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UK Remains Top Facebook Market in Western Europe

UK leads social network penetration in the EU-5

May 9, 2013

The UK will not drive the most growth in social networking worldwide, but it continues to be a global leader in both social network and Facebook engagement and penetration rates.

eMarketer estimates that nearly one in four people worldwide will be social network users this year. By 2014, the worldwide social network audience will approach 2 billion. Growth will be largely driven by the rapidly expanding social network audiences in the emerging markets. Social network users in the traditionally more advanced digital countries of North America, Canada, the UK and Japan are approaching a plateau.

Social Network User Growth in Western Europe, by Country, 2011-2017 (% change)

In Western Europe, the majority of people who will use social networks regularly have already done so by now. The social network audience will total 174.2 million this year, eMarketer estimates, or about 62% of internet users.

In the UK, in particular, social networking is well established and wildly popular. More than half of UK residents will use social networks regularly this year, according to eMarketer. While this is behind social network penetration rates seen in the Nordic countries, as well as the Netherlands, it is the highest penetration rate among the EU-5.

Social Network User Penetration in Western Europe, by Country, 2011-2017 (% of population in each group)

But this year, the UK will lose its first-place position in Western Europe in terms of user numbers, dropping from an 18.9% share of the total in 2012 to an 18.4% share in 2013, as the number of social network users in Germany surpasses the UK.

In total, eMarketer predicts, 32.1 million UK residents will use social networks regularly this year, rising to 36.7 million in 2017.

Because social networking is already well established in the UK, growth will be slow throughout the forecast period. This year, growth will drop down from the double digits to a 6.3% increase. By 2017, growth will come in at a meager 2%, and the UK will post the lowest growth levels in Western Europe throughout the forecast period.

Facebook reigns unchallenged as the leading social network in the UK, accounting for more than nine out of 10 social network users in the country, ahead of the regional Facebook penetration rate among social networkers.

Facebook Users in Western Europe, by Country, 2011-2017 (millions)

Since Germany’s social networkers are diffused across a broader range of networks, the UK will remain No. 1 in terms of Facebook users, at nearly 30 million residents this year, ahead of Germany by 7.8 million users.

Growth in UK Facebook users will exactly mirror growth in social network users in the country, further proving that in the UK, social networking is near synonymous with Facebook usage.

eMarketer forms its estimates of social network users based on the analysis of survey and traffic data from research firms and regulatory agencies; the growth trajectory of major social network sites; historical trends; internet and mobile adoption trends; and country-specific demographic and socio-economic factors.

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