In a global view on social media – Asia rules

Georg Kolb

Another important study that hasn’t got enough attention in the PR blogosphere. Back in May, Universal McCann issued the second wave of their global surveys tracking the impact of social media. At the time, only Neville Hobson highlighted a couple of the important findings as they had been reported by Brand Republic. He couldn’t get hold of the study itself, though. Today it can be easily downloaded from Universal McCann’s site.

There is substance to this report: in January and February 2007, 500 regular 16-54 Internet users were sampled in each of the following 21 markets: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Greece, Russia, USA, Mexico, Brazil, India, Pakistan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Australia. 9,460 people completed the survey. Universal McCann estimates that these markets represent 75 % of the 500 m frequent Internet users worldwide.

Here is a summary of the findings I found most important:

1.) Blogging


  • 339 m blog readers worldwide
  • 172 m blog writers
  • US still dominates blog readers with 63.9 m, China is close with 53.3 m (at an Internet penetration of only 10 %!)
  • China already has the largest number of blog writers (38.63 m), with a clear lead over the US (26.75 m)Blog_readers_also_writing_blogs_uni
  • Blogs have become mainstream: in all but 2 of the 21 markets at least 50 % of regular Internet users are reading blogs. (Pakistan and Germany are the exceptions.)
  • US and Europe are showing signs of saturation (with the exception of the notorious blog laggards in Germany), the growth in South East Asia is dramatic
  • Personal blogging drives usage in Asia with interactivity levels being high. Many talk to few.
  • Compared to Asia interactivity levels in the US and Europe are lower and topics are not as personal. Few talk to many.Attitudes_towards_blogging_universa
  • The attitudes towards blogging have improved worldwide: 60 % see it as a positive form of expression, 40 % view it as an important social tool, 34 % trust bloggers opinions and 33 % believe that companies running blogs impact their perception positively. However, the
  • attitudes vary greatly between China on the positive end and Germany, the US, the UK and Australia on the negative end (see graph).  While these differences are significant, they are differences on a high level. Even in Germany, the least enthusiastic country when it comes to blogging, 1.27 m people arewriting blogs, 1.27 m public voices that simply didn’t exist only a decade ago.

2.) Creation and consumption of multimedia content

  • 330 m online video viewers worldwide. 65 m in the US, 49.7 m in China, 38 m in Japan and Korea combined, 38 m in 5 big European countries combined. The global average for watching video clips is 63 %. Video already beats audio.
  • 124 m downloading podcasts. 33 m alone in China.
  • Across the board the interest in the creation of multimedia content is high: music (25 %), video (23 %) and radio (16 %), but the target audience for this content is mainly family and friends.
  • Live streaming is still more popular than podcasts. Video podcasts have the same reach as audio podcasts.

3.) Social Networking

  • 194 m manage a social network profile. The penetration is highest in Brazil (75 %), followed by Mexico and China. The US (33 %), UK, Germany, Italy and France show less than half the penetration of Brazil.
  • The US is still the largest social networking market (41 m), followed by China (30,97 m). These numbers are much lower than the ones claimed by social network owners. Possible reasons: double accounts and the Universal McCann survey only counted 16 – 54 Internet users, i.e. no teens younger than 16 and no business users.
  • The emerging Internet world is driving social networks as tools to meet new people, and the space is dominated by 16-24’s and students.

4.) What’s next?Global_social_media_penetration_uni

  • Looking at the current overall global use of social media, you probably  won’t be surprised to see blogging and watching online videos in the lead position. Surprising to me, RSS feeds do have a very low adoption rate.
  • It’s interesting to see what’s next on the agenda of regular Internet users: VoIP andFuture_social_media_usage_interest_ downloading podcasts (video ahead of audio).

Overall this study is rich with interesting insights.

It’s great that it looked at social media beyond blogging, even if it’s view on social media tools is still pretty limited. For instance, there is no mention of review portals, messaging boards, wikis, online games or virtual worlds.

It is also great that the study provided a global perspective. It has made clear how the social web is spreading globally, but with strong local characteristics determined by the respective socio-economic environment. E.g. the fact that personal blogging is so big in China reflects both the new sense of community people are getting from this tool, but also the limitation that they can’t talk about politics or other general issues in public.

The data of this study confirm the reality of the social web and start to map it out in its global context. Internet users across the globe are highly interactive on a growing multitude of social media platforms. While most of the developed world has reached saturation with a couple of more established tools such as blogging or video sharing sites, the developing countries, in particular in Asia, are still driving their use at a dramatic pace. Business communicators who want to engage with today’s Internet users will have to meet them there, and on the users’ terms.



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