Over the last few years there has been a major increase in the popularity of social networking websites and indeed there are very few people around the world today, with connections to the Internet, who have not sampled at least one of the options available. For many people they are now an integral part of everyday life and indeed while there is an argument that some people give away too much information, there is also no doubt that they are very useful and very practical.
We will now take a look at the results of our online poll in relation to UK expats and which social networking websites they favour.
Facebook is by far and away the most popular social networking website of all time and indeed the recent float on the stock market put a $100 billion value on the company itself. It is believed that Facebook has in excess of 900 million users across the world and while not all social networking websites give out their specific country by country data, it is believed that the UK following is in excess of 30 million accounts.
There are very few people in the UK who have not sampled Facebook at some point in their lives and indeed such is the media frenzy around the company that many people expect the number of accounts to increase for many years to come. It is interesting to see that while Facebook was not the first of the more recognised social networking websites to hit the market it has been by far and away the most successful to date. Many people now log on to their Facebook account to see what their friends are up to, see what the weather is, see what the news is, exchange photographs and indeed for general chitchat.
The company continues to increase market share, increase the number of applications available although there have been some concerns over the years with regards to the amount of information which the company is able to glean from users. Originally set up back in February 2004 there is no doubt that Facebook has been a phenomenal success but will it all end in tears? The recent flotation of the company created a number of multi billionaires although the launch on the American stock market was not without controversy. Indeed the shares have fallen by around 30% since their initial launch and there are lawsuits and legal actions left right and centre.
Despite the fact that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc, have taken the social networking arena by storm it is interesting to see that old favourites such as forums are still proving to very popular. Indeed forums are the second most popular type of social interaction service in the UK which will surprise many people when you bear in mind the number of users associated with sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
For many people it is the array of information, the number of members and the willingness to assist forum members which still places forums at the forefront of the social media arena. If you do a search on forums on the Internet you will see there are literally millions upon millions of websites covering each and every subject you could ever think of. The truth is that if you’re looking for information about a specific subject, specific activity or indeed you are looking to move to a new country to begin a new life, there are more than enough specific forums available.
One other interesting element with regards to forums is the fact that as many people as possible can become involved in any one discussion. This information will also remain on the Internet for ever and a day so if the same subject arises time after time after time then people can simply be directed back to a thread of yesteryear. Time and time again we have seen people calling the end of the forum arena, championing sites such as Facebook and suggesting that forums are dead. The truth is that forums offer a different type of social interaction, one which is maybe not as personal and not as invasive but one which allows a steady flow of very interesting and helpful information.
The LinkedIn social media service is a very interesting development which came about in December 2002 and was officially launched in May 2003. At this point in time it is believed that the service has upwards of 150 million registered users although it is the very fact that this was aimed at the professional arena, as opposed to the social arena, which does make it stand out from the rest.
The site itself is slowly but surely being rolled out across the world and is available in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Romanian and an array of other languages. Interestingly LinkedIn is one of the few social media outlets aimed at the professional arena which has managed to make an impact and managed to expand what many initially thought was a fairly small niche. In simple terms it allows professionals to circulate their CVs, ask specific questions of experts and has become particularly useful for expats looking to move overseas and gain wilful employment.
Unfortunately the company itself was recently the victim of a highly sophisticated hacking procedure which saw 6.4 million passwords stolen by a Russian criminal gang. The company was forced to issue a grovelling apology to users and indeed all LinkedIn members have been asked to change their passwords to ensure security going forward. It is not clear if any customer accounts have been compromised at this moment in time but the fact that upwards of 6 million passwords were stolen and published on the Internet did not do the company’s public perception any favours.
Putting aside the recent hacking scandal there is no doubt that LinkedIn is one of the most successful professional social networking websites and indeed is now an integral part of the lives of many successful business people.
Google plus (8.54%)
It was always inevitable that Google would at some point enter the social networking sector due to the fact that the company itself has access to billions upon billions of users around the world. However, while Google plus, which was originally launched as something of an experiment back in 2011 has been perhaps the company’s biggest success to date in the social networking arena it is not the company’s first foray into this particular area.
Google is a company which attracts more than its fair share of controversy and indeed the ongoing attempt to hijack the social networking arena has followed this particular track. There are some who believe that Google is using its relative monopoly in the search engine arena, and the various other services available to customers, to create a very strong social networking presence. The initial launch back in June 2011 was fairly quickly suspended due to massive demand from Google users and reintroduced in September 2011. Google plus now allows you to interact with others on the Google plus network with such services as circles, hangouts and sparks to name but a few. At this point in time it is fair to say that Google plus is perhaps one of the and fastest growing social media outlets although it still has some way to go to come anywhere near Facebook. One interesting fact with regards to Google plus is the fact that on average users spend around 3.3 min per month on the system whereby Facebook users are currently spending 7.5 hours. This perfectly reflects the challenging situation which Google finds itself in with many believing that the company has left it too late to enter this particular arena.
