Worldwide Social Media Usage Trends in 2012

globe-purpleThere’s absolutely no doubt that social networks continue to play an increasingly important part in many people’s lives. EMarketer predicts there will be a massive 1.43 billion social network users in 2012, representing a 19.2 percent increase over 2011 figures.

At some point we’re bound to reach a social media saturation point, but it doesn’t look like that point will arrive any time soon.

Social media usage varies from place to place and from one demographic to the next. A Pew Internet survey found that 65 percent of Internet users in the U.S. used social networking sites, up from 61 percent the previous year. Sixty-one percent of adults under 30 reported that they used a social networking site at least once on a typical day while daily usage among Internet users aged between 50-64 rose sharply, from 20 percent in 2010 to 32 percent last year.

“The graying of social networking sites continues, but the oldest users are still far less likely to be making regular use of these tools,” said Senior Research Specialist and report co-author Mary Madden. “While seniors are testing the waters, many Baby Boomers are beginning to make a trip to the social media pool part of their daily routine.”

Alongside personal usage, more businesses are taking advantage of the benefits social media sites can offer.

A joint study by global management consulting firm Booz Company and Buddy Media found that 96 percent of companies surveyed would be increasing their investments in social media. Advertising and promotions, PR, and customer services were listed as the main uses or benefits but other uses such as market research and recruitment were reported. (Also see “The 5 Ws of Social Media Marketing: Industry Survey Insights [Study]” for more social media marketing trends from Social Media Examiner.)

Facebook: “The Social Network”

The inexorable rise of social media might be an indisputable fact but it can be easier to track social media trends than predict them. It’s not that long ago, after all, that MySpace was not only the most popular social networking site worldwide but also, according to Hitwise, the single most visited site in the U.S., even beating the behemoth that is Google into second place.

These days it is Facebook that, as the 2010 movie title suggests, is the social network. The site overtook MySpace on Alexa’s listings in 2008 and hasn’t looked back since.

Facebook boasts more than 845 million active users and a 2011 comScore report revealed there were only seven countries worldwide in which Facebook did not rule the roost. That figure tumbled to six in December however, when Facebook overtook Orkut as the leading social networking destination in the vast and still emerging Brazilian market.

“Despite the cultural affinity for social media, Facebook adoption had traditionally lagged in the market,” said Alex Banks, comScore managing director for Brazil “That has all changed in the past year, during which the site has tripled in audience size as engagement has grown sevenfold to assume the leadership position in the market.”

At least part of the secret of Facebook’s success is the fact that it manages to present itself as both a global and local service. Users know that it has a true global presence, potentially linking them to other users all over the world. At the same time, localized language settings and content allow the site to be seen as a number of interlinked local communities.

Local Differences

One rather large gap in Facebook’s global domination comes in the shape of China. The site is officially banned in China but local sites are massive within the market.

An eMarketer report lists TencentQZone at the front of the pack in China, while TencentWeibo, SinaWeibo, and Renren also have significant market shares. With the Internet itself not expected to reach a majority of China’s vast population until 2015, Qzone may even be able to overhaul Facebook’s active user figures without having to expand very much outside Chinese borders.

Elsewhere, Russia is dominated by Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, sites that are also quickly expanding into other Eastern European countries.

Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Poland were the other countries listed by comScore as the territories where Facebook doesn’t command the greatest market share but even in its own back yard, Facebook shouldn’t rest on its laurels.

While still lagging behind considerably in terms of total users, Twitter’s U.S. growth is predicted to be four times greater than Facebook’s over the next couple of years. We’ve yet to really see how Google+ will fare and niche sites like the business-oriented LinkedIn continue to grow within their own remits. Plus, Pinterest is growing fast.

Right now Facebook is sitting pretty. Social media trends can change with alarming rapidity however and, as the spectacular decline of MySpace demonstrated, none of the major players can afford to take anything for granted.

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72% of Adults Are Local News Enthusiasts [STUDY]

News stands - How Americans Read Local NewsSocial media connectivity and the digitization of news have not squashed American fervor for local news, a Pew study says. Nearly three quarters of adults are consistently plugged into local news — so much so that 32% of survey participants say the loss of local outlets would majorly impact their lives.

