There is no doubt that social media has taken over the communications world. Hundreds of millions of people check every day to see what‘s new on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and social networks encourage them to join online discussions. Social networking is not only about sharing personal messages or entertaining content. Marketing managers know the potential of using different social media to communicate with both current customers and prospects through advertisements on social networking sites. However if they aspire to influence their publics through social media, marketers have to learn more about the differences in user behavior, especially in a geographically and politically different landscape as diverse as the EMEA region.
Most companies divide world into three regions for business and marketing purposes: EMEA - including Europe, Middle East and Africa, the Americas and APAC (Asia-Pacific). In the entire EMEA region there are 1.9 billion people. Europe consists of 47 countries and Europeans speak 23 official languages and 207 unofficial languages.
Global social media integrate
Social media's ever-growing presence can be seen across the world. In EMEA region, global social media dominate, using the various local languages that are spoken in each different area.. Local social networks are only important in some countries in Eastern Europe. And social media in Africa presents a special case – its development is very similar to the lifestyle of the local people.
In Western Europe,
- more than 50% of Europeans use the internet.
- 41% of them are active users of social networks (374 million).
- 223 million subscribe to Facebook(the largest number of Facebook subscribers in the world and 62% of all internet users in Europe).
- Twitter is the second most used social network in Europe (16% of the internet users).
- Europeans also actively use Google+, LinkedIn, Badoo and Odnoklassniki among other social networking services.
- Most Europeans know Facebook (96%) and Twitter (60%) but only 19 % use them both.
These facts need to be take in account when developing corporate communication strategy for social networks.
Over 50% of all Europeans express favor for their most favorite brands on social networking sites. However most European companies in EU countries do not use the potential of their employees as effectively as they could.
- 33 percent of employees in EU countries cannot use social networks during work
- 19% of employees in EU countries are allowed to use them at work.
Spaniards and Italians are the most enthusiastic users of social networks in Europe – 74% of residents of these two countries are registered on social networks. Over 50% of British, Swedish, French, Dutch and German people spend their time regularly on social networks. The British and Dutch use Twitter most often (4% of them tweet minimally once a week) but only 2% of the internet users in Europe tweet regularly.
Eastern Europe: different region, different networks
Facebook still dominates among social networks in Eastern Europe. However, Facebook is not the top player in Russia, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania. The most popular social network in Russia called Vkontakte.ru, which is similar to Facebook. Vkontakte.ru has approximately 300 million daily users and each of them spends approximately 50 minutes online. Only one million people are registered on Twitter and Facebook in Russia. Russians conceived their own version of YouTube called RuTube.ru, which has more visitors than YouTube itself. Only two percent of Russian internet users do not use social networks at all.
Eastern Europeans do not like blogs, (Russia is the exception) and only a few professionals and journalists use Twitter, where there are only 11,000 registered users in Hungary. The social network Nasza-klasa.pl which is similar to the Czech network Spoluzaci.cz, competes with Facebook in Poland. In Lithuania national social networks Draugiem.lv and One.lv displaced Facebook to third position. Global social media keep the superior position in the Czech Republic, except Czechs prefer Seznam rather than Google for searching the internet.
Social media in the Middle East - the symbol of Arabic Spring
Differences in state systems and languages helped global social media enter the Middle East region:
- 24% of the population in the Middle East are internet users.
- 88% of them are online daily.
Similarly unpopular are blogs and local social media in the Middle East countries, except for in Turkey. The only competitor to global social media in the Middle East is Jeeran network, which is followed by 1.3 million subscribers, and includes 650 thousand active web pages and 120 thousand blogs.
Social networks played the key role in the Middle East during 2012’s so-called Arab Spring.
According to some opinions, new forms of social media were the crucial factor to unleash the revolution in Egypt. Compared to the rigid restrictions of traditional media, social networks became the only outlet for liberal expression and people used them for sharing videos and watching the world events.
Compared to countries in EMEA region, the situation in Africa is totally different. The availability of mobile phones is considered to be the third and the most important form of revolution (after the implementation of democracy and the internet) because ordinary people get the power of information into their own hands.
One billion people live in 54 countries in Africa. Only 5% of them have a bank account and only a few residents own laptops, smartphones or credit cards. Africans do not use mobile phones for calling, but for education, business, entertainment, and sharing opinions and messages. Phones are also used as mobile banks. Such a background was ideal for the generation of the social network „Mixit.“ Thanks to mobile economics people come together and gain power without having internet access.
The biggest and fastest spreading social network in Africa – Mxit (Messaging Exchange, read „mix it“) – has 50 million users in 20 countries and the number is still increasing. It started in 2007 when social media known only among young people who loved innovation. Furthermore the price of SMS was so high no one could afford it. The network Mxit allows people to send text, multimedia messages and to chat. Mxit subscribers send 23 billions messages every month. They can also enter Mxit through other platforms such as MSN Messenger, ICQ or Google Talk.
The social network Mxit functions as a loyalty program. Users get some benefits for using paid services, for example free data or sound transfer. According to the frequency of use of the social network, users are divided into five categories: people who join but are not active users, people who join minimally once in three months, and liberals who join once a month and can vote and chat, but do not earn money. In the fourth category are business people. They use „network wallets“ to send money to their families and friends and buy wares. The last category is made up of „rockstars“ who buy games, time for calling, wallpapers, vouchers, tickets, music etc. and then can sell them out.
If marketing specialists want to be successful communicating on social networks, they should target local communication in the EMEA region - but not only by using the correct language. They must also know which local platforms replace global social networks in some countries. Key decisions are made differently in different countries. Therefore it is useful to rely on local expert´s reports – they lead to the relevant opinion leaders.