When you bear in mind the number of online companies and businesses in the UK it is interesting to see that Twitter is only the fifth most popular type social networking option available in the UK. Despite the fact that it has more than 10 million accounts active in the UK it seems that it is not as useful and as informative for many people in the expat arena. Why is this?
Many people associate Twitter with a professional and business style service which is predominantly used to promote products across the world. However, the reality is that many people do use Twitter as their social networking site of choice and indeed the number of accounts in the UK continues to move further ahead. However, if you have a Twitter account you will be well aware that tweets are often buried under a pile of information from followers and people whom you follow. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate the information you want from the vast array of information present on your screen.
That is not to say that Twitter does not offer an interesting and very helpful service to expats around the world but for many people it can look “too busy”. There is no doubt that celebrities around the globe have in effect hijacked the Twitter network creating fan bases which can in some cases run into the millions of followers. Whether or not Twitter is the type of service which expats will use to contact friends and colleagues back in their former homelands is debatable because while there is no doubt that Twitter has been a phenomenal success, is it specifically targeted at individuals looking to contact friends and relatives?
MSN live (0%)
There is growing concern that Microsoft has for some time now been behind the curve in relation to social media services across the Internet. The company has rebranded various services time and time again in an attempt to distance itself from failures in years gone by. While the likes of MSN live is most certainly a popular social media network website, not to mention the Hotmail service which is still very popular, it has in many ways be left behind by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, etc.
There are some who now believe that Microsoft has left it far too late to enter the social networking arena and the very fact that Google, in the shape of Google plus, has managed to translate a large number of visitors to its social networking services does not bode well for Microsoft. Google is by far and away the most popular search engine of choice and at this point in time it has to be said that the social networking options available on Microsoft and Google are literally years apart. That is not to say that Microsoft has not invested millions of pounds in years gone by but one thing stands clear in relation to the comparison with Google, the return on investment has been dire.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether Microsoft, in the shape of Bing, will ever make inroads into the massive monopoly which Google enjoys in so many different areas of the Internet today. Indeed joint ventures with Yahoo were seen by many as the starting point to a fightback but inevitably this has failed to materialise and has been deemed something of a damp squid.
If we take the merest of glimpses at the social networking arena over the years gone by you will see names such as MySpace and Bebo very prominent. However, where are these companies today? Where are their followers? What has the return on investment been?
The reality is that there are many other types of social networking websites available but the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MSN live, Google plus and forums have taken the lion’s share. As we mentioned above, Facebook was not the first social networking site to come to the market yet it has by far and away grabbed the lion’s share.
While we must never say never in the Internet arena it seems highly unlikely that we will see any other form of social media network replace the likes of Facebook, Twitter, etc in the short to medium term. Such has been the massive investment in these particular websites and particular services that it would take a monumental effort for any new start to make any real impact. The truth is that the various social media networking websites available today offer a variety of services which cover the vast majority of requirements not only in the expat market but around the globe. However, the Internet has surprise us before and no doubt it will surprise us again!
Issues with social networking
Social networking websites have come under the microscope over the last few years and indeed the announcement that 6.4 million passwords were stolen from the LinkedIn website only a few days ago did not go down well with customers. There are many issues which should be taken into account, we do often give away far too much information and in many cases we are too trusting of the Internet.
Various reports over the years have shown that many people use the same password and the same username across a variety of different accounts. This makes them highly susceptible to criminal activity if at some stage their passwords are stolen. It is therefore vital that you change your passwords on a regular basis and indeed you have individual passwords for individual services.
Identity theft is becoming more of an issue which many people operating in the social media sector need to be aware of. Far too many people put far too much information on their Facebook accounts for example which can be gleaned by criminals to see where you are, what you’re up to and also your interests. Indeed such has been the concern amongst the law-enforcement agencies that the police now advise against announcing holidays or days away from your home with a number of break-ins linked to social media network activity.
One issue which arises time and time again is the fact that when interacting with somebody online you are never 100% certain who they are. We have seen a number of instances where fake profiles have been created in the names of celebrities and non-celebrities to use as a means of obtaining access to friends, services and activities. You need to be fully aware who you are dealing with, you need to be aware of the information you are giving out and you need to be careful.
When you bear in mind that the vast majority of expats moving overseas will have left friends and family in their former homeland, social interaction via the Internet is becoming more and more important. Facebook is by far and away the most popular social networking site at this point in time with an estimated 900 million users worldwide. However, with social interaction online comes the requirement to be safe, secure and not always to take everything at face value.
Websites such as Facebook have taken the world by storm and literally changed the day-to-day activities of millions of people around the globe. However, how much we should depend on these in the long-term is a matter of major debate.