Sunday, October 07, 2012

Facebook Surpasses 1,000,000,000 Users; East Africa Lagged Behind!

As Facebook announced that it hit the 1 billion users mark last week, becoming the world’s third largest “country,” penetration remains relatively low in East Africa and much of the rest of Africa.

However, this could be the next frontier for the social networking site to grow its business.

The rate of new users joining Facebook has been slowing down globally over the past few years, a new report by research analysts Jeffries Group shows.

The slowdown has been most pronounced in North America and Europe — in Norway, for example, nearly two-thirds of the entire population already have a Facebook account.

In Libya and Iraq, the Facebook penetration per Internet user rate is more than 100 per cent, which means that a large number of web users in these countries have multiple accounts, perhaps to evade government restrictions.

But in East Africa, less than one in five Internet users is on the social networking site — the highest proportion being in Burundi where 21 per cent of Internet users are on Facebook, a possible indication that most Internet users in the country got access to the net fairly recently when the social networking site was already popular, making joining Facebook the first order of business.

Rwanda is second, at 19 per cent of web users on Facebook, followed by Kenya at 15 per cent, Tanzania at 12 per cent and Uganda at 11 per cent.

The report by Jeffries indicates that the opportunity for marketers to reap from the social networking site is huge, with about one out of seven people on the planet now on Facebook.

“As the user base continues to grow, engagement levels are on the rise with the average user now spending approximately 33 minutes on the site per day,” the analysts say.

Marketers should take advantage of the user experience on the network, such as using apps and creating story feeds, which brings in more money than the traditional banner adverts on the side of the web page, the report states.

“Facebook is hyper focused on the user experience, and as such, the company goes to great lengths to ensure products, including advertising integrations, are beneficial and effective for the users before rolling them out in a fairly cautious, yet deliberate fashion,” the report says.

But the greatest challenge for Facebook is adapting its revenue model to mobile phones. Majority of Internet users in East Africa use mobile phones as a portal for the web.

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