute second subscriptions (e.g. an additional contract for work or personal use), the importance of mobile devices even in the region’s less developed nations highlights the critical role mobile plays in people’s daily lives in APAC.

While it can be tricky to identify the exact number of people accessing the internet through mobile devices, we have identified reliable data for two important indicators that offer valuable insights: mobile broadband subscriptions, and people accessing social media through mobile devices:

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It’s particularly interesting to note that the proportion of the population accessing social media through a mobile device is much higher than the penetration of mobile broadband, suggesting that many people continue to access social media through slower mobile connections.

You’ll find this data broken down for each country around the region in the full report.

The Individual Country Story

We’re delighted to announce that we now have social media and mobile data for every Asian country, as well as 4 key nations in Oceania.

Major additions to this year’s report are North Korea and Myanmar, and although the numbers aren’t likely to challenge China’s position as the dominant digital player in the region, it’s very exciting to see how online media are helping to open up some of the world’s most secretive nations.

In particular, Myanmar – or Burma, if you prefer – has surprised us with the sheer speed of growth, particularly when it comes to social media. From a country where Facebook was technically blocked barely 12 months ago, this Southeast Asian country now boasts well over 1 million Facebook users, and is still growing at an impressive rate:

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Despite these impressive numbers though, this still represents a social media penetration of just 2% in Myanmar, so there’s clearly plenty more potential for growth as the country continues its journey towards a fully open approach to the internet.

Even mobile subscriptions struggle to reach double-digit penetration, while the internet – albeit based mostly on fixed-line figures – languishes at just 1%.

However, 2014 looks like a promising year for Myanmar’s online landscape, and we’re looking forward to plenty more good news from them in the months to come.

The story in North Korea remains less clear; with the internet still officially blocked in the world’s most reclusive nation, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of what’s going on. However, Facebook themselves state that they now have 8,200 users within the North Asian state, 4,600 of whom access through mobile devices:

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It’s unclear how many of these users are actually North Korean citizens though, and we suspect that a significant proportion may be foreign nationals based in the country.

However, the fact that it is even possible for these people to access Facebook from within North Korea represents a step forward compared to the situation this time last year, so we’ll take that as a glimmer of hope for 2014.

We’ve also included data for Timor-Leste, which, although still small in absolute numbers, represents another reason for optimism, given the young country’s recent history.

East Timor’s social media population in particular is growing steadily, with 6% of the population – or 76,000 people – using Facebook at least once in the past month:

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As with many emerging economies, the numbers for internet usage in Timor-Leste are far lower than those for social media, mainly because it’s harder to measure the exact number of people accessing the internet.

Many people still access from shared devices in internet cafés or in places of work, and data is often collected by surveys that have taken quite some time to gather, analyse and publish.

Social media figures such as those made available by Facebook are almost real-time though, offering a more up-to-date and accurate picture of the online landscape within these fast-evolving digital ecosystems.

Excitingly, mobile phone subscriptions have already surpassed 50% penetration in Timor-Leste too, meaning many more people now have the opportunity to connect to the internet as soon as affordable mobile data plans become available.

Alongside figures for Australia and New Zealand, we’re also pleased to present some initial figures for Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Both nations play an important role in understanding the broader picture across Pacific nations, and the stories their data snapshots tell reveal some interesting insights:

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Fiji already demonstrates relatively strong internet and social media penetration figures, surpassing the regional average in both areas.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea still has plenty of potential for growth, with barely 4% of the population using Facebook in the past month. However, with mobile subscription penetration of 42%, it’s clear that Papuans have an increasing digital opportunity, and we’re confident these figures will all grow considerably during 2014.

We’re also pleased to share statistics on mobile social behaviour for all 30 countries in this study, ensuring marketers have a solid understanding of the opportunities to engage their audiences in a variety of settings and contexts – here are some example stats for Indonesia:

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As mobile increasingly becomes our predominant means of accessing online services and content, it’s likely that Asia-Pacific will continue to lead the world in defining the future of the online landscape.

The India Changes

Finally, given the major changes in internet user numbers since last week’s report, here’s how the individual country situation looks today:

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India Contract Type

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So there you have it – another week, another bumper collection of stats. Do get in touch if you’d like some help making sense of these numbers, or turning them into part of an actionable strategy.

