Facebook Leapfrogs Rivals in France

We all got used to the hockey-stick growth of Facebook worldwide. However, the global figures don’t tell the whole story. What is interesting to me is the impact of global social networks will make on fragmented European markets and incumbent social media service providers. For those who do business on a country level here in Europe the key question is: to what extent the local copy/paste innovators will be affected by the global player entering their backyard? You might want to look at my previous article Will Big Fish In a Small Pond Survive? discussing LinkedIn facing Xing in Germany (check out the comments as well for insight from Russia and Poland). Yesterday TechCrunch published interesting figures from France regarding performance of Facebook vs. local competitors that shed some more light on this. The graph below shows total French uniques for popular social networks. Original source for the figures from comScore is here.

Image courtesy of TechCrunch

Image courtesy of TechCrunch

The story behind this picture is that in February 2008 Facebook launched localized French user interface. I would humbly say that this supports my argument that indeed there is a real language barrier to the expansion of global social media players in Europe. Believe it or not, in Europe it is not that everybody speaks English and particularily France is a good example of that. Second thought: there is an untapped potential in the European markets for the global players despite the fact that in every country there is one or more strong incumbents offering similar services.

The good news for the local service providers is that their users apparently are not eager to ditch their existing profiles and connections right away, which should be expected anyway. It is more likely that they choose to maintain yet another profile. But with this growth of Facebook I wouldn’t expect many new users joining local alternatives (are you cash-positive, guys?).

Who is going to win this battle for the local markets? I will rephrase my question from my recent post: If you wanted to integrate your local (say: French) product in some way with social networking service and if you had to pick one – would you now bet on Facebook or on Skyrock?

With these numbers I would dare to go a step further and suggest some hints: If something grows globally, then – language barrier removed – it has a good chance to grow in your local market. MySpace for instance is flat pretty much everywhere, so it is not enough to be “global” and speak the local language. After some time (I guess, there must be some connection between global and local dynamics) it is likely that most of the population actively using social media is there, although it might not be their primary host for online identity and social graph. These might be the arguments for going with the big guys.


5 responses to “Facebook Leapfrogs Rivals in France

  1. Pingback: Myspace » Blog Archive » Facebook Leapfrogs Rivals in France

  2. nicmcmahon

    to what extent do you think the adoption is to do with the ability of the community to ‘translate’ the interface itself by themselves? Being interested in the language element of the adoption I feel encouraging and faciliating the involvement of members to translate the interface allows Facebook to communiticate from the get go – and involve – the target community they are trying to embed themselves within. Really speaking a communities language is a massive part of acceptance. Any thoughts?

  3. First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!

  4. @nicmcmahon
    I think that crowdsourcing translation is a great way for the service provider to scale and expedite localization. Yesterday I read about UserVoice doing just that with success: http://blog.uservoice.com/2009/03/03/going-global-localizing-uservoice/. I have a mixed feeling about crowdsourcing impact on the massive adoption of the service on the local market though. The participants are truly engaged, sure, could be your sellers locally. But there is limited number of them and they are not suffering from the language barrier in the first place. Of course, you get the translation initiative go viral and spread the word like UserVoice did – people will love it. But I wouldn’t expect significant direct impact on the rate of adoption comparing crowdsourcing vs. other means of sourcing translation.

  5. nicmcmahon

    The uservoice project is great – I am doing a webinar on localization2.0 next week and I think I will use some of the content for that.

    I work for the largest translation outsourcer in the world (see my blog localization2dot0.lionbridge.com) and we are seeing a significnat shift to the point of changing our own business model. We see the excited crowd, the empowering crowd and the rewarded crowd. Using these different types of groups we have seen OS User guides (very very boring) and certification courses not only get translated for ‘free’ but also gain the projects national recognition. In the developed markets where commercial entrenchement is a given it has less of an impact, but for reaching the next billion users it is a realistic game changer. The thing you can just not replace with prof language services (beyond the pricing impact) is typically the passion of a crowd motivated in the right way.

    I think ultimatly I watched to much Citizen Smith when I was younger, but in my heart I still believe in “power to the people!”

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