The United States of America has for many years now led the way with regards to online activity and when you bear in mind there are an estimated 157 million Facebook users in the United States of America alone it is not difficult to see this influence. This is an area of the world which has also attracted more than its fair share of expats and therefore it will be interesting to see which type of social networking websites are used by expats in the country.
We will now take a look at the most popular answers and delve a little deeper to see exactly what each social networking site has to offer.
When you bear in mind the outstanding fact that there are 157 million Facebook account set up by US citizens it is not difficult to see why this particular services is head and shoulders above any other available at the moment. It is also even more astounding to learn that the group was not launched until February 2004 and indeed recently made a number of multi billionaires after the company was floated on the US stock market.
The name of Mark Zuberberg is now synonymous with the social media arena having been the founder of Facebook itself. The astounding fact that 41% of the US population have a Facebook account is something which perfectly reflects the success and the riches which have come the way of Facebook’s founder. This is an absolutely astounding performance from a company which even today is only eight years old. The ability to post information, post comments, post photographs and any other information you can think of has caught the eye of not only the general public but in particular the expat community.
If you have moved overseas to a new land and a new life it is highly likely that he will have left friends and family behind who are thinking of you on a regular basis. The ability to portray your new life via pictures, comments and information is something which very few expats have ignored. The beauty is that the information you present on your Facebook account can only be accessed by friends and family thereby limiting any potential security risks. We’ve also seen the emergence of enormous expat communities online where information is to hand on a regular basis.
Google plus (11.27%)
It will surprise many people to learn that the Google plus social networking service is the second most popular amongst expats in the US when you bear in mind the strength of other companies more heavily associated with the country. It is also fair to say that Google plus has been something of a late comer to the social networking arena and indeed while the company would prefer you to ignore its chequered history in this area there have been failures in the past.
However, along the lines of the Facebook phenomenon, it is now possible to link Google profiles, Google circles, Google hangouts and Google sparks to give you an all-round social interaction service. This launch, which came about in June 2011, is by far and way Google’s biggest gamble in this particular arena but at this point in time it looks as though it is proving to be successful. It is estimated that there will be in excess of 400 million Google plus accounts by the end of 2012 which should give the company a significant platform on which to grow in the future.
It is the ability to talk to friends, talk to people with similar interests and indeed become more interactive on websites displaying the Google plus buttons which has not only caught the expat community but also the business arena. It is also worth noting that the company already has access to a massive potential client base due to the fact it has a monopoly in the search engine arena. There are some who believe the company is abusing its monopoly, and indeed the authorities have been looking at this, but at this point in time Google plus is by far and away the company’s most successful attempt to break into the social networking arena.
When you consider that Twitter was not created until March 2006 and is now one of the top 10 most popular websites on the Internet it will come as no surprise to learn that it is number three in the list of most popular social networking websites amongst the US expat community. However, what exactly does Twitter have to offer?
The service offered by Twitter is very different to that offered by Facebook, Google plus, etc in that it is basically short sharp messages which can be transmitted to all of your friends in any one go. Some people find Twitter a little “cluttered” and some people do find it difficult to find the information that you are after without ploughing through an array of unconnected data. However, Twitter does what Twitter says and does offer a very different service to that of other social networking website.
There has been a phenomenal increase in the number of accounts attributed to Twitter and indeed the fact that it is one of the most popular sites in the US certainly says something about its success. Indeed over the last few months Twitter has been associated with the so-called “Arab Spring” across the Middle East which has perfectly illustrated the ongoing development and influence of social networking sites. At some point it is believed that the authorities will clamp down upon some information transmitted via Twitter and other social networking websites but at this point in time there is very little in the way of regulation.
While many people will see Twitter as something of a business service rather than a personal service the truth is that it does actually cover both avenues. The ability to transmit data, pictures, information, ask questions, etc is priceless for many expats in a foreign land.
While LinkedIn has hit the headlines recently after 6.4 million passwords were stolen by Russian hackers it is vital that we do not let this publicity overshadow what has become one of the most popular social interaction services on the Internet. Indeed initially the company was set up in May 2003 and targeted the professional arena although in recent times it has become more of a social interaction service allowing much more communication and integration of members.
However, it is worth noting that this is a service which is available across many countries and in many different languages and covers the worldwide employment arena. Many members use the LinkedIn website to contact those with similar interests and indeed to circulate their curriculum vitae when looking for job opportunities away from their locality. As a consequence this is the perfect way in which to apply for employment in your preferred future homeland even before you have landed.
Aside from the ability to interact with members who may well be able to help you with future employment opportunities there are also many experts available to answer any questions you may have. To many people it is the ability to ask these questions to people who have been there and done it which is worth its weight in gold and one of the reasons why membership continues to grow. The theft of 6.4 million passwords was unfortunate to say the least and while the company has requested each members change their own password as soon as possible we must not lose sight of the long-term value of the business. If you are looking to move to a new country it can be difficult to know what to do regarding employment and indeed the local laws of the land. However, the ability to interact with somebody who has gone down that path themselves in years gone by is priceless and will take away much of the pressure you may feel.
