SOCIAL NETWORKS REACH ABROAD
Most people know that when Friendster exploded it seemed like almost fifty percent of its members were Asian or Asian American, and that Orkut was dominated by Brazilians. Wired News has a good article on what social networks are doing to capitalize on their international membership and growth.
We're a Hit in Manila! Now What?
By Joanna Glasner
March 31, 2005
When Friendster first noticed that its social-networking service was gaining a strong following in the Philippines, company executives weren't sure how to capitalize on the unexpected popularity.
In the United States, where Friendster and most of its members reside, the site makes money by selling advertising. In the Philippines, however, Friendster recognized that such a strategy wouldn't fly.
"Online advertising is not enough to sustain a business in the Philippines," said Joe Hurd, Friendster's vice president of international, noting that the percentage of Filipino households with internet access is far lower than in the United States. Instead, Friendster focused on mobile phones, the use of which is much more widespread.
In December, the site rolled out a mobile-phone text-messaging service for Filipino members. While Friendster hasn't disclosed how many people it has signed up, Hurd said he was "quite pleased" with the response.
Friendster, which today has millions of Filipino members, is one of a number of advertising-supported internet sites grappling with the dilemma of how to take advantage of unforeseen overseas popularity. Such sites are finding that business models that work in large, developed countries need serious readjustment in nations with small populations or low internet-penetration rates.
Of course, for U.S.-based websites, attention from overseas is nothing new. Yahoo, Google and other top internet sites have long generated page views from all corners of the globe.
But more recently, among social-networking sites where new users invite friends and business colleagues to sign up, international growth is occurring at an exceptionally rapid rate. Sites that thought they'd grow in the United States before expanding overseas are instead taking off in unexpected places. (full article)