I just came across this blog post by Sarah Lacy (@sarahcuda) on PandoDaily titled “Why aren’t more Indians using Twitter?”
I can’t comment on the stats she reports from Semiocast as I happen to be an employee of Twitter and Twitter does not publish country-wise numbers. But those stats are beside the point. Whatever they are, Sarah’s reasons have got to be incorrect because of the data presented in Facebook’s S-1 filing. To quote the relevant paragraph from Facebook’s S-1 [emphasis mine]:
As of December 31, 2011, we had 845 million MAUs, an increase of 39% from December 31, 2010. We experienced growth across different geographies, with users in Brazil and India representing a key source of growth. We had 161 million MAUs in the United States as of December 31, 2011, an increase of 16% from the prior year. We had 37 million MAUs in Brazil as of December 31, 2011, an increase of 268% from the prior year. Additionally, we had 46 million MAUs in India as of December 31, 2011, an increase of 132% from the prior year.
In other words, Facebook seems to be doing great in India. In fact, by some estimates, India is number 2 country for Facebook after the US.
All the four reasons mentioned by Sarah in her blog post (small online population, dysfunctional democracy, English not really being that common, not so rich middle class)
are not specific to Twitter and if they were right, Facebook’s stats in India would not have been what they are. As simple as that.
Understanding why (and when) any network gets popular in a certain region is a very difficult question. Social scientists (and more recently CS researchers) have grappled with it from many angles, and without much success. It would have been more interesting if @sarahcuda had blogged her thoughts about those nuances instead of using such a broad brush. (To be fair, she does express her surprise at the stats even given her “reasons”, but the thrust of the blog post is about coming up with generic reasons to explain the reported stats.)
Interesting post. Agree the Pandodaily article is controversial and disturbing, but raises some valid questions. I love Twitter, but the big constraint is the 140 char. It’s hard for an average Indian (outside biz/ metro cities) to express himself well in 140 char in English. Many of my old friends from rural India are very active on Facebook, but not on Twitter, primarily for this reason (heard it from my Dad himself, who is a major Facebook user!).
Facebook is primarily used as a photo & video sharing tool, with easy commenting without the 140 char limit. Moreover, many Facebook posts include native language posts typed in English, which will be very hard in Twitter. It’s far easier to be funny that way instead of being forced to be succinctly witty in 140 char.
Agree social network popularity is a complex social question (e.g., Orkut initial success in India), but not too hard to explore some reasons without being defensive. I can relate to the question, as I have asked this myself, but never thought about it in a structured way as she did.