Be sure to check back  to our blog for more updates in the coming weeks too – given how quickly the data seems to be changing, it’s clear 2014 is going to be another vintage year for online growth. We’re already looking forward to next year’s APAC report!

Sources for all the above data are listed in the full report. We’d especially like to thank GlobalWebIndex and GSMA Intelligence for their help in providing data for these reports, and for allowing us to publish their valuable data.

UPDATE: We’ve amended this post, and some slides in the original report, due to a request from one of our data partners.

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Social, Digital & Mobile in 2014

by Simon Kemp in News

The astonishing growth of all things digital continues to gather pace around the world, as We Are Social’s new Social, Digital & Mobile Worldwide report on the key social, digital and mobile stats from around the world demonstrates.

It should come as little surprise that much of this growth is being fuelled by connected mobile devices, but this year’s data do reveal some interesting trends and anomalies, especially in relation to Japan and Korea.

You’ll find the complete story in the SlideShare deck above, but we’ve pulled out some of the highlights below.

UPDATE: We’d like to thank the lovely folks at GlobalWebIndex for allowing us to use the data in their premium Active Usage: Social Platforms data pack in this report – you can get more info on this by clicking here.

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Internet
Adding up all the users in individual countries around the world, there appear to be around 2.5 billion global internet users today – roughly 35% of the world’s population:

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While this represents around 150 million more users than this time last year, these numbers may still be conservative. Reliable, recent data for some countries remains patchy, but the International Communications Union estimates that there are probably closer to 3 billion global internet users, with most of the difference made up by mobile-only connections.

Users are still not distributed evenly either, with some parts of the world still struggling to reach double-digit internet penetration. In particular, Africa, Central and Southern Asia all report relatively low numbers, although it’s worth highlighting that mobile internet users may contribute a significant – yet uncounted – increase in these areas.

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With  reference to the continued growth in internet penetration, it seems clear that mobile connections will account for the vast majority of new sign-ups in the coming months. As the chart below highlights, the distribution of mobile penetration matches much more closely to the distribution of the world’s population, meaning most people around the world now have a realistic opportunity to access the internet:

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The cost of mobile data clearly remains a barrier in much of the remaining world, but as costs continue to fall, and as the benefits continue to increase, it’s likely we’ll see more and more people in the developing world putting increased importance on reliable internet access.

Social Media
Social channels continued to show strong growth over the past 12 months, with top social networks adding more than 135 million new users in the course of 2013.

This number is slightly misrepresentative of actual growth though, as we’ve decided to focus solely on monthly active user figures to report social media usage in this year’s report. As a result, some numbers may appear lower than they did this time last year (when we used total registered user numbers for some platforms), while the actual growth in active usage may appear smaller than it really was.

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Due to the different usage contexts, associated behaviours and opportunities for brands, we’ve also chosen to treat chat apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat separately to social networks in this year’s report.

However, these platforms continue to capture significant interest from users and marketers alike, a trend reflected in their huge active user bases:

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It also appears that social media is now an engrained part of the lives of people across different demographic groups. This increased ubiquity may result in some changes to the specific demographic bases of individual platforms, but even if people’s habits are changing, it appears that people are moving from one social platform to another, rather than deserting social media in its entirety.

Despite this increasing ubiquity, though, social media penetration remains unevenly distributed around the world:

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As might be expected, mobile is playing an increasingly important part in the social media landscape. Facebook reports that almost three quarters of its 1.2 billion monthly active users around the world access the platform through mobile, while on any given day, almost half of its users are mobile only.

The importance of mobile is mirrored across other platforms too, with Twitter increasingly a mobile-dominated platform, and platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat and Instagram depending entirely on a mobile ecosystem.

Mobile
Given the above, most marketers have now accepted that mobile devices are people’s most important devices, but the opportunities they offer continue to evolve at a staggering pace.

Connected mobile devices have already outpaced more traditional means of internet access such as laptops and PCs, while smartphone sales now outnumber those of feature phones around the world too.

The number of mobile subscriptions jumped by 173 million in 2013, and the number of active mobile subscriptions around the world now equates to roughly 93% of the world’s population.

