Social Media Usage Across Cultures

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With the globalization we have seen an increase of usage of social media everywhere.

According to Nielsen research (January 2010), global consumers spent more than five and half hours per month on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in December 2009, an 82% increase from the same time last year.

However there are great differences on how people use social media  in different countries. For example Brazilians are the top social media users worldwide according to another global survey by Nielsen (June 2010). People in Brazil communicate mainly  in Portuguese. The social network made by Google, Orkut, has been adopted by 50% of Brazilians internet users but is not very popular in the United States.

For global marketers and people who want to develop both local and international networks,  it is important to determine  how people from different countries interact with social media.

There are five  main driving factors that determine the choice of platforms and content:

1. Purposes of using social media

2. How open the culture is to share information online (privacy and security)

3. Online purchasing behavior

4. Languages other than English used

5. Number and types of social media users among total population

Global Usage Of Social Media

Following points are summary and analysis of the results of large global consumer surveys  on social media conducted in 2009-2010Please see sources at the end of the article

I-Regional and country trends on purpose and ways of using social media

1-Asia-Pacific region: Social media usage has seen unprecedented growth in Asia-Pacific in the past year and is now one of the most critical trends in the online sector, online product reviews are the third most trusted source of information when making purchase decisions, behind family and friends. Japan is the first Asian Twitter nation, and second worldwide after the US, with 18% of messages worldwide according to a “geolocation” study of tweets by Semiocast

China: staying in touch with a friend is the most frequent use of social media

Japan: people use mainly social media to research products to buy. Japanese people have the least appetite for Facebook with 3% of users on it. The most popular Japanese platform is Ameba. It is visited  by 38% of Japanese people online. Blogging is very popular in Japan

South Korea: staying up-to-date on news and events was the most popular. South Korea is in the top ten markets in the world when it comes to internet population. Naver, is attracting 95 percent of the Korean Internet population.

India: researching for work topped the social media usage motivation. 70 percent of social media users in India identify Orkut as their preferred social media site.

Australia: staying in touch with friends is the most common activity. Australia leads the world in social media engagement, with the highest global average for time spent per month engaging with social media, averaging over seven hours per month. LinkedIn has seen one of the fastest growth trends amongst social media sites in Australia, with unique audience numbers increasing by 99 percent from July 2009 to May 2010

2-Europe: Facebook’s reach is the widest in Italy, (69%) followed by UK(66%) Spain(57%), France (57%)

U.K.: researching product purchases

France: staying in touch with friends is the dominating motivation

The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Russia: staying current on news and events leads the way


Brazil’s motivation to use social media was unique and focused on “researching how to do things.”

The US, ranked researching products to buy as the number one motivation of social media activity. Watching video online is surprisingly low in the US compared to other regions.

II-Global Trends On Business and Personal Use

Based on the aggregate data from all the countries, the results show that 85 percent of  respondent uses social media for business use and 97 percent for personal use.

The top three reasons for using social media for personal use are:

  1. Connecting with friends and family
  2. Reading social media content
  3. Connecting with like-minded people

The top three reasons for using social media for business are:

  1. Building networks for business contact
  2. Reading social media content
  3. Highlighting personal and professional expertise on social media

Other leading reasons included job search, identifying potential leads, and finding product and service information.

III-Languages spoken on Social Media

Facebook reached 500 million users around the world and it is a good indicator of the trends on languages used on social media.

Facebook’s #1 language is English, with over 52% of the site’s total user base accessing the site in that language. Spanish is second  with a usage rate of around 15% of the total user base. After Spanish, the drop off is much sharper, French is third.

Source: Article: Facebook Top 10 Languages and who is using them

Consumers’ behaviors are changing very fast on social media. Here’s a look at growth rates for Facebook’s Top 10 languages:

From Article: Top languages Portuguese Arabic and Spanish lead-growth

Conclusion: On Social media, “One-Size-Fits All” content and ethnocentric (mainly USA) communication strategies  are no longer sustainable. To become truly global or even just to adapt to global forces that are shaping the world’s economy, the most important factor for developers, advertisers and marketers is not how large the global audience is but to know how to reach users in established and fast-growing markets through localization strategies including making content with cultural sensitivity, adjust to online behaviors of target audiences at country level and languages.


About Anne Egros

Zest and Zen is a blog about Expat Life Challenges, Global Leadership, Intercultural Communication, Health and Wellness, Nutrition, Change Psychology, Life Transitions
This entry was posted in Executive Coaching, Global Economy, Global Executives, Social Media, Twitter, Web 2.0 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Social Media Usage Across Cultures

  1. Pingback: Intercultural online communication | Diligently Digital PR

  2. Reblogged this on Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach and commented:

    Since this post was published in 2010, the worldwide map of social media has changed dramatically. For example in Brazil Facebook has replaced Orkut and in Russia, the number of social media users is growing at a very fast pace, mostly on their own local sites Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki.
    Read more :
    →World Map of Social Networks :
    → 4 Fascinating Facts on the Social Media Landscape in Russia
    ( )
    ->China social media and social marketing in 2013: 600 Million Social Media User. China’s Web in 2013, Infographics..

  3. Anne,

    Excellent compilation of information — Especially those that wish to step into social for global business purposes!

    Having worked with other cultures, none of the above is surprising, though I thought the UK was the leader in Europe on Facebook use.

    the Brazilians are ones to watch! I keep joking with my husband that I’m going to move to Brazil and throw parties on the beach for tourists. That might not be such a terrible idea from what I see above.

    Enjoyed the post!


  4. Paul Morin says:

    Fascinating post, Anne! I do business in a bunch of different countries, mostly dominated by usage of English, Spanish and Portuguese. The insights you provide in this article are dead-on. One observation I’ll make is that it is very difficult to stay in touch AND provide good quality content in multiple languages, unless you have a staff devoted to helping you do so. Thanks for another excellent post. Paul

    • Thanks Paul, sometimes it is good to remind people that even if we live in a global world each culture has its own habits and as a global business person you simply cannot rely exclusively on the US market data alone otherwise you will be left behind by your future non-American clients or consumers. The highest probability is that the Chinese and other BRICs consumers will drive the global economy within the next 20 years.

      • Paul Morin says:

        Agreed, Anne. Clearly the U.S. will continue to play a very important role, but the importance of the BRIC and other emerging countries will continue to grow. It’s therefore VERY important, as you point out, to be aware of what’s happening elsewhere in the world, and be sure to take this into account as you plan your strategy and grow your business.

  5. Pingback: Top Languages Spoken 2010 |

  6. Please notice that languages used on the internet worldwide is different form the statistics for Facebook only posted in this article. This is congruent with the findings that different cultures use social media and the internet differently.

    Top 10 Languages

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