9 fascinating facts about how the world uses social networks

By Caitlin Dewey

The team at bit.ly, a popular link-tracking service, has come out with an interesting new analysis on how people use social media around the world.

To make the report, bit.ly tracked clicks on its links from 220 countries over the course of 12 months. (To give you an idea of how many clicks that is, the site has logged more than 100 billion since January 2011.) Bit.ly then analyzed which social networks referred the biggest proportion of traffic in each country, indexing them against the world average.

The results are intriguing, though they come with a caveat — the data  measure only links filtered through the Bit.ly universe, and not all Internet traffic or users overall.

Almost everyone uses Twitter, Facebook and YouTube heavily — except in China, where those services are blocked. (Bit.ly doesn’t have data for North Korea or a few African and Pacific countries, possibly because there’s too little data.)
Despite heavy censorship, plenty of Iranians still use Western sites. Google+, LinkedIn and Reddit are particularly popular, perhaps because Twitter and Facebook are blocked in Iran.
Twitter is quickly becoming a phenomenon in Saudi Arabia. Its apparent popularity backs up recent analysis by the Saudi social media firm Social Clinic, which claimed 12 percent of the tweets in the kingdom. The country’s Twitter base is ballooning by 3,000 percent each year.
Given their social media-fueled revolutions, Egypt and Libya would — you’d think — overindex on sites such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. In reality, both countries underindex significantly on all 12 of the major networks Bit.ly tracked except Facebook. Flickr is also moderately popular in Egypt.
China’s Twitter-like Weibo network is the social medium of choice there, but it’s also popular in a couple of odd places — including Uganda. China’s deep involvement in the Ugandan economy, including projects managed by Chinese workers, could be responsible.
On the flip side, some countries you might expect to use Weibo — nearby Hong Kong and Taiwan, for instance — haven’t embraced the Chinese social network, maybe because they have access to the Western services.
Several South American countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Peru, underindex across the board. “It’s a shame about the Colombian results,” one national commented on the bit.ly post, “but they show the true state of social media maturity in our country.”
Flickr, the once beloved photo-sharing site, is relatively popular in very few countries; Bolivia and Madagascar are two of them. Both countries have sizable communities on the site, built largely around touristy photos of scenic landscapes.
South Koreans really love Tumblr. I’m not sure why that is, but the #kpop and #kfashion tags seem to do pretty well on the blogging platform.

You can see an interactive map and breakouts for all 220 countries on Github.



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