Penetration rates are more healthy all over the world too, with two-thirds of Africa’s population now mobile powered. Meanwhile, many regions – including those in the developing world – have penetration levels far in excess of 100%:

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Mobile broadband access has exploded around the world in recent months too, and 1.5 billion people now have access to relatively fast internet from their mobile devices:

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A Regional View
While the picture in many Western countries has converged, there are a number of areas around the world that maintain their idiosyncrasies. In particular, China and Eastern Europe continue to prefer local social networks, while Africa, Central and South Asia are considerably under-represented when it comes to internet penetration:

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Asia
The world’s most populous region saw another strong year of growth across all things digital in 2013.

China’s social media giants continue to post strong growth, whether it’s active users on Qzone, or the incredible growth of Weixin (WeChat).

However, both Japan and South Korea have seen some fragmentation of the social media landscape, with chat apps like LINE and Kakaotalk continuing to gain momentum. Neither company releases monthly active user numbers though, so it’s hard to know exactly how these platforms compare to the more traditional networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Interestingly, however, ‘claimed’ usage of social media in both countries differs dramatically from the picture painted by Facebook’s monthly active user numbers, suggesting that Northeast Asia’s netizens may be harnessing a wider variety of platforms.

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Facebook continues to lead Twitter in both countries though, and appears to maintain its top spot almost everywhere.

China and countries in Eastern Europe host the few exceptions to Facebook’s global dominance, with Qzone and VKontakte claiming the top spots in a handful of nations.

However, with more than 1 billion monthly active users, it’s safe to say that Facebook will continue to play a central role in the social media landscape in 2014 too.

The Local Picture
We’ve gone into an extra level of detail in this year’s report too, offering insights into the local digital ecosystem across 24 of the world’s biggest economies:

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Alongside offering the key digital indicators, we’ve also collated some key behavioural indicators, including time spent on the internet and on social media, as well as the prevalence of important activities on connected mobile devices.

You’ll find all the facts and figures for each country in the complete 180+ page report on SlideShare (as embedded at the top of this post), but here are the infographics for China as an illustrative example:

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Sources for all the above data are listed in the full report.

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Be a friend to your fans: TescoMobile

by Laura Picard in News

Social media plays a spectrum of roles in daily life. But how is it different from sending an email, or dialing a phone? You could say that they all started by providing a common function: by allowing convenient and accessible communication. As platforms like Facebook gained momentum, however, the social comms component evolved to provide another value. What was formerly used as an alternative for face-to-face, just like emails or phone calls–evolved to become a canvas for establishing, reinforcing and redefining concepts of self-identity. Even amongst unfamiliar faces, it’s important that we represent some parts of who we are. Online, social media has evolved to require just that. No longer are these platforms solely about speaking with people you know, or perhaps even want to know on a personal level.

Social media has become a platform for the performance of personal identity–a value that is inscribed in its primary value as a means for conversation.

As such, it’s no surprise that TescoMobile’s recent Twitter conversation went viral. It’s crucial to recognise that this conversation started out as one that could have easily been as mundane and insignificant as overhearing a customer service call over the phone.

This conversation went viral precisely because that’s not what happened at all. While the customer’s (somewhat confusing) gripes were addressed early on, that only served as a springboard for TescoMobile to launch into a highly engaging conversation with the dissatisfied customer’s ‘whistle blower’, Riccardo Esposito.

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Instead of merely thanking Esposito for ‘bringing this to our attention’ (yawn), TescoMobile framed their appreciation in the context of playful banter. The quirky and captivating tone of voice keeps Esposito engaged, and before long, multiple brands are involved in this strangely spectacular performance of delightful creativity and imagination.

While the conversation effectively steered the topic away from the initial complaint, the brand gained most from its ability to balance humour and humility with effortless finesse.

In the end, this humorous, tongue-in-cheek narrative was never about managing customer service, or even about improving upon common marketing metrics like response time, conversions or engagement rates.

This conversation is ultimately about the magic of social media. It exemplifies how the measurable qualities of clicks and impressions are always underwritten by an ineffable chemistry, the odd science that can make or break the relationship between an audience and a brand.

