Despite the fact that the Internet has opened up vast areas of the world to the expat community Spain is still one of the more popular destinations especially for UK expats. It is an area of the world which has sun, sea and up until recently was enjoying a something of an economic boom along with the rest of Europe.
We thought it would be very interesting to take a look at the influence of social networking sites within the expat community and indeed which services are favoured by expats in Spain. The results are as follows: –
It will come as no surprise to learn that Facebook is by far and away the most popular social networking website for expats living in Spain. It is estimated there are in excess of 12 million active Facebook accounts in Spain out of a worldwide 900 million accounts. It is very easy to forget that Facebook is a company which was only launched back in February 2004 and has literally taken the world by storm. The recent launch on the US stock market gave the company a pricetag in excess of $100 billion and made a number of investors instant billionaires!
There are very few people around the world who will not have heard of Facebook, not have experience of Facebook or indeed any other of the social networking services available. In effect Facebook allows you to create your very own online diary with comments, questions, pictures, etc and in effect live your life online. There are obvious attractions for the expat community where many people will have literally travelled thousands of miles leaving friends and family behind. The ability to communicate with friends and family online and in real-time is something which is literally worth its weight in gold.
Perhaps the greatest success of Facebook is its ability to move with the times, adapt to the environment and give customers exactly what they want and when they want it. The very fact that the company is now valued at around $100 billion perfect reflects the growing influence and the growing value of social networking websites. In many ways it is comparable to Google in its early days and we only need to look at the influence and presence of Google at this moment in time to see what that can mean in terms of money and power.
Many people will be surprised to learn that forums are the second most popular type of social networking website for expats living in Spain. This will surprise many even more because of the fact that many experts have called the death of forums on a number of occasions only for the sector to re-emerge as an integral part of the social network arena. So what do forums have to offer that perhaps other social networking sites do not?
While the speed at which information is exchanged on forums is much slower than that on the likes of Facebook if we take a step back and consider forums as potential information exchanges that would perhaps be more realistic. If you do a simple search on forums on the likes of Google you will see millions upon millions of different forums available online today covering any subject and any niche market you can think of. It is the ability to ask questions of fellow members who have been there, done it and have the T-shirt and are able to offer you advice which is relevant to your situation that attracts many. The ability to interact, albeit at a slower pace, but also ask questions and request specific details as often as you like is a major characteristic.
One other element which needs to be taken into account with regards to forums is the fact that each question and answer is indexed upon the likes of Google and very often the questions which you ask have been answered before you even type your request. There is an array of very popular and very frequent questions asked on expat forums and the ability to look back on previous answers will save time and hopefully put your mind at rest. Forums are also the perfect place in which to investigate new developments such as visa requirements, etc with the opportunity to gain a number of different opinions which will give you a rounded view of the situation.
When you consider that Twitter was created back in March 2006 and now has in excess of 140 million active users it has been one of the major successes of the social networking sector. Initially Twitter was seen by many as something of a business to business service when in fact this was never really the aim of the underlying directors. However, over the years it has certainly attracted the attention of a large number of people and is amongst one of the 10 most popular websites on the Internet today.
The services offered by Twitter are very different to that offered by Facebook because it offers more of a short sharp messaging service with the ability to follow people and be followed by fans. There are various opportunities to pass messages, pass photographs, pass links and indeed private mail people so in this particular instance there are similarities with the likes of Facebook. Recent news coverage in relation to Twitter has suggested that it played a major role in the so-called “Arab Spring” and indeed it is common knowledge that the Egyptian government closed down the service when protesters began to air their grievances online and arrange gatherings by the Internet.
This perfectly reflects the ever growing power of the Internet, social networking and the ability to connect with fellow Internet users around the globe. Twitter may not be the first social networking website of choice for everybody but it does have a particular following, does offer a particular service and is very popular in its own right. The fact it is joint number three in the list of most popular social networking sites used by expats in Spain further reiterates this point.
Many people may not be overly familiar with the LinkedIn social networking site because ultimately when it was launched in May 2003 it was seen as a professional social networking site for those looking to mix with members with similar interests, investigate job opportunities and advertise their wares and experience. Since its launch in May 2003 the service has amassed in excess of 150 million active users across 200 different countries and is now available in a vast number of languages. It has developed, it has evolved and it is of particular interest to those in the expat community looking for a new life in a new country.
The opportunity to talk to people anywhere around the globe and ask questions of experts in relation to for example job opportunities in your future new homeland is priceless for expats. Before you have even landed in your new homeland it may be possible to arrange job interviews, find out exactly what is on offer and if need be adjust your approach. Very often we worry about things which are perhaps not as bad as we expect once we find out the real situation from people who’ve been there, done it and worn the T-shirt. Even if an employment opportunity was not exactly what you expected, the employment market was tougher than you expected, etc surely it would be better to know this before putting all of your eggs in one basket?