While the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking websites very often grab the headlines it is interesting to see that forums still received over 7% of the vote from expats in the US. If you do a simple search on forums on Google you will see there are millions upon millions of different forums covering each and every niche you could ever expect to need. There are experts waiting out there to answer your questions online and the information which they portray will stay there forever and a day.
Expat forums have grown substantially over the last few years and the ability to bring together those who require help and those who can offer help is very often priceless. Can you imagine all the stress and pressure when looking to move to a foreign land, where you may be worried about things which you shouldn’t, and the ability to speak to somebody who has been there and done it and who can help you? There is more than enough to worry about when moving to your new homeland so the more information you are aware of before you land and set up home the better.
One side effect of forums is the fact that while any specific member can ask a question all members can view the answer. So indeed you may find that a number of members have had the same thoughts and concerns as you and may well have asked the question on your lips sometime earlier. Expat forums, and indeed all forums, often feature heavily upon searches on the likes of Google therefore the answer to questions you may have could literally just be one search away.
MSN live (0%)
If there is one area of the Internet which Microsoft has failed miserably with it has to be the social networking arena with a number of attempts in the past that have fallen flat. Indeed the company has looked to distance itself from issues in the past by rebranding certain services time and time again with limited success. As a consequence, it is not just expats in the US who failed to grasp the obvious assistance offered by MSN live and in particular Hotmail but many expats around the globe.
The problem for Microsoft now is the fact that the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc now have the market sewn up amongst them. They have invested billions upon billions of dollars in this particular arena and while success has been varied across-the-board they continue to make a name for themselves. MSN live in the eyes of many continues to go backwards and indeed it’s something of a nonentity for many people. The fact that the expat arena has been unwilling or unable to appreciate MSN live is certainly something of a wake-up call for the company.
It seems highly unlikely, bearing in mind recent developments in the sector, that MSN live will ever become one of the major social networking services. Indeed there are some who believe that Microsoft should take a step back from this particular arena, admit failure and retain funds which could be better spent elsewhere. However, whether the ego of Microsoft will allow the company to take a step back and admit defeat very much remains to be seen.
There was only one real contender mentioned as another social networking outlet which was Instagram – a company which was recently gobbled up by Facebook in a billion dollar deal. However, there is a history to the social networking arena you may not be aware of!
Despite the likes of Facebook attracting more than its fair share of attention across the worldwide media it is easy to forget that Facebook was not actually the first social networking service. The likes of MySpace and Bebo may well be faded memories in the minds of many people, they were in their day the equivalent of Facebook although on a much smaller scale.
Many people believe that the demise of the likes of MySpace and Bebo, which are still used by some people, should be used as a reminder for the sector that nothing is ever guaranteed. MySpace changed hands on numerous occasions for hundreds of millions of dollars and ultimately it is nowhere to be seen today despite the fact that Justin Bieber became involved as a means of attracting his substantial customer base to the operation. If an individual with influence such as Justin Bieber has been unable to turnaround this company then what hope is there for the future?
Social interaction in general is now part of everyday life for many people and indeed for the expat community it is priceless. The ability to speak to friends and family in former homelands, or indeed around the world, at the touch of a button gives many people the confidence to go on and try new things. Despite the fact that we may be thousands of miles away we are literally just at the end of the Internet and information, pictures and questions can be exchanged on a regular basis.
While there is no doubt that social networking has for many people become something of a daily occurrence, posting private information to their friends and family, we need to beware of the potential issues associated with this type of communication. The very fact that you are unable to see who you are talking to should put some doubt into your mind and hopefully stop you from giving away too much information to “strangers”.
The law-enforcement agencies have for some time now been questioning how much information individuals place upon their Facebook accounts for example and whether this can be used by criminal gangs. The reality is that it can and has been used by criminal gangs in the past to obtain funding on your behalf, break into your home when you are on holiday and other similar criminal activities. Stop being so loose with your information and details!
Carrying on from the security issues highlighted above, ID theft is an issue which many people believe is connected with the social networking arena. Too many people give up too much information about their private life and their private details which can in some circumstances be used to their detriment. For criminal gangs the Internet is a mine of potentially lucrative information which many of them are only too happy to use.
So, when you speak to a friend on the Internet via one of the social networking websites are you 100% certain that they are who they say they are? We all have friends we have never seen for years, we all have friends who were on the outskirts of our social circles but many of us will be more than happy to speak to them online not knowing for definite they are who they say they are. Be careful of fake profiles when using social networking services!
While Facebook has put social networking services on the map there are a number of other up-and-coming services available. Google plus is perhaps the fastest growing social networking website at this moment in time due to the fact that the company has a massive influence over search engine use.
Taking a broader look, there is no doubt that social networking websites are very important to the expat community and indeed offer the opportunity to speak to friends and family who may be thousands of miles away. However, there is a need to bring together security and social interaction to ensure that criminal gangs are not able to use information made publicly available.