Where Does Facebook Grow From Here

Facebook publishes demographic data through its advertising platform. Potential advertisers can obtain estimates for the number of Facebook users by age group, gender, education, country, and even relationship status! While the estimates most likely rely on user supplied data, they provide the best publicly available numbers on the Facebook user base.

Facebook currently has about 75M users spread across more than 80 countries. The good news is that the top three countries (US,UK,Canada) now account for only about 61% of all users:
A few large (as in population) countries immediately jump out including Turkey, Colombia, and France. Facebook is the top social network in these countries yet the number of Facebook users is small relative to the population. The challenge is that there are more countries on the list where Facebook is up against other more widely used social networks.

According to Alexa, Facebook overtook Myspace as the #1 social networking site on the web. Worldwide numbers are interesting but everyone knows that social networks are best compared on a regional basis. Compare Alexa’s recent numbers to the map of regional Social Network Market Share that Tim posted about a month ago. Regional market leaders (Friendster in Southeast Asia, Hi5/Orkut in South Asia and Latin America, Bebo/LiveJournal in parts of Europe) have significant numbers of users and dislodging each of them won’t be easy.

What to do in countries with strong incumbent social networks? Incumbency relies on average users aversion to recreating “friendships” and profiles.The ideal come-from-behind strategy is to embrace Data Portability. Or more precisely, as Tim stated last November:

Set the data free! Allow social data mashups. That’s what will be the trump card in building the winning social networking platform.

The “our walled garden is better than their walled garden” blueprint works best when you are already one of the established market leaders. The same Data Portability strategy that makes sense for an upstart could be what defines the dominant global social networking platform. Facebook’s tussle with Google over Friend Connect shows that they are struggling with this issue. (Also see David Recordon’s recent post on Myspace as well.)

Actually, the more probable scenario is that (closed) social networks become less important over the long term. With more web applications incorporating social features, users will gradually “leave” closed social networks altogether. Already, I know less and less people who use Facebook regularly. Most people I know log in only when they receive a “friend” request – sadly hugs, gifts, zombies and pokes are losing their allure.

One other demographic tidbit. Just like the US, the Facebook overseas user base is young, with most users less than 34 years old. Given its roots as a US college social network, Facebook has more college-age (18-25) users in the US. [UPDATE: I also keep hearing that more high schoolers are using Facebook. In the US, the 13-17 age group now account for 1 in 6 users.]

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