Despite the fact we are in the midst of the massive worldwide economic downturn it is India and China which continue to plough ahead showing amazing economic growth. As a consequence it is no surprise to see that the number of expats moving to India continues to grow with employment opportunities appearing in many different areas of the economy.
As a consequence we thought it would be interesting to see what social networking sites are used by expats in India and indeed the pros and cons of such services to the expat arena.
It will come as no surprise to those who follow the social networking arena that Facebook is by far and away the most popular social networking website in the world. Indeed it is one of the most popular Internet websites around the globe and continues to grow in popularity to this very day. It is estimated that there are around 45 million Indian Facebook accounts active at this moment in time and this figure is set to expand as the country’s economy continues to grow and more and more people consider moving to the region.
It is the opportunity to pass information, comments and photographs to loved ones who may be thousands of miles away which has caught the attention of expats in India. It is also worth noting that while some areas of India may well have been left behind with regards to technology, on the whole the Indian technology and Internet sectors are amongst the most cutting-edge in the world. Indeed telecoms companies have been falling over themselves to gain access to the Indian domestic market because they, some time ago, identified this particular country as a growth prospect for the future.
While for many of us the name Facebook seems to have been around for many years it is worth noting that the company only came into existence back in February 2004. Since then the group has attracted an amazing 900 million followers around the world and indeed there are very few businesses around the globe that do not have exposure to the Facebook market. For many expats around the globe, logging on to their Facebook account and seeing what their friends and family are up to is an everyday occurrence which is part of their everyday ritual. There are very few companies in the world who have made such a splash as that created by Facebook!
Google plus (23.40%)
Those who follow Google plus will be well aware that this service is relatively new having been released as a test service back in June 2011 only to be suspended due to excessive demand. The Google plus service re-emerged back in September 2011 and has certainly gone from strength to strength since then. In a relatively short space of time it is estimated by the end of 2012 there will be 400 million members of the Google plus social networking service. This is a phenomenal success bearing in mind it is taken Facebook eight years to get to where it is today.
However, as Google continues to offer services such as Google profiles, circles, hangouts and sparks to name but a few there are some who believe the company has abused its position in the search engine market. It is common knowledge that Google dominates the search engine market but the ability to draw a number of Google services into the Google plus offering has most certainly been the company’s best route to market. Those who follow the social networking arena may be aware that Google has attempted to break into this arena in years gone by only to “bury its dead” at night. To believe the company you would assume this is its first foray into the sector but this is not true.
This is perhaps one of the only Internet markets where Google has been forced to follow and not been the leader. The ongoing success and the strength of Facebook is likely to be a major barrier towards Google finally becoming the most popular and most successful social networking operation. However, those who believe that Google will sit back and let Facebook have all of the glory may be in for a shock but how much money the company will be prepared to invest remains to be seen. The Google social offering is certainly improving day by day and the company is learning from past mistakes.
The very fact that LinkedIn is a stock market quoted company with a multi-million dollar pricetag certainly says a lot for an operation which was launched in May 2003. It is no surprise to see the company’s third place in the Indian league table of social networking websites although the fact that it was targeted at the professional arena makes this success in the “social arena” more impressive than ever.
The company has around 150 million registered users across the world and is accessible in 200 countries in an array of different languages. It was only set up as a means of communication between business professionals who were perhaps looking for new opportunities in foreign lands. As a consequence, the ability to not only advertise your wares and your skills on the Internet but also to ask questions of experts brought it very much into the arena of the expat community. The ability to literally target specific markets before you move overseas, speak to individuals operating in that market and seek advice from those who have been there and done it is priceless.
The original professional linking service has been expanded over the years and indeed LinkedIn is now one of the most popular social networking websites in India and many other countries around the world. However, as if to highlight the difficulties associated with Internet activity the company recently announced that 6.4 million passwords were stolen by Russian hackers who then published this information on a Russian forum. While the company has suggested members change their passwords this is certainly a wake-up call with regards to the amount of private and personal information you are willing to advertise on closed websites or open websites. There is no problem integrating with individuals around the world and asking for advice but if such websites are at risk of hackers then how much information do you really want to publish?
While Twitter is perhaps one of the “oldest” names associated with the social networking arena it is worth noting that the company only came into existence back in March 2006. The vast majority of us are fully aware of the service although from a personal point of view many people seem to associate Twitter with business messages and business services. While initially the arena may well have been hijacked by the business services industry it is also heavily used by individuals looking to contact friends and family overseas.
The ability to contact your friends and family overseas on a 24-hour basis or indeed leave a message if they are not available is priceless. Sometimes we need to hear a friendly voice, see a friendly picture, see a friendly comment or just to know that our friends are there. While the likes of Facebook, Google plus, etc offer a different service to Twitter, Twitter is more for short sharp messages or indeed to pass interesting links and information.