What this conversation suggests, is ultimately a case for the importance of identity in conversation. When brand messaging sounds more like a friendly chat; when tone of voice hints at totems of personal identity; when brands aren’t afraid to wear their hearts, hopes and humanity on their sleeves–perhaps that’s when a passive fan becomes a loyal friend.

If you need proof, take a look at Twitter reactions to TescoMobile below:

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We Are Social Asia Tuesday TuneUp #97

by Farah Sidek in News

More companies are using social media for recruitment in 2013
How important is your social media presence on securing the job that you want? According to a survey that polled 592 human resource professionals worldwide, some 60% of companies were using or planned to use social media searches as a recruitment tool in 2013. Respondents revealed that they sought information related to candidates’ previous work history, education and recommendations when they reviewed them on social media sites. Yet, some business leaders remained sceptical about the reliability of online information on assessing the suitability of a candidate; only 30% of respondents believe that the data on social media is useful. You never know, what you share online may or may not come in useful for that next job opportunity!

Most free Internet landscapes in the world
Freedom House has published data on where the most free internet landscapes are across the world, based on criteria such as obstacles to internet access, limits on content, and violations of user rights.

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According to a summary by Tech in Asia, Japan and the Philippines are the most free Internet landscapes, and Vietnam and China the least. Notably, India is experiencing the greatest decline in internet freedom. This is largely influenced by religious unrest and political conflict in 2012 which have also lead to censorship of content deemed offensive and potentially violent.

Two million microblog monitors in China
China state media revealed last week that the government employs more than two million people to monitor web activity. The monitors, described as internet opinion analysts, are on state and commercial payrolls to “gather and analyse public opinions on microblog sites and compile reports for decision-makers”, say state media. Monitors routinely scan through China’s overseas websites as well as microblogging sites such as Sina Weibo, which now has more than 500 million registered users with 100 million messages posted daily.

Social ad spending on the up
eMarketer has reported that marketers’ budgets for social are set to increase. In August 2013, social ad spending made up, on average, around 6.6% of marketers’ budgets – it’s set to increase to 9.1% in the next year, then zoom to 15.8% within five.

Play.com reaps the rewards from social discovery
Electronics website play.com has noticed a large increase in traffic from social sites in the last year. A study of 300 consumers noted that, year-on-year, the traffic driven from social discovery sites, such as Pinterest, was up 200%, while that from social networks such as Facebook was up 80%. Mobile had grown too, with 23% of sales taking place via a mobile device, up 53% in the same amount of time.

Companies respond faster in social media than offline
Two separate studies from last week, when taken together, show that companies respond faster to consumer queries in social media than they do offline. The first, a survey of Call Centre Association members (whatever they are), found that 59% of organisations take over eight hours to respond to email communication, with 26.5% extending that to 24 hours or more. Meanwhile, a study by Simply Measured concluded that the average response time on Twitter was 5.1 hours, while 10% of organisations got a reply out within an hour. So, if you want your question answered on line, Twitter is the place to be.

Spam on the increase in social media
Social media spam has grown by 355% in the first half of 2013, according to analysis of 60m pieces of content from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn. The research has found that one in every 200 pieces of social content is now spam, which could start to become a real problem if it continues to grow at the same rate. For illustrative purposes, here is a picture of everyone’s favourite processed meat.

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The rise and rise of tablet usage
This year, an estimated 20 million people in the UK will use a tablet, accounting for roughly 1/3 of the population. This is set to grow every year until at least 2017, when 34.8 million UK residents will make use of such a device. Over this period, though, the percentage growth is set to decrease, already down from 165.3% in 2012 to 41.5% this year, it will have fallen to 9.4% by 2017 as the market approaches saturation.

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Facebook using free wifi to obtain location data
Facebook is set to offer the opportunity for business to attain free wifi for their customers through its partner, Cisco, in a bid to attain further location data. The system will be available to businesses of all sizes, as the network is using cloud-based wifi firm Meraki to connect with small and medium establishments. Facebook can then use the data to create more accurately targeted ads.

Facebook Home to add content from other social networks
Facebook Home, the homescreen created by the network for Android phones, will begin to pull in content from other social networks including Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram in its latest version. The move sees Facebook adapting to a lukewarm user reception; if it genuinely intends to create a socially-led option for phones, allowing greater access to all platforms may well prove a necessary addition.

