Sep 02 2008

A Comparative Analysis of Social Media Usage in BRIC Countries

In this post, I have used data from Wave 3 of the Power of the People Social Media Tracker by Universal McCann (PDF/ Slideshare) 1 to do a comparative analysis of social media usage in BRIC countries (see original spreadsheets and charts).

At the top level, the total number of active internet users 2 in BRIC countries (101.2m) is higher than the number of active internet users in US (100m), even though internet penetration is a low 5.28%.

Even more surprisingly, significantly more users from BRIC countries than US engage with social media tools, both in terms of content consumption (watching online video 90.1m vs 74.2m, reading blogs 88.1m vs 60.3m, downloading podcasts 70.2m vs 29.5m, subscribing to RSS feeds 54.4m vs 18.6m) and content creation (creating blogs 60.2m vs 26.4m, creating social network profiles 68.3m vs 43.0m, uploading photos 71.2m vs 47.1m, uploading videos 57.3m vs 25.3m).

Even as percentage of active internet users, social media usage in BRIC countries is much higher than US across content consumption (watching online video 89.0% vs 74.2%m, reading blogs 87.1% vs 60.3%, downloading podcasts 69.4% vs 29.5%, subscribing to RSS feeds 53.8% vs 18.6%) and content creation (creating blogs 60.0% vs 26.4%, creating social network profiles 70.3% vs 43.0%, uploading photos 70.4% vs 47.1m, uploading videos 56.6m vs 25.3%) behavior, as a higher percentage of active internet users in BRIC countries are early adopters.

Finally, given the really low internet penetration in BRIC countries, the penetration of content consumption and content creation behavior is really low (3%-5%), which means that the upside potential is immense.

In terms of country level analysis, China leads in terms of both reading (88.1%) and writing blogs (70.3%), and almost one fourth of all blogs (184.0m) are in China (42.3m). As a comparison, US has 26.4m blogs and India has 8.4m(!) blogs. China is also the dominant force in terms of podcasting with 45.4m podcast listeners (74.3% penetration), compared to 29.5m listeners in US and 10.5m(!) listeners in India. Brazil, on the other hand, has extremely high penetration in social networking (75.7%) and uploading (68.3%) and watching (94.2%) online video.

Some of the numbers in the report are different from other sources I have seen (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), so I won’t believe them blindly, but the Universal Mccann study does serve as a valuable starting point for comparative study on BRIc social media usage.

Next two items on the agenda: (1) a validation of the Universal Mccann social media usage numbers from other sources and (2) linking the cultural dimension scores for BRIC countries with social media usage behavior in these countries.


1 Universal McCann Power of the People Social Media Tracker Wave 3, March 2008
2 Users between age 16-54 who use the internet everyday or every other day. Brazil 13.80m, Russia 8.60m, India 17.80m, China 61.00m totaling to 101.2m, compared to USA 100.00m.

5 responses so far | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,BRIC,Gaurav Mishra,Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “A Comparative Analysis of Social Media Usage in BRIC Countries”

  1. Ben Turner on 04 Sep 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I looked through the report. Some notes:

    1) Well-designed report! Engaging data visualization and page design. Great meshes of logos to represent larger symbols.

    2) Something happened in 2008 specifically that led to a large increase in worldwide participation. What was it? Look at the percentages of increase from 2007 to 2008 compared to 2006 and before. Was it a maturation of blogging software?

    3) Online video has exploded, probably because of bandwidth infrastructure investment and better Flash apps for displaying them. But if a large demographic increase from developing nations is due, we will encounter more and more problems with translation; while a textual blog entry could be mechanically translated, video would have to be transcribed, and that is not likely to happen. Will this lead to standardization of publishing language, or increased awareness of online regionalism?

  2. Ben Turner on 04 Sep 2008 at 4:04 pm

    One more thing: how well do the statistics account for spamming and echo-chamber effects? Many statistics regarding online usage are inaccurate because they count spam blogs and inactive/fake profiles in their tallies.

  3. Gaurav Mishra on 05 Sep 2008 at 10:23 am

    @Ben: I think different social media usage behaviors are at different maturation levels in different countries.

