The Global Expansion of Social Media

Dave Kaup | Dec 22, 2011
Social media is becoming an important part of business around the world, and companies in many regions are planning to increase their use of it in the coming months.  


For its “International Business Report,” Grant Thornton LLP spoke to senior executives from across the globe in August and September 2011 to determine how their companies used social media.


Companies in Latin America were the most likely to use social media, as 53% of respondents there said their companies currently do so and 78% said they planned to increase its use. Businesses in countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and those in Nordic countries also planned to increase social media use in the coming months, at 75% and 72% of respondents, respectively, according to the Grant Thornton report. Comparatively, 47% of companies in North American countries currently use social media and 60% planned to increase their use.


As emerging markets grow economically and internet access becomes more widely available for them, companies in Latin America and the BRIC nations—Brazil, Russia, Indian and China—are increasingly leveraging social media to reach their target audiences.


When Twitter and Japan’s biggest homegrown network site Mixi joined forces in November, the mix of these two social networks gave Facebook some competition. Japan is now quickly becoming the second biggest market after the US, Japan was Twitters first overseas adopter and according to USA Today, has served as a key international testing ground of sorts. Besides Mixi in Japan, other notable sites include Orkut in Brazil and VKontakte in Russia.


Facebook has also surged over the last year in Japan, in part due to the popularity of the hit movie "The Social Network." The Nielsen data indicates that it surpassed Mixi midway through the year. Growing social gaming services GREE and DeNA also pose threats to Mixi.


Meanwhile, businesses in Europe “are understandably preoccupied with the current economic difficulties, but they shouldn’t lose sight of the long-term opportunities social media offers,” said Mark Henshaw, head of media and entertainment at Grant Thornton UK, in a statement about the survey.


Communicating with customers is only one way companies worldwide are using social media. Overall, 53% of respondents used it for advertising, 51% used it to communicate with customers and 43% leveraged social media for recruitment.


As regions beyond North America embrace social media and increase their marketing outreach on these channels, look for Latin American, BRIC and ASEAN countries to take a leadership role going forward.


According to ComScore Datamine, Brazil is home to one of the most unique social networking environments in the world, and one of the few markets where does not lead the Social Networking category. This leading position has been held by Orkut which saw 35.7 million visitors in June 2011, an increase of 20% from last year.


Although Orkut still maintains a relatively wide lead ahead of Facebook in Brazil, Facebook is quickly narrowing the gap on the market’s leading brand. In the past year, has seen its Brazilian audience grow from just 8 million visitors to more than 24 million visitors. An analysis of cross visitation between the two sites shows that 21.1 million people visited both Orkut and during June 2011. This demonstrates that many consumers are adding to their existing social networking portfolio, but may not be ready to choose one brand over the other as their primary social network.


At the end of the day, marketers need to fully understand the international social media networks available as well as and how to navigate each in order to effectively communicate with potential customers and prospects. In addition, making sure the transaction and localization of your communication programs are well thought out otherwise your efforts to build these networks will inevitably be challenged.