Post search now available in Facebook’s Graph Search
Graph Search, Facebook’s social search tool, now includes the ability to search for specific posts by what content they contain, when they were posted, where and by whom. In a blog post on the subject, Facebook said:

Starting today, Graph Search will include posts and status updates. Now you will be able to search for status updates, photo captions, check-ins and comments to find things shared with you.

Search for the topics you’re interested in and see what your friends are saying, like “Dancing with the Stars” or “Posts about Dancing with the Stars by my friends.

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Facebook introduces new mobile ad unit aimed at app engagement
Facebook has introduced a new ad unit for mobile, which aims ad increasing engagement with apps, once a user has already downloaded them. The ads will encourage people to head back to specific features of the app, which could well be very useful for marketers looking to maintain high levels of engagement with a particular part of an app. The video below gives more detail about the new feature.

Growth in users, ad revenue and losses at Twitter
Leading up to Twitter’s stock market IPO, there have been a fair few stories about it this week. The network has released figures on its huge international growth, as its US user growth begins to slow; in March 2010, US monthly active users amounted to 10 million, while their international equivalent were 20 million; these figures have grown at disparate rates to 49 million and 169 million respectively.

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This international user base could prove important for Twitter’s advertising base, as they have seen an increase in both ad revenue and overall losses. In the first half of 2013, revenue was up 101% year-on-year to $253.6m, with 87% coming from adverts, but an increase in personnel had accounted for an increase in net losses by 41% to $69.3m in the same period. And after reports of up to 20% of the network’s users being fake, it has been forced to deny the claims, arguing that the figure is actually more like 5% and that there will be a purge of these before the IPO takes place. All hands on deck at Twitter HQ.

New Snapchat stories
Snapchat has introduced ‘stories’, their equivalent of the Facebook newsfeed. Taking a series of photos and videos, you add the various captions/graffiti and publish, at which point the ‘story’ appears to all your friends for 24 hours, before self-destructing in classic Snapchat style. You can get more information on the changes from the video below, or this in-depth analysis by We Are Social’s own Tom Ollerton.

Spotify introduces ‘follow’ button
Spotify, which has up until now been fairly self-contained as social networks go, has introduced a new ‘follow’ button that can appear on any desktop or mobile site, available in 39 countries. When users see the button, shown below, they can instantly follow them and receive updates in their Spotify activity stream, whether they be an artist, user, label, blog or magazine. The button aims to increase engagement on the network, as well as to introduce new people from external sources. Click below and you can even follow Avicii! (You can’t really, it’s a screenshot).

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US government shutdown closes their social channels
It’s not just the national parks that have closed down because of the US government shutdown – their social channels have done so, too. Sign-off tweets, like the below, have been seen, but since then it’s been eerily quiet in some parts of social media.

Diane von Furstenberg’s shoppable Google+ hangout
Google+ had a first last week: designer Diane von Furstenberg hosted a shoppable hangout on the network. Those who took part watched the designer talk through various items from her catalogue, whilst simultaneously able to browse and shop the collection. The video below gives some more detail about what went on.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ Features It’s Top Twitter Fans in New Ads
Dunkin’ Donuts has been on fire with social media recently, launching one of the first Vine-based TV spots in history last month. Now John Costello, the brand’s Marketing Chief, has given a sneak preview of two socially led video ads that will be released on 14th October at the Masters of Marketing Annual Conference. Two consumers were chosen to appear in each advert, based on their positive tweets about Dunkin’ Donuts. It is presumed that the adverts will run on ESPN, aligning with Dunkin’ Donuts sponsorship of the channel’s Monday Night Football pre-game show.

The 1.2 million faces of Facebook (including yours)
A new website designed by Natalia Rojas compiles the 1.2 billion profile pictures on Facebook, all in one place. ‘The Faces of Facebook’ depicts each user by a teeny tiny dot. Click anywhere amidst the multitude of dots, and the page filters down to reveal thumbnails of the faces of a handful of Facebook users. Click on any one, and their public profile pops up. Many people have privacy concerns surrounding Facebook, but Rojas claims that the site doesn’t store anyone’s private information, pictures, or names. The very first thumbnail? Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

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