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New Forecast: Emerging Markets Lead World in Social Networking Growth

Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacific will exceed average growth rates

NEW YORK, NY (August 16, 2012)—Driven largely by Facebook growth worldwide and social networks in Asia, the number of social network users around the world will rise this year to 1.4 billion from 1.18 billion in 2011, according to a new forecast by eMarketer.

This near-20% increase is a slight drop from the rise in 2011, and growth rates will continue to moderate as the market matures.

The fastest growth will come from the emerging markets of the world, especially the Middle East and Africa (where the base of social network users remains small) and Asia-Pacific. Latin America will also grow its user base by 18.5%, slightly below the worldwide average.

eMarketer forecasts that Facebook will have nearly 826 million users around the world this year, up from 650.7 million in 2011. The 2012 figure will represent 58.8% of social network users, 36.4% of internet users and just under 12% of the total worldwide population.

It’s also important to note that Facebook maintains relatively low penetration in Asia-Pacific compared to the rest of the world, while competitors like Sina Weibo and Renren continue to grow in markets like China. Just 20.1% of internet users in Asia-Pacific use Facebook—compared to over 44% penetration in Western Europe, nearly 60% penetration in North America, and over 56% penetration in both Latin America and the Middle East and Africa.

Still, Facebook user growth will come fastest from Asia-Pacific, where adoption rates in India, Indonesia and Japan far exceed the worldwide average growth of 26.9% this year. The Middle East and Africa and Latin America will also post higher-than-average growth rates.

eMarketer forms its estimates of worldwide social network and Facebook users based on the analysis of survey and traffic data from research firms and regulatory agencies; Facebook company releases; historical trends; internet and mobile adoption trends; and country-specific demographic and socioeconomic factors.

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Clark Fredricksen
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Posted on August 16, 2012.