Facebook surpasses one billion users as it tempts new markets

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Facebook users worldwide map North America 44.97% of population using facebook Europe 29.96% of population using facebook Asia 6.68% of population using facebook South America 33.92% of population using facebook Africa 5.15%  of population using facebook Australia and Oceania 42.14% of population using facebook

North America

238m Facebook users
Biggest market: US

Facebook's place of birth is naturally its biggest market.

But shareholders, and Facebook itself, are beginning to question its potential to monetise - particularly when it comes to mobile. On the financial markets, Facebook has seemingly found itself with the tech world's weight of expectation on its shoulders.

Share price drops to below $20 from a starting point of $38 provoke worry - even from Mark Zuckerberg himself, who recently admitted the slump had affected staff morale.

Europe

243m Facebook users
Biggest market: UK

Facebook's big challenge in Europe is Russia.

So much so, it was in Moscow, after meeting the prime minister, that Mark Zuckerberg made his first ever live TV talkshow appearance. He later visited a gathering of hackers and coders who were being encouraged to build on the Facebook platform. The competition in this region comes from the likes of VKontakte, which is far in the lead with an estimated userbase of almost 300 million.

In other countries, privacy remains a high concern - with both the European Union and and regulators in Ireland (where Facebook's Europe HQ is situated) keeping a close watch.

Asia

258m Facebook users
Biggest market: India

In Asia, Facebook faces a mixture of hope and hurdles.

The company says it is 'watching and waiting' on whether to launch in China, perhaps put off by Google's faltered attempts in the region, as well as already well-established, already popular competitors such as RenRen or the Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

India is the region's stand-out success - it holds an audience of almost 60 million, Facebook's third biggest country globally. However, this type of success comes at a price. The region is notorious for being the birth place of much of the service's spam and 'fake' activity.

South America

135m Facebook users
Biggest market: Brazil

Between June 2011 and June 2012, Facebook users jumped by 50% in South America, a signal that its push into the region - it opened a research centre in Buenos Aires - is beginning to pay off.

In Brazil, its biggest market, Facebook has overtaken local favourite Orkut, which is owned by Google, as the the most-visited network.

As in other developing markets, Facebook has been busy wooing developers onto the platform - this year it has run special events in Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo.

Africa

48m Facebook users
Biggest market: Egypt

Where Asia provides political challenges, Facebook's challenge in Africa is one of technology.

It’s a region where connectivity is patchy and slow and technology, for those who can get it, can be outdated. Yet, in other areas, the region is remarkably mature. Many Africans use mobile payment as their primary way of spending and earning cash - a trend the wider world is slow to follow up on. Facebook has launched a range of tools designed to capitalise on this.

The main effort being Facebook for Every Phone, an initiative that strips down the network so it can run on even the most basic of handsets.

Australia & Oceania

15m Facebook users
Biggest market: Australia

A small but significant market for Facebook, Australia and its neighbours present the company with similar challenges to those found in North America and Europe.

Local laws could see the service adapted in the area - such as a recent ruling which saw the country's advertising standards authority say companies were responsible for any incorrect statements about products posted onto fan pages.

Facebook's presence in the country is primarily around selling advertising, a tactic which appears to be paying off. Local brands rank highly among the pages most engaged with.

Facebook's next billion?

The world's biggest social network says it now has over a billion active monthly users. But anxious investors are asking where will its next billion users come from? And the billion after that?

While Facebook is firmly established in the western social media world, it still lags behind in Asia and another continent, key growth markets to satisfy its hungry investors and shareholders.

Click on the map to discover Facebook's big challenges around the world.

 

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Facebook now has more than one billion people using it every month, the company has said.

The passing of the milestone was announced by founder Mark Zuckerberg on US television on Thursday.

The company said that those billion users were to date responsible for 1.13 trillion "likes", 219 billion photos and 17 billion location check-ins.

The site, which was launched in 2004, is now looking towards emerging markets to build its user base further.

"If you're reading this: thank you for giving me and my little team the honor of serving you," Mr Zuckerberg wrote in a status update.

"Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life"

Statistics released to coincide with the announcement revealed there were now 600 million users accessing the site via a mobile device - up 48 million from 552 million in June this year.

Mark Zuckerberg on NBC TV: "If we build the best products, we can continue leading in this space for a long time"

Since its early beginnings at Harvard University, Facebook users have befriended each other 140.3 billion times.