In many ways Twitter also reflects the ever growing power of social networking websites because many believe that Twitter was one reason why the so-called “Arab Spring” was so successful. Indeed a number of governments throughout the Middle East, and other areas of the world, decided to close the Twitter service to prevent protesters from contacting each other and indeed to prevent contact with the “outside world”. The power of social networking should never be underestimated although it should never be abused and should always be used in the correct manner.
MSN live (0%)
If there is one disappointment in the social networking arena it has to be the slow pace at which Microsoft has entered social networking. The company has been so far behind the development curve that many people believe that it has left it far too late to make even the merest of dents in the ever-growing popularity of Facebook, Google plus, etc. While MSN live is not the company’s first foray into this particular arena it is the current brand name for an array of services which have been around for some time.
Perhaps one of the most successful derivatives of the MSN live arena has been the Windows live operation (otherwise known as Hotmail) which allows you to speak online with friends and family around the globe. You are even able to use web cams to communicate with individuals who have the relevant Internet services available. Aside from Hotmail it is difficult to see any other real successes for Microsoft in the social networking arena despite the investment of millions upon millions of dollars.
There is a growing feeling that the company may well decide to ditch the social networking arena as a means of additional income in the future and consolidate funds available to expand other operations. The company also has a very close relationship with Yahoo although this has also been very limited in the way of success. The social networking sector moves very quickly, can turn on a sixpence and is creating larger and larger barriers to entry. At this point in time it is highly unlikely that Microsoft will ever become a major player in this sector.
It was interesting to see that forums received no votes from expats living in India because even the merest of glimpses by searching for “forums” on Google will see that there are millions upon millions of forums available. Whatever the subject matter, whatever niche market, whatever questions you have there will be a forum for you.
One particular area which has benefited enormously from the ever-growing number of forums is the expat community where the ability to post questions and information for other forum members to read has proved priceless. Whether you are asking specific questions before you move to a new country or indeed helping a forum member who may have questions themselves the information being made available is worth its weight in gold. One of the major benefits is the fact that the threads created on these expat forums will be indexed on the Internet forever and a day therefore the information will always be to hand.
It is also an interesting way to question new developments in the expat community, new developments in any one country are new developments in the employment market. No matter which country in the world you are looking to move to there will be an expat forum to help you, there will be expat members willing to answer your questions and advice will likely be very forthcoming. However, you must also be aware that any information which is vital to your move overseas should be checked by a number of parties and this is again something which you can do across the forum industry. The ability to speak to somebody who has been there and done it should never be underestimated and seems to be one of the major attractions for those who use some of the busier expat forums on the Internet.
While the likes of Facebook, Twitter, etc grab the vast majority of media headlines around the world there are other social networking websites which are perhaps away from the glaze of the public. Indeed as it is also worth remembering that Facebook was not actually the first social networking website on the Internet with the likes of MySpace and Bebo very prominent just a few years ago. However, the very sudden and very sharp demise of these two particular social networking websites perfectly illustrates the competition in this arena and the fact that trends and fashions do change.
That said, it is highly unlikely that Facebook will be knocked off the top of the social networking charts in the short to medium term because it would take a significant investment for any company to come anywhere near Facebook. The company recently highlighted a ruthless streak by taking out a company which was a potential threat in the future in a multibillion-dollar deal. This shows that the leading social networking websites across the world are more than happy to use billions upon billions of dollars to protect their own position.
The ability to integrate and interact with millions of people around the world also brings a number of issues which we need to address. The Internet has changed the lives of many people and will continue to do so for some time to come but there are some drawbacks which needed to be taken into consideration.
Just the merest of glimpses at some of the more popular Facebook accounts will show that many people are more than happy to put up very private and very personal information about their lives. Indeed many people will also live their lives on Facebook via an online diary keeping track of when they are on holiday, when their homes are empty and when the criminals are free to visit!
The law-enforcement agencies around the globe have been very proactive in trying to encourage people to refrain from adding very personal and private information on a regular basis. This information can be used in a variety of different ways to the detriment of the individual involved.
In line with some of the issues we mentioned regarding security it is no surprise to learn that instances of ID theft have increased dramatically in line with the popularity of social networking websites. Far too many people put far too much information on their social networking accounts which are very often visible to the general public. It is not difficult to use this information, together with other public information, to put together an information pack on any one individual and use this to request credit cards, bank loans, etc. Be careful!
Perhaps one of the more disturbing issues which have arisen in line with the emergence of social networking websites is the number of fake profiles now live on the Internet. If you are passing over private person information it is vital that you know who you are talking to and you’re 100% certain they are who they say they are. We have seen many disturbing instances of fake profiles being used for criminal activity but despite this many people still continue to speak with “relative unknowns”.
For many expats living around the globe the social networking arena has arrived at a perfect time allowing them to keep in contact with friends and family they may have left behind. The likes of Facebook have taken the sector by storm and it is the ability to move with the times and give customers exactly what they need which has kept the company ahead of the competition. Indeed the recent $100 billion flotation of the company perfectly illustrates the potential value of the social networking arena.
It will be interesting to see how the sector develops over the coming months and years because it has now become a tool of choice for many expats around the world.