A recently published Pew Internet American Life Project report finds most Americans continue to follow local news. The reliance on local news is consistent in all age groups, though stronger among those who are 40+, and among female consumers.

The younger population, 18 to 39 years old, use the greatest number of local news sources — an average of 4.38 weekly. Older local news followers say they use about two to three different sources a week.

SEE ALSO: Upworthy Aims to Make the News as Shareable as Cat Videos [EXCLUSIVE]

About 80% of adults older than 40 get their news from television broadcasts. Nearly half of the adults surveyed say they regularly use “word of mouth,” the radio and regional newspaper. Besides reading and chatting about their communities, people also stay in-the-know using mobile phones and tablets.

Younger local news enthusiasts, surprisingly also use “word of mouth” to find out about area news and highlights. The connected generation more likely uses Internet news sources including search engines, local newspaper websites, T.V. station websites and social networks.

Individuals who care about local news are characterized as being very connected in their communities. Many have strong roots in their locales; about 32% of the local news consumers surveyed have lived in their community for more than 20 years.

Local news consumers are fans of news in general. About 63%, six in 10 local news consumers, also follow international news consistently, while 78% say they consume national news consistently. One-third of local news enthusiasts say they get everything that need from regional media.

The Pew report suggests local news is not going anywhere yet. Enthusiasts are generationally diverse, using many news sources to learn about their local communities. Americans are turning to local outlets both online and print — though less and less — for news that would affect them including breaking news, politics, crime, business, schools and education.

What role does local news play in your live? Where do you get information about where you live — online or in print? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, acousticskyy

Baseball Home Openers: Social Media’s Best Shots [PICS]

The social web lit up with photos recently as another summer at the ballpark got underway.

For fans and players, Opening Day (or night) is always a special occasion — familiar sights and sounds return, and hope for a successful season springs anew. Friday’s game between the Mariners and Athletics in Seattle marked the last of 30 home openers for Major League Baseball teams.

This year, Opening Day festivities were documented on social networks such as Twitter and Instagram perhaps more than ever before. Teams, fans and players all posted shots celebrating the beginning of the 2012 baseball season in a variety of ways.

What were the best shots from Opening Day? Pixable is a New York City startup that sorts the most popular and timely of the millions of photos posted to social networks daily. The company provided Mashable with access to feeds showing which Opening Day baseball photos were gaining the most buzz and best capturing the magic of a new season.

Scroll through the gallery above to see a sampling of this young baseball season’s best shots.

Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

5 User-Friendly Tools for Building Your Online Portfolio

Social Media MoneyHeather R. Huhman is the founder and president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. You can connect with Heather and Come Recommended on Twitter and Facebook.

In today’s digital world, your job search has to be as much online as it is on paper. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can help you establish your personal employment brand and connect with potential employers — in fact, almost 90% of employers are using social media to recruit potential employees [PDF]. What better way to have all of your online and offline job search tools in one place than in a portfolio?

An online portfolio allows you to compile what makes you employable — it should include things like your resume, cover letter, references, certifications, transcripts and any examples of your work (including writing samples, press clips, artwork or lesson plans). Plus, you should include basic contact information, such as a phone number and email, and more modern information, like a Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, or Facebook URL. Put all of this into one online package that’s easy to browse and voilà — you have an online portfolio!

Here are five great options that can host your online portfolio. There’s a breakdown of each one, so you can pick which one works best for you and your career goals.


1. WorkSimple


Summary: WorkSimple is the first work portfolio that helps you manage your career and performance inside your organization. Users have endorsements, followers, goals and accomplishments, which can help you build your professional and social reputations. Set your professional focus, add your goals, and get recognition for your work.

Additionally, WorkSimple allows users to brand themselves by sharing goals and contributions with co-workers in real-time. Essentially, it’s a Facebook Timeline for professionals.

Best Feature: WorkSimple encourages you to set career focus and add “Social Goals” that support your direction, which help you keep track of your accomplishments, efforts and successes as you build your reputation. Plus, you can get great feedback from co-workers.

What Needs Work: Those looking for a traditional portfolio to display resume, work samples and more may not find these features in WorkSimple.

