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Facebook: Global Growth, US Decline?

Posted by Sheila Shayon on June 15, 2011 11:00 AM

The latest "World Map of Social Networks," confirms Facebook’s global dominance in social media, with nearly 700 million users; but, while gaining users abroad, Facebook is losing U.S. fans. Or is it?

The map above was just updated by Vincenzo Cosenza, plotting traffic data from Alexa and Google Trends to visualize the world's top social media brands. The map shows Facebook as the most popular social network in 119 out of 134 countries; Twitter is second, while LinkedIn has risen to third most popular.

That said, while gaining abroad, including Tanzania, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria, and predictions that Brazil and the Netherlands will come on board soon, despite censorship quagmires, Inside Facebook is reporting a drop of nearly 6 million users in the US in the past two months, admitting “overall growth has been lower than normal for the second month straight, which is unusual.”

Inside Facebook’s caveat suggests that seasonal factors and “bugs in the Facebook advertising tool” contribute to a distortion of the figures. Speculation on American Facebook defections include: ongoing privacy issues, CEO Mark Zuckerberg's comments that Facebook should allow kids under 13, and concerns over their new facial-recognition feature. 

Facebook’s response to the Inside Facebook figures, as noted by FT:

“From time to time, we see stories about Facebook losing users in some regions. Some of these reports use data extracted from our advertising tool, which provides broad estimates on the reach of Facebook ads and isn’t designed to be a source for tracking the overall growth of Facebook. We are very pleased with our growth and with the way people are engaged with Facebook. More than 50 per cent of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day.” 

Inside Facebook, meanwhile, followed up with a blog post conceding that its (any) data can be "buggy." 

Founder Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, is forging ahead, tapping into China (via a partnership with Baidu) and its potential one billion potential users. With an estimated 41% of Chinese citizens with web access frequenting social networks, there's definitely money to be made, even if the Facebook brand won't be hoisted there — but as Ad Age notes, Facebook will still have to compete for dollars and eyeballs.

Meanwhile, as the social media leviathan prepares for an IPO, the health of its US and Western European business certainly remains a factor.

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