Facebook reckoning Part 1: global expansion route

In the UK it’s more common today to have a Facebook application than it is to have a dog. But it’s into the global arena that its expansion plans have now moved.

With 65 billion page views per month, on average people spend 20 minutes a day on the site, plus it’s the number one photo-sharing site on the web.

The other king of social media - Myspace - is one of the fastest growing websites of all time. It sends and receives over 50 million mails per day; more than Yahoo, Hotmail or Google. It’s still the dominant networking site in North America. On average 300,000 new people sign up to it every day.

With success comes expansion, naturally. Myspace, for example has been localized and translated into 20 international territories; it’s been live in India since January 2008 and the Korean version was launched in April. Success, however, has been patchy.

Facebook’s success in Asia is still relatively small when compared to the site’s domination in Europe and the West. Australia (with 2,856,600 users) and Hong Kong (with 753, 300) have the highest user numbers of all Asian/Pacific countries. Incidentally it’s these countries that would, I presume, bear the closest resemblance to Western societies, whereas South Korea (with its colossus Cyworld network) or Japan might not.

When Facebook went public with their move to South America it was championed as a sure-fire success. Chile now has 2.2 million Facebook users (14% of the population) but growth elsewhere has been stagnant and user uptake sluggish.

Hi5 is popular in Columbia and Peru whereas in Brazil Orkut is the favourite. Consumers of social networks are obviously a picky bunch.

Vostu – a “community of social spheres” - is one network that seems to be in tune with the sentiment of its target audience. It’s based around particular interests, communities and geographies. Users can additionally write in Spanish and it borrows the clutter-free Facebook interface. Applications like anonymous gossip boards tap into the closer knit communities that generally exist in Hispanic communities.

Who knows exactly what makes certain networks work in some areas and not in others? The science of social networks has a lot to learn from social science and anthropology. Just as certain customs and etiquette are country-specific the same goes for the social networks. Rolling out the same old formula that’s worked elsewhere doesn’t always cut the mustard. So for Facebook, global domination might not beckon.

Read Facebook Reckoning Part 2: the revenue race