A Happy Face: Facebook Remains on Top
What makes for a good social networking website? Is it the look and feel of the website, the ease of navigation, the tools and features? For Facebook, it is the pleasant mixture of all three with a slightly more focus on technology-driven tools that has enabled it to overtake its close competitor, MySpace.
The Beginning Ever since its birth in February 2004, Facebook, the privately owned and operated social networking website has been enticing and accumulating followers, being a free-access website where people from all walks of life can join networks (organized by cities, workplaces, schools, or regions) to interact with others, and to some extent, rekindle old friendships and reconnect past relationships.
Beyond the Face Value Four years have passed and Facebook has managed to remain virtually on top while undergoing a lot of progress in terms of applications. Starting from an idea (the website’s name came from the “paper facebooks” illustrating members of a campus community that some American colleges and preparatory schools give to incoming students, faculty, or staff aiming to familiarize them with the other people inside the campus) of a then Harvard sophomore student, Mark Zuckerberg, the website turned out to be a major hit as a multi-million dollar enterprise.
Bridging Gaps and Cultural Differences The CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, describes the impact of Facebook through a story about a group of young militants from Lebanon who have reconciled their views of Western culture by way of Facebook friendships. The story spoke of the free expression of ideas which the World Wide Web allows, thus making people rise above their cultural disparities.
On Expansion and Language Translation Facebook has reached a great number of users, as it quickly expands to other regions, internationally. In fact, the website stands unruffled to the top as a global social network. The numbers released in August 12 by comScore says it all. There are about 132 million followers of Facebook, 63% of which are outside North America. It helped that the network has been translated to 20 languages such as French, Spanish, and Mandarin. Recently, it has added 69 more languages. The international manager of Facebook, Javier Olivan views this as more than just enabling everyone to understand one another. The translations, according to him, will jumpstart astronomical growth internationally.
Growing and Thriving To date, Facebook faces tough competition with MySpace and News Corp.’s to name a couple. They not only focus on their local markets, but are also meaning to saturate the global scene to amplify audience growth, thus making them very attractive to advertisers and prospective investors. MySpace has spread out in 29 countries such as India and Korea. Based on a study from Pingdom, a Swedish website availability monitoring website; it is mostly frequented by users in US, Puerto Rico, Australia, Britain, and even in Asian countries such as Malaysia. LinkedIn is another social network catering to professionals. According to Pingdom, it is popular in India, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and US. Despite all these, a staggering 153% increase in new members last June has thrown other social networks off-balance, in terms of the website’s success through a purely user adoption.
Tech-Savvy Socialization Facebook proved to have more ease conquering the international market through its technology-driven strategy. The social network boasts of translation tools, enabling users to take their existing sites and personalize them using their native tongue. The tools proved to offer very accurate translations, setting it apart from the other social network websites. The senior analyst of comScore, Andrew Lipsman, said that it is indeed, a very scalable process, with the audience’s number multiplying really fast. MySpace on the other hand follows a different route. Facebook’s close rival opens offices in countries where ad dollars and friends are probable. This strategy definitely slows down their expansion internationally but this approach is deemed to be a surefire way to better reflect the cultures of new countries while racking up dollars from advertisers, too. Soon, according to Jeff Berman, MySpace’s president of sales and marketing, MySpace’s non-US users will cover half or 50 percent of the its total revenue. Hi5 language translation tool applications strategy resembles that of Facebook’s, except that this social network from San Francisco initially hired a third-party service provider, Lionsbridge, to translate the social network to languages such as Japanese. This strategy increased its popularity, making the base users amount to a hefty 56 million. According to Pingdom, the site remains immensely popular in Latin America.
More Possibilities The Facebook executives, though focused at present on the website’s tools, have not closed their doors on the possibility of opening offices in other countries to make their website more culturally-relevant, similar to the strategy employed by MySpace. Right now however, Olivan stresses that as long as there are users, advertisers will continue to create campaigns and put ads on their sites, making Facebook remain universal.