Every week we bring you the FreshMinds Friday picks – ideas to help you make the most of digital technologies and understand how they are helping brands to grow and innovate. This week we’re looking at Facebook and five markets round the world which we expect to help to influence how the platform will grow in the future. From large growth markets for Facebook (such as India and Nigeria) to markets where mobile is driving growth (such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia) and places where Facebook still falls well behind local competitors (such as Japan).
India is a huge market for Facebook and one where it is experiencing sold growth at the moment – in 2013 users of the site grew by 37.4%. With the Indian general elections in 2014, we expect this growth to continue as the platform is used increasingly to engage with people across the country. Many commentators expect India to have the world’s largest Facebook market by 2016.
As in many of our countries that will drive future Facebook growth, mobile is a key factor in India. In 2014, smartphone ownership in the country is set to surpass that in the USA, with 200 million new Indian smartphone users in 2014.
The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria is currently the third biggest market on the continent for Facebook but one that we expect to grow significantly. Again, much of this growth will be driven by the rise in access – with mobile phone ownership and broadband availability both set to be boosted significantly.
Brazil is currently Facebook’s second biggest market, and is cited by the platform themselves as a “key source of mobile growth”. With the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, we expect to see a real focus by brand, media outlets and others in Brazil on using the platform to engage with people in the country. And as much of this growth is mobile, we expect to see this focus to be innovative when compared with more established markets.
Not only is Brazil a real growth market for users of Facebook, but it is also a market that will drive much innovation in how people, brands and technologies interact with the service.
Another market where strong mobile growth is driving adoption of Facebook is Saudi Arabia. A sharp increase in Facebook users in 2013 is set to continue and not only is this growth driven by mobile use, but it is also growth in an Arabic language environment. We’ve already seen Facebook make subtle changes to its interface and design to accommodate other cultures (such as removing the ‘thumbs up’ from the Like design, but we would expect this to grow with user growth in markets like Saudi Arabia.
Finally, a key market for Facebook’s future growth is Japan. It is a market where they have grown considerably, but one where they are still not seen by users as the most important platform – this is given to Line, Japan’s largest social networking app for instant messages, image sharing and voice calls. When asked which social media platform they would least want to give up in a recent report, 49% of Japanese consumers said Line, whilst only 18% said Facebook.
This shows the challenge that may come to Facebook from the growing popularity of instant messaging apps, and of course helps to explain their purchase of WhatsApp. The Japanese market is a very mature market for this kind of interaction and it is proving to be more popular than Facebook – how they compete against this threat will be a key signal to its future.