Facebook use is growing faster in Africa than on any other continent, and the Chinese are some of the most active social media users in the world.

The first fact comes from Socialbakers, a Facebook analytics company, which found that Africa gained more than 50% of its Facebook users in the last six months. The company also looks at other growing markets. The second comes from a Memeburn article by Thomas Crampton, which points out that although many Western social media services are blocked, the Chinese equivalents are extremely popular. And, according to Crampton, "A recent study by OgilvyOne in China found that 55 percent of China's netizens had initiated or participated in online discussions about companies."

The upshot? You should be spending time looking at emerging markets. "Formerly, a lack of engagement with netizens could be considered a lost opportunity," writes Crampton. "Now, the penetration and impact of social media is such that failing to understand what consumers are saying about a company online has become a business risk."

According to Socialbakers, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa are the countries with the fastest Facebook adoption. The fastest growing country for Facebook in Asia is India.

And although Facebook is becoming increasingly more popular around the world, there are many homegrown social media sites that are worth paying attention to. Crampton writes:

China's social media platforms and online behaviors vary in important ways from those that may be considered their international equivalents. This variation is not all due to censorship. In China, as elsewhere in Asia, local variations of internet usage are driven by language, culture, levels of economic development, and the underlying digital ecosystem.

Crampton explores many of the differences between Chinese social media users and users elsewhere. For example:

  • Chinese users generally spend more time on social media than users in the rest of the world. For example, Chinese users often spend up to an hour per day on video sharing sites. Americans only spend about 15 minutes per day on YouTube.
  • Young people in China report having more online friends than offline friends.
  • Nearly half of the messages sent on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging service, are sent by mobile phone. Only about 20% of Twitter updates come from mobile phones.
  • Old school bulletin board systems (BBS) are still popular in China.

Each culture has its own unique profile of usage. Researching these cross-cultural differences and local social media platforms should be a part of every business's social media strategy.

Lead image by by Peter Kaminski.