Social habits diverge

06 January 2012

NEW YORK: The vast majority of internet users in nations like the UK and US are passive "spectators" online, while their counterparts in China and India are more engaged, a study has found.

Forrester, the research firm, surveyed 95,000 netizens in 18 countries, and reported that 86% of the US online population now use social media, a proportion that stood at 79% across seven European markets, including France, Germany, Spain and the UK.

Some 68% of the US panel and 50% of Europeans were "joiners", maintaining a profile on social networks and regularly visiting these platforms.

In all, 24% of Americans are "creators", publishing articles, stories, blogs or webpages online, or else making and upload video or audio content. This figure stood at 23% in Europe.

These totals hit 36% and 26% in turn for people who regularly update their status or post tweets, a group known as "conversationalists".

Another 36% of Americans, and 33% of Europeans, were "critics", reviewing products, commenting on blogs and in forums, or adding material to sites like Wikipedia.

More broadly, around 70% of people in the US and Europe were "spectators", who read tweets, blogs, forum comments and customer reviews or listen to podcasts, but do not contribute.

Elsewhere, the analysis revealed that 93% of web users across Brazil, China, India and Mexico use social media at least once a month, falling to 49% for the European nations featured.

Moreover, 80% of the Indian sample, and 76% of their Chinese peers, were classified as "creators", well ahead of the US and European totals.

When combined with the fact that three-quarters of Facebook's audience are now based outside the US, as is a majority of Twitter's membership, it appears marketers might want to modify their strategies.

"Don't expect too much interaction from western consumers," Forrester argued. "If you've been putting all of your social efforts into the US and the UK, it's time to shift your focus - and your budget - to the countries where users are more social."

Companies active in Japan may also need to adopt a cautious approach, as only 28% of the local online community access social networks on a monthly basis. This proportion dropped to 13% for Facebook.

Data sourced from Forrester, Financial Times, Reuters, Mashable, Campaign Asia; additional content by Warc staff