Social Networks Can Still Rise (and Fall)

Some interesting new data from our friends south of the equator proves that social networks can still rise -- and fall -- with remarkable speed, when a newcomer’s utility (and publicity) outweigh the incumbent’s many advantages including, well, incumbency. In an American setting, the story is a cautionary tale for Facebook, which faces a determined challenger in Google+. In an ironic twist, however, in Brazil Facebook is David and Google is Goliath.

According to comScore, Facebook finally surpassed Brazil’s dominant social network, Google’s Orkut, for the first time in December 2011, attracting 36.1 million unique visitors compared to 34.4 million for Orkut. This occurred in a broader context of continued growth for social networking in general: Facebook’s figure is an increase of 192% over December 2010, while Orkut’s represents a 5% increase over the previous year.

Brazil is an interesting case study because it is a large, fairly self-contained Internet market: the largest Portuguese-speaking population in the world and the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America, in Brazil the average social network user is mostly using these services to communicate with other Brazilians. Therefore Orkut (which is used mainly by Brazilians) enjoyed a certain amount of insulation and protection from outside competitors, while Facebook faced an even harder task in establishing a bridgehead. In short, mass and momentum both favored Orkut in Brazil, just as they continue to favor Facebook in the U.S.

But Orkut, once seemingly unchallengeable, is now the underdog, as its share of the overall Brazilian population edged up from 16.8% to 16.9% over the last year, while Facebook soared from 6.4% to 17.7%. It’s all rather reminiscent of Facebook’s sudden triumph over MySpace in the U.S. in the middle years of the last decade. Is another such upheaval possible -- but this time with Google+ unseating Facebook in the U.S.? Food for thought for Facebook as it celebrates its Brazilian success.

3 comments about "Social Networks Can Still Rise (and Fall)".
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  1. Jesus Grana from Independent, January 18, 2012 at 4:08 p.m.

    Parabéns Brasil

  2. Jesus Grana from Independent, January 18, 2012 at 4:24 p.m.

    Seriously, though - I take the news from a different perspective, If Google could not hold to Orkut's leadership in Brasil - how can anyone predict that they will succeed with Google +?

  3. Nick D from ___, January 19, 2012 at 9:55 a.m.

    Amen! It's good to start to see at least some commentators moving beyond the Facebook deification and point out the patterns we've seen in the past and in other markets. If the rise and fall of MySpace, FriendsReunited et al has taught us anything (which it seemingly hasn't for most people), it's that social sites are at the whim of people's fickle nature; personally I predict that Facebook's tipping point will be when the first major influx of users' kids are about 18 or so. Kids aren't going to want to use the same social network as their folks; they want to be different, always have done.

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