Sustained growth is seen as crucial if Facebook is to maintain its value - the company has seen its share price drop to about $22 (£17) from a starting price of $38.

Investors will expect the company to look at ways to make more from the users it already has as well as seeking to attract new users in areas of the world where it does not yet dominate.

"For Facebook the main challenge is not just to grow in terms of numbers, but more importantly to deepen and enrich engagements," said Eden Zoller, principal analyst at tech research firm Ovum.

TV chat show

Although the service is by far the world's biggest social network, there are key areas, such as China and Russia, where local competitors still remain the online networking tool of choice.

Last month, Mr Zuckerberg visited Moscow, where he made his first TV chat show appearance, as well as a highly publicised meeting with the Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

It was a public-relations exercise designed to unsettle VKontakte - a network that boasts in excess of 100 million members, compared with Facebook's seven million, in the country.

In the same trip, Mr Zuckerberg made a "surprise" visit to one of the company's arranged hack-a-thons to meet local developers.

Other trips include to China, where the company said it was busy "watching and learning" from other internet firms.

Google, which launched in China in 2005, faced fierce criticism when it agreed to allow censorship of search results. It later changed its stance, and now directs all of its traffic through its Hong Kong-based site.

Evolution of a network

Facebook at one billion:

  • Median user age: 22
  • Top countries (alphabetical order): Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, United States
  • Mobile users: 600 million

At 500 million (July 2010):

  • Median user age: 23
  • Top countries: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, United States
  • Users who joined the site at this point now have an average of 305 friends

At 100 million (August 2008):

  • Median user age: 23
  • Top countries: Chile, France, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States
  • Users who joined the site at this point now have an average of 334 friends

At 50 million (October 2007):

  • Median user age: 26
  • Top countries: Australia, Canada, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States
  • Users who joined the site at this point now have an average of 321 friends

At 25 million (January 2006):

  • Median user age: 19
  • Top countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, United States
  • Users who joined the site at this point now have an average of 598 friends

Success for Facebook in China would mean unseating RenRen (more than 30 million users) and possibly the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo (more than 300 million users).

'Every phone'

In Africa, Facebook has targeted the use of basic phones - known widely as "feature phones" - which are unable to display the full-featured site, but instead can use specially created variations of the network.

Specifically, a project called Facebook for Every Phone, which was launched following the company's acquisition of feature-phone specialists Snaptu, is central to its growth strategy in the region.

"Facebook is doing very well in Africa," said Erik Hersman, a Kenyan-based blogger.

"You even see people using it in the rural areas - often people will ask for a phone with Facebook on it, not caring/knowing about the internet at all."

There are considerable monetisation opportunities too. The continent has, at a pace far outstripping the west, adopted mobile payment systems in huge numbers - more than 15 million in Kenya alone.

In developed markets, one path to better engagement with users could be through new features that make use of Facebook's vast quantities of personal data about each of its members.

In recent weeks, Facebook has been looking to monitor the real-world effects of advertising on the platform.

These efforts are key if the company is to convince businesses that investing in the platform is not a waste of money - recent admissions over "fake" users and have dented the site's credibility.

It has enlisted the help of US market research firm Datalogix to try to produce evidence that seeing an advert on Facebook - without necessarily clicking on it - is enough of an engagement to get people buying products in shops.

Data 'goldmine'

However, this vast data bank is tricky to utilise, according to Ovum's Ms Zoller.

"There's no doubt that Facebook is sitting on a potential goldmine of customer data," she said.

"But that goldmine can also be a minefield. We know that Facebook, despite its claims to the contrary, constantly pushes the boundaries of what's seen as acceptable in regards to data privacy."

Facebook 'like' symbol Much of Facebook's advertising model features around "likes" - however their worth is disputed

This goldmine could swell further. In the UK, ministers are said to be considering using Facebook, among other services, to act as official identification for accessing public services online.

Such advancements are being noted by data regulators. In Europe in particular, Facebook has been faced with increased demands to tighten data privacy practices.

The company, which has based its European headquarters in Ireland, was last month told by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes, that it must amend its Phototag feature - a tool powered by facial recognition software.

Following an extensive audit, the commission also sought extra assurances from Facebook over issues surrounding account deletion and targeted advertising.

As it continues to innovate and evolve, the company would need to get used to finding itself audited and investigated, said Ms Zoller.

"They're so high-profile," she said.

"They're a bit of a poster boy, but they could be a whipping boy if they're not careful."

 

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