Over the past few years, we’ve talked a lot about social media and how we’ve seen its usage grow to one of the most popular online activities for Internet users worldwide. Add to that the ubiquity of connected devices and social networks are now more accessible than ever, becoming an integral part of our lives. Naturally, businesses have capitalised on this opportunity to reach out to consumers across the globe. However, social media usage differs across cultures, countries and in some cases even regions, and if targeting an international market, it is important to understand both the most popular social networks and how the population interacts.

In today’s blog we will look into social media usage and market share within three very different countries - the UK, USA and Hong Kong - highlighting key consumer behaviour trends in each marketplace.

UK

The UK currently has 31 million Facebook users, a huge 58% of the UK population, and the fourth highest number of Facebook users in the world. Looking at this market in more detail, 26% of Facebook’s UK users are in the 25-34 category - the single largest concentration of consumers on any social media platform. Commonly used as a tool to connect with friends and more recently, with brands/organisations of interest, estimates suggest a huge 24 million UK users login every single day. Currently, Facebook holds 56.2% of the UK social media market making it the UK’s number one social network.

Twitter comes second in the popularity polls with more than 15 million UK users and 12.7% of the UK social media market share. Studies show that 40% of UK Twitter users view the social network as a curated news feed of updates reflecting their passions, therefore it is worth noting that although users may not interact directly with your organisation on this platform this does not mean they are not absorbing the content you produce. The third most populated social network is LinkedIn, which stands at more than 10 million and is largely viewed as a career development tool. However, LinkedIn is now big for business too with 64% of all visits to corporate websites driven from LinkedIn updates.

Each of the above platforms provide scope for reaching a large proportion of the UK population, however it is dependent on the target audience which platform would best suit your needs.

USA

In the USA, there are currently 152 million users on Facebook (64% of the online population) and the network boasts 39% of the US social media market share. As of June 2014, Facebook was the most popular social network amongst Americans with 47% stating Facebook as their biggest influence on purchase decisions. With 3.2 hours of the average American’s day spent on social media, it would seem that Facebook is an excellent place to tap into the american market.

Facebook is particularly popular with woman and also the 18-29 year old demographic with 84% of Americans in this age bracket signed up to the platform. Additionally, in the last year, the over 65 market, or the ‘silver surfers’ has seen a dramatic increase to reach 45%.

YouTube follows not far behind Facebook with 128 million users, holding 36% of the US social media market share. Twitter, however, has far less reach across the US with only 28 million users and a 3.39% share of the market. Although it is not as commonly used as Facebook, Twitter generates a significant amount of multiple times per day usage (29%) in comparison to Facebook’s 40% indicating it is popular for short sessions.

Although Facebook is more popular with females, there are virtually no differences in gender when it comes to Twitter. Twitter is most popular with 18-29 year olds (31%) and is most commonly used in cities and suburban areas however not as commonly used in rural areas. In the future, Twitter usage is expected to grow in rural areas increasing the popularity of the social network as a whole.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a whole different ball game to the UK or US, with a vastly different culture and language, and a saturation of different platforms and technologies. It has been estimated that social media use is higher in HK than in the US due to the work-life balance. In Hong Kong, the most popular and influential platform is, yet again, Facebook with more than 3.5 million users (52.36% of the population). Here the 25-34 age range is the dominant demographic, with almost 2 million users.

Introducing a new platform to the mix, Sina Weibo (an alternative to Twitter) is the second most commonly used social network in Hong Kong, boasting around 2 million users. In recent years, Hong Kong has began to embrace social media with 76% of HK Internet users now accessing the web to use social platforms. However traditionally, the HK market has differed slightly to the Western world in terms of consumer behaviour, seeing social media as a tool for communicating with friends only, causing issues for businesses looking to make connections on these platforms. Social media users in HK are known as ‘passive social media participants’ and are reluctant to use social media as part of the business/marketing mix.

This is just a small insight into the ways different markets adopt different technologies and behaviours. We’ve picked these markets as there is a lean toward Facebook being the most prevalent social network, however choice of platform for social media advertising will always come down to your business objectives and an understanding of your target audience.

We’ll continue this two-part blog by looking into three other active and interesting marketplaces, namely Germany, Norway and Singapore.