According to a new eMarketer report, “Worldwide Social Network Users: 2013 Forecast and Comparative Estimates,” nearly one in four people worldwide will use social networks in 2013. The number of social network users worldwide will rise from 1.47 billion in 2012 to 1.73 billion in 2013, an 18% increase year on year (YoY) and by 2017, and the number of users globally will total 2.55 billion. Growth rates (YoY) are coming down with the growth declining by 5% in 2014 compared to 2013 and by 2% every year till 2017 which signifies maturity in the number of users in developed markets like US, UK, etc. where the population is smaller and population growth rate is also slower compared to emerging countries like India, China, Brazil, etc. Even in the other regions like Asia Pacific, Latin America and Middle East Africa that are presently growth drivers for social network user growth will also see fall in growth starting this year.
The number of social network users is directly linked to the telecommunication and internet penetration levels particularly in emerging countries. It also depends on literacy levels, population growth rates and relevant government spending in upgrading telecom and internet infrastructure like broadband. Key players in this segment are Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, etc. have been there for years and dominate the market in terms of number of users. Many new social networking sites have emerged in the recent years but failed to build up the numbers as big as Facebook but they are also picking up slowly. The amount of services and number of applications on the various social network sites have also increased drastically and most of the business organizations across the globe be it large, medium and small in size have significantly improved their social media presence and are spending billions of dollars on the social platforms for selling and promoting their products and services.
eMarketer has increased our 2013 forecast for total social network users worldwide by 100 million since our August 2012 forecast. This upward adjustment is based on new data that indicates higher-than-expected totals for internet users in India, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Russia and the Middle East and Africa; new data showing higher estimates for UK social network users than previously forecast; and a new breakout of social network users in the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden. Accessing of the social networks is done majorly by personal computers like desktops, laptops and mobile devices like tablets and mobile phones not only smart phones but also the mid-range and low range phones. Mobile manufacturers like Samsung, Nokia, LG, etc. have also selling mobile phones at low price and mid-price levels that are preloaded with social network applications like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Businesses and Governments across the globe are also encouraging people to log into social networking sites as they are providing the necessary information related to products and services, performance and reviews, customer feedbacks and are also providing the customers to use the social network sites to complain about the poor quality of product services and actively express their dissatisfaction. Politicians are also using the social network platforms to interact with voters and citizens. There has been a significant change in the way the social networking sites are used by users as they are not only sharing their personal information about their personal life with friends, relatives and colleagues, they are also actively using to interact with business organization of whom they may or may not be customers but they are voicing their opinion sometimes critically about the businesses and governments. The recent Arab Spring where in people in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, etc. had voiced their opinions against their respective regimes and which led to the down fall of the dictatorial regimes and blossoming of democracy. Some governments are even looking to curtail the social networking sites usage by their citizens but are failing to do so effectively. Overall the number of social network users worldwide will keep growing at a slower pace in the next five years.
There is a discussion going on in regards to the slowing down of the social network users particularly the active users, users who login every day into the social networking sites and spend considerable amount of time on these sites. This is due to the social media fatigue where in some users are simply tired of using the social networking sites extensively, got bored of it and complain that the social networking sites are not improving their services and are not offering unique applications like games and content that keep the users engage and retain them. Social media fatigue is also a growing concern for the social networking sites and they need to develop strategies to overcome them. Even the changes in the government regulations and legislations in related to data privacy, confidentiality, protection, online behavior and also related to criminal and other antisocial activities on the various social networking sites. Many laws are being passed and amended particularly in emerging countries is also a big concern. Overall the social networking sites have a unique challenge in the coming five years where in they have to make sure users remain active on their sites and new users also join the sites and retain the existing users without which they will perish as the social network sites success is directly related to number of users.