In Social Media, we tend to think of the few major players that dominate the world market. Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are all household names in many parts of the world. In some regions, however, there are homegrown networking apps that have greater stride than their brand-name competitors in the countries where they are based. In order to harness a greater share of the international market, companies must tap into these native social media sites of other countries. This article is an overview of the major niche players that we see at the moment and give a prediction as to where they might be headed. We give you our top International Networking apps of 2016.
Commonly referred to as Russia's Facebook, its optimal popularity comes from Russia, as well as Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. With over 300+ million registered users at the end of 2015, it is the preferred social media platform for ~85 million active members. Its primary services include allowing users to message each other publicly/privately, to share media, create events and groups and even play browser-based videogames. Vkontakte currently features three official language versions: Russian, English and Ukrainian, however there are some 70 other languages translations generated by VK users.
Interestingly enough, one of the largest cited reasons for user satisfaction is connected to why VK is currently in a lawsuit: video/movie streaming. The average amount of time a user spends on VK is about 7 hours per sitting, while in comparison, the average time a user spends on facebook is 1.2. One of the major differences is that VK's set up is more compatible with sharing movies specifically dubbed in Russian. They have frequently been accused of not cracking down on piracy on their site. Most cases have been modestly resolved and we otherwise do not see a fall in activity for VK as many Russian internet users are either resistant to subscribing to Western applications or have no contacts in those networks, rendering their participation profitless.
One of the most prominent social networking apps in the East, Line has had much success in penetrating through national and cultural barriers as it has become a default platform for many in Japan (the app's country of origin), South Korea, Indonesia and India. It's history is quite touching as it was a response to the earthquake disaster of 2011 in Tōhoku when programmers decided they needed an efficient method of keeping contact with others in the case of emergency. Its popularity soared and in 2014 Line reached 400 million worldwide users.
Line's features are somewhat similar to Facebook's in that there is an active Timeline where you can post text, photos and videos but it also has some creations of its own design. Its staple-marker is most probably the hats-off to Line's origin story in that when two users shake their phone at the same time, they can automatically get connected. They can also do this through the use of QR codes. There are options to create gigantic message groups of up to 200 people; one can also create “Hidden Chats” which have a specified countdown when a specific message gets deleted from a post and the server. One other novelty to come of this app is the “Snap movie” which puts a twist on Vine's operation by allowing users to create stop-motion videos and layer the background with music, before the user sends the media. It is currently one of the hottest apps on the market and it looks to stay that way for a while. Line is a necessary platform for a marketer looking to reach a larger international base.
China is an interesting case study because Facebook is still banned from Chinese servers, leaving a huge niche for companies to occupy in the Social Networking world. Qzone is a social network preference for many Chinese internet users. Created by the company Tencent, it allows users to write blogs, send photos or watch videos, keep a diary and more. It offers a special background feature that allows each user to customize their profile from the compatible themes they offer, however sometimes at a price. One unique aspect is the background music option that users can download their favorite songs to and have them play as long as the page is left open.
In 2015, Qzone hosted 755 million users and is currently on the up-climb. Qzone's main competitor is RenRen, a Facebook-styled social media app that holds 17% market share while Qzone holds 22%. As China begins to grow as an economic power, more and more people will start turning to the internet and because they prefer a service that offers their language and script in a natively comprehensible way, these homegrown apps will continue to matter for a long time.
Mixi is a Japanese social media site that serves ~14 million users with many accessing the site through their smartphones. Mixi has a culturally specific feature that has led to its success, given it only operates in Japan: anonymity. Mixi accommodates Japanese users' preference to stay anonymous while they post to forums and groups. One can write a diary, display it on forums; readers can comment on users' diary entries, making this networking site much more about making personal friends. Its nature is very communal as there is even a feature to automatically update a song currently playing on iTunes (Mix Station) onto a community playlist. Contacts are cutely nicknamed myMixi (Maimiku) of which each user is allowed up to 1,000. This is an interesting feature that requires an approval process to become someone's maimiku. Overall, Mixi differenciates themselves as a private social media app rather than a public social media app such as Facebook.
Our next notable application takes us to the other side of the world in Latin America. Taringa! is one of the major social networking apps in Latin America besides Facebook. It boasts over 27 million users and is the fourth most popular app in Latin America as well as the second most popular app in Argentina, which is also its country of origin. It is used widely in also Mexico, Spain Colombia, Chile, Peru and the US Latino Community. It primarily serves the Spanish-speaking community as the only two lanugages available are English and Spanish.
Taringa! has been described as a combination of Reddit and Facebook in that content is divided into topics where users can create the content themselves and thenreceive feedback in the form of comments and upvotes/downvotes. Posts are categorized into one of three sections: Highlights, Emerging and Most Recent. Since its inception, the creators have successfully taken steps to accommodate their growing userbase. In 2014, the creators updated their site to include a new geo-tracking feature that personalizes a user's homepage based on the top posts from their own country, displaying the most relevant issues at the time. Last year, they began collaborating with Xapo, a Bitcoin wallet and service provider, to incorporate a Bitcoin feature in Taringa! aimed specifically towards Latin America, where many live “bankless” meaning they do not own bank accounts or credit cards. After their integration a couple months later, Taringa! saw a drastic spike in revenue as well as user content creation because of the monetary incentive now available through Bitcoin rewards to the highest rated posters. This Argentinian company has seen unprecedented success and through their recent activity, they appear to remain relevant for the long-term.
There are of course other apps that compete with the ones we have mentioned and of course the mega-apps of Facebook and Twitter are used in most places where these apps are also used, but there is still a great deal of activity that occurs in all of these social networking apps. In China, for example where Twitter and Facebook are banned, native social apps is your only option. In Germany, the demand for Facebook just isn't there as popular sites such as XING and StayFriends are much more commonly used. If your goal as a firm/programming team is to reach a more global audience, (especially considering that in many developing countries, internet use is becoming more and more popular) we recommend these 5 apps as a basic step in opening the door to an international presence for you.