On the downside the recent announcement that 6.4 million LinkedIn customer passwords were stolen by a criminal gang from Russia perfectly illustrates the problems of the online arena. The company has suggested that members change their passwords as soon as possible and there is some concern about the degree of private and confidential information which the company holds on some customers. However, you must also note that LinkedIn is not the only social networking website which has been the victim of hacking although it does illustrate the potential problems going forward.
Google plus (6.25%)
The emergence of Google plus has surprised many people because initially it was introduced as something of a field test back in June 2011 although it had to be suspended almost immediately due to massive demand. It was then re-launched back in September 2011 and effectively integrates an array of Google services which include Google profiles, circles, hangouts and sparks to name but a few. The social networking service is in many ways compatible with Facebook although perhaps not as fast moving and informative.
However, when you take a look at the success of Google plus, which is estimated to be signing up in excess of 600,000 new users each and every day, Google must be doing something right. It is forecast that the service will have around 400 million active accounts by the end of 2012 and reflects the skilled use of leverage which has allowed the company to translate its popularity in the search engine market to the social network arena. Many people might be surprised to learn that this is not Google’s first attempt at cracking the social networking arena as a number of previous projects have failed dramatically. It is also interesting to see that the company has decided to follow the social networking trend dominated by Facebook rather than, as the company usually does, lead from the front.
When you compare the performance of Microsoft and Google, in relation to the translation from search engine services to social networking services, they could not be more different.
MSN live (0%)
As we touched on above, the MSN live service, which attracted no votes from expats in Spain, is but a shadow of the likes of Facebook, Google plus, Twitter, etc. Microsoft has left it far too late to place a focus upon the social networking arena and indeed many experts believe that the company has missed the boat and the opportunity has now gone.
The MSN live service, which is Microsoft’s social networking service, is nothing but a rebranding of historic services which include Windows live and Hotmail. There is no denying the fact that Hotmail is very popular, offering the chance to interact online with friends and family, exchange documents and even use web cams, but it is very much behind the times when compared to the likes of Facebook. It offers a very basic service, very simple service and one which in time is likely to be overshadowed by new developments with Facebook, Google plus, etc.
When you take into account the fact that Facebook is now valued at around the $100 billion level it is very difficult to see how the likes of Microsoft could in any way dent the popularity of Facebook, Google plus, etc. It would take a significant amount of investment at a time when the likes of Facebook are very happy to buy up potential competitors in multibillion dollar deals to protect their position going forward. It is difficult to understand sometimes how Microsoft has lost its way with regards to MSN live and the social networking arena but unfortunately this appears to be the case.
Despite the fact that Facebook, Twitter, Google plus, etc grab more than the lion’s share of the media headlines around the world it is easy to forget that Facebook was not the first popular social networking site on the Internet. Indeed if you look back just a few years ago we will see the likes of MySpace and Bebo leading the way but where are these companies today?
These two particular operations are still active but they are but a shadow of their former selves and have limited exposure to the social networking arena. However, they do perfectly reflect the ongoing difficulties of success in the social networking sector which is very fast-moving, subject to changes in fashion and very difficult to predict going forward.
Whether or not we will see the emergence of a major new force in the social networking arena in the future is open to debate because the likes of Facebook have billions upon billions of dollars to spend buying up potential competitors. Against this backdrop it is really difficult to see where any potential competition could arise.
When you bear in mind that there are in excess of 900 million Facebook accounts around the world alone, not to mention Twitter, Google plus, etc the ability to connect people around the globe is very powerful. However, on the downside there are a number of issues which need to be addressed in relation to social networking websites which we will cover below.
Security is a major issue for many people because unfortunately there are millions of people around the world who are more than happy to place private and confidential information on their social networking accounts and in the public domain. The information which some people publish is something which they would never tell some of their closest friends face-to-face but they are more than happy to publish on the Internet. Why?
Identity theft has become a major problem around the world over the last few years and is indeed one of the growth areas for the criminal fraternity. It is not only social networking websites which display and publish information on individuals but very often it is the private and confidential nature of information on social networking sites which gives criminal gangs the depth of information required. Using this information it is possible to apply for bank loans, credit cards, etc with victims often left with major liabilities. Be very careful what you publish on the Internet!
Fake profiles are becoming more and more of an issue in the social networking arena because you may find yourself talking to somebody who is impersonating somebody else. This is perhaps one of the major drawbacks of the online arena, the very fact that unless you are talking web cam to web cam you never really know who you’re talking to. Many criminals have used fake profiles to gain the trust of individuals and to glean private and confidential information. Be very careful who you speak to and be very careful about the information you give out!
There are very few people around the world who have never experienced social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc as they continue to play a major role in the daily life of many people. There are obvious attractions for the expat community with the ability to stay in touch with friends and family who may well be thousands of miles away. When you bear in mind that Facebook has in excess of 900 million active accounts at this moment in time it is not difficult to see the power of the social networking sector.
However, this influence and this power has also brought a number of issues to the surface which include security, ID theft, fake profiles and the seemingly insatiable appetite for people to publish private and confidential information in the public domain. You need to be very careful about the information which you publish, the people you speak to and the potential consequences.