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3 revelations about social media habits (Forrester)

The research firm's updated statistics about social network penetration should discourage businesses from taking a cookie-cutter approach.

Any company planning a social media campaign should peek at Forrester Research's latest statistics on global social media, which show that 2011 was a year in which different regions of the world really expressed their preferences regarding the whole social thing.

As I was reading the report, "Global Social Media Adoption in 2011," several trends really jumped out me that bear highlighting. The data is based on the research firms Technographics benchmark surveys. Those surveys cover the opinions of thousands of people, depending on the country.

  • Don't overlook emerging nations. Forrester reports that even though overall Internet penetration in countries including India, China, Mexico and Brazil isn't that high, those that ARE online are involved actively in social networks. Approximately 93 percent of online users in these countries log into a social network at least once per month. Lesson, don't forget these countries in your social media plans.
  • Don't assume that North American and European consumers will contribute much original content. Forrester said that more than 70 percent of the online users in the United States and Canada, for example, are consumers of social content. In Europe, about 50 percent of people in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden visit a social network site at least once per month. But people in Italy and Sweden are twice as likely as those in Germany to do so. They also tend to be relatively passive. Lesson, that means people in western countries will read and watch and join in other "Spectator" activities, but they won't offer much in the way of interaction or feedback.
  • China trumps Japan when it comes to participation. You might think given the fact that Japan is a more established economy than its Asian neighbor, that it would be quicker to adopt social networks than its neighbor. But the culture modesty and anonymity of the Japanese apparently are having an affect on adoption. Forrester reports that only 13 percent of Japanese online visitors are using Facebook, opting for other networks like mixi or even Twitter where they can establish some anonymity. In contrast, about 97 percent of those in live in metropolitan areas in China and India are active in social media. Lesson, cultural factors will be a big factor in usage, so don't assume that what works in one country will work in another, even if it's in the same region.

As social media becomes a more common component of corporate marketing strategy, Forrester's statistics should discourage businesses from making the assumption that what works in one country will work in another. It also suggests that soliciting feedback and participation in branding and community initiatives might be more difficult than anticipated.

(Stock illustration courtesy of Stock.xchng)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com