Less than 5 percent of the world population lives in the United States, but we make up 30 percent of the Facebook world. There‘s no doubt that Americans are the most avid users of social networks, but social is quickly gaining momentum in the international markets.
The recent social-powered political activity in the Middle East and North Africa has made us all aware of the fact that social media is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Meanwhile, the number of international users on Facebook has climbed by several percentage points in the past quarter.
Who are these people, and why are they so eager to get on the social bandwagon? Well, the second largest Facebook-using demographic (behind Americans at 30 percent) are Europeans. Over 20 percent of Facebook users currently reside in Europe (including Turkey and Russia), and the region is home to several of its own social players as well. About 20 percent of Russians are active on VKontakte, and a whopping 2/3 of the hyper-tech-savvy Dutch population login regularly to Hyves.
And it‘s not just individuals who are jumping onto social networks in a big way. Europe‘s massive corporations are hot on the heels of their customer bases. In early 2009, Stan Schroeder at Mashable complained that most European CEOs hadn‘t even heard of Twitter, using UK megastore Tesco’s non-presence as an example. Now Tesco has about 20 Twitter accounts for its various brands and promotions, not including the CEO’s highly-followed personal account.
Leading the way in the European race to social in the corporate world are active and youth brands like Bauer Media (UK), Red Bull (Austria) and Salomon (France). Meanwhile, a flock of socially-minded start-ups are popping up around the continent. Even legendary print media giants like Le Monde (France) and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany) have named social as a priority for the coming fiscal year. Don‘t let their centuries-old traditions fool you; Europe has entered the social scene and is here to stay.
We’ve seen that this upward trend makes social optimization a huge priority for European businesses. For businesses worldwide, it should make social login for the European market a priority. That means integrating with not only Facebook and Twitter, but regional networks like VKontakte, Hyves and Viadeo. Online businesses need to investigate which social networks users are active on and provide options to connect and share with those social networks, or they have a good chance of missing out on the business of the world’s wealthiest continent.
By Victor White