    Do note that the annual penetration figures in the Universal McCann report are as percentage of active internet users and that base is growing itself. Internet penetration is still some way away from saturation even in the developed world (between 50% to 75%) and is very low in BRIC countries (5 % to 25%). So, we might have a situation in some countries where internet penetration will rise faster than the penetration of specific social media usage behavior.

    On the whole, content consumption behavior will reach maturation before content creation behavior. I think we will see two different trends in the developed world and the developing world.

    In the developed world, where penetration of internet and social media usage are both high, content consumption penetration will reach saturation by next year, but content creation penetration will continue to increase for 2-3 years. The frequency of both sets of social media usage behavior and the time spent on them, of course, will continue to rise, often accompanied by a reduction in the number of hours of TV viewership.

    In the developing world, where internet penetration is low but social media usage penetration is high because of early adopter bias, penetration of both content consumption and content creation will continue to increase for 4-5 years, and perhaps longer. The interesting thing is that countries like India have a growing young population and, often, their first introduction to the internet is through social media.

    Specifically, here are some trends on specific social media usage behavior —

    – Reading Blogs had already reached maturation in China/ Russia/ South Korea/ parts of Europe in 2007, but is still growing elsewhere.

    – Writing Blogs is still growing across countries, but reaching maturation in China/ South Korea. I’ll have to dig deeper into the reason for the very high growth last year and correlate it with other sources, but it might be due to the maturation of blogging software.

    – Social Networking was flat in US (?) but grew exponentially everywhere else.

    – Watching Online Video has reached maturation almost all over the world, probably because it is very similar to a behavior we are already familiar with — watching TV. It will be interesting to watch how quickly the frequency of watching online video transitions from once a month to once a week.

    – Listening to Podcasts has broken through into the mainstream in 2008, but is far from saturation anywhere except in China.

    – Subscribing to RSS Feeds is still under the radar in most countries but will break through to the mainstream in 2008-09 with services like Alltop making RSS more accessible.

    I have e-mailed people at Universal McCann for details on trends in in uploading videos and photos and also for the trends in India/ Brazil. I’ll share the data on the blog when I hear from them.

  4. Gaurav Mishra on 05 Sep 2008 at 1:18 pm

    @ Ben: I love it when one comment makes me think through three blog posts.

    You asked: “But if a large demographic increase from developing nations is due, we will encounter more and more problems with translation; while a textual blog entry could be mechanically translated, video would have to be transcribed, and that is not likely to happen. Will this lead to standardization of publishing language, or increased awareness of online regionalism?”

    First, let’s focus on the insight that text can be easily translated via free online tools, but not video. Given the state of voice recognition and transcription software, and the difficulties in re-dubbing video, it’s unlikely that video content will be transcribed or translated anytime soon. However, I can imagine a scenario where it’s possible, and even easy, to turn on subtitles in online video in many languages, if they have been added into the video by its producer. Not all users will be able to add subtitles to the videos they have created, but nearly all users should be able to see the subtitles if they have been added. Subtitled online video will not be the ideal experience for all users, but it may be good enough for many, much like subtitled offline video.

    Given that subtitles will be possible, I’m in two minds about how the shift to online video will affect the fragmentation of video content (or online content) into languages. On one hand, more people are comfortable with watching a video in an alien language (especially with sub-titles turned on) than with reading a newspaper in an alien language. So, the increased penetration of online video may enable people to engage with content from many different languages, as long as the meta tags are search-friendly. On the other hand, many urban youngsters in India are more comfortable speaking in their mother tongue than reading and writing in it. I’m sure this is true for other cultures too. If this is indeed true, the ubiquity of online video will help widen the penetration of internet usage itself, apart from prompting content consumers to become content creators. So, in short, if I were to go out on a limb and speculate, I would say that online video will increase the fragmentation of content into regional languages.

    What do you think?

  5. Steve Barsh on 22 Oct 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Great questions and comments concerning subtitling of online video. Have you checked out It lets users quickly and easily subtitle videos in dozens of different languages with the crowd sourcing of the translation. Check out

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.