Ideal User: A corporate worker who is tech-savvy and wants to establish goals and stay synced with co-workers. Like the other portfolio platforms, you can add images, but this portfolio is not solely image-based.

Cost: Free for an individual plan but pricing plans exist for team or company plans.


2. Behance


Summary: Behance is a platform for creative professionals to gain exposure and manage their careers. Users can create multimedia portfolios that showcase their work to millions of visitors.

Best Feature: Behance turns your work into an online gallery; It claims to get 15 times the traffic of all other leading portfolio sites combined (including Carbonmade, the next site on our list). Recruiters can find and track talent and post jobs for the creative professionals on the site.

What Needs Work: In order to have your own personal portfolio website, rather than just a profile on Behance, you need to join ProSite. This costs $11 a month, but it allows you to create a full website without coding, and it syncs with your Behance portfolio.

Ideal User: Any creative professional wishing to showcase multimedia projects — images, text, audio or video. The layout of the site is better for viewing visual projects, so anyone from graphic designers to photographers to industrial designers can benefit.

Cost: Free for a Behance profile, $11 a month for the ProSite.


3. Carbonmade


Summary: Carbonmade is an online portfolio platform that helps users show off their work — especially creative work like design, illustration and art.

Best Feature: Carbonmade makes portfolios easy. Users can create a profile in a snap, and the service offers tons of ways to personalize your portfolio. Plus, users can establish their own URL — for example, yourname.carbonmade.com.

What Needs Work: The site isn’t conducive to any text, audio or video work — a still image is best for this portfolio.

Ideal User: Again, this portfolio service is primarily for creative professionals. In comparison to Behance, Carbonmade seems even more geared toward visual art. Any professional who can share an image of their work — fashion designers, illustrators, architects and more — would find Carbonmade useful.

Cost: Free


4. Pinterest


Summary: Pinterest is basically an online pin-board. It’s primarily a social photo-sharing website where users can create separate boards for various things. For example, you could have a board for recipes, pictures of places you’d like to travel or, in this case, your professional creative work.

Best Feature: Pinterest is far more social than Behance or Carbonmade, so you can have eyes from all parts of the globe on your work. Plus, you can “pin” any image, and when users click on a pinned image, they’re redirected to the original website. For example, if you “pinned” a piece of your artwork from, say, your personal blog, you can attract more traffic to your blog.

What Needs Work: The platform was not made to be a professional portfolio site. Therefore, the site may have a different audience of viewers than an actual portfolio platform. Plus, like Carbonmade, text or audio works cannot be “pinned.”

Ideal User: Pinterest only allows photos or videos (which will be “pinned” as a still picture), so creative professionals with image-based work will find this site most useful. Any professional with visual work that can be put into image form can display their portfolio on Pinterest.

Cost: Free, but you do need to request an invite.


5. Dribbble


Summary: Dribbble is a “show and tell” for designers, where users can share small screenshots of their work.

Best Feature: The platform shows off your work with screenshots of your progress or completed project. Plus, it’s easy to browse other people’s work by tags or color.

What Needs Work: Dribbble isn’t useful for anyone with non-visual works; it’s really only conducive to visuals.

Ideal User: Anyone who creates visual work that can be shared via an image, especially graphic or web designers, illustrators and logo designers.

Cost: Free


Conclusion


All online portfolio platforms have their pros and cons, and different sites work better for varying types of professionals in myriad industries. There are many portfolio services to explore aside from the ones mentioned above, but what all of these sites have in common is that they allow professionals to display their work online and continue to build their personal brand.

Do you have an online portfolio? What service do you use? Let us know in the comments.


Social Media Job Listings


Every week we post a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we publish a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, aluxum.

4 Ways to Outdo Your Competitors

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Do you ever feel like there’s a competitor around every corner? Budding entrepreneurs often hesitate to follow their business dreams because they believe their target market is already so saturated that there simply is no more room to absorb any new entrants.

However, savvy small business owners can make it in a crowded field, even one filled with a couple of 800-pound gorillas. The key to your business’ success doesn’t hinge on finding a completely empty field, but how you define your company and its place in the market.

Here are four easy ways to set yourself apart from the din of voices in your industry. Do you have any tips for making it in a crowded market? Let us know in the comments.


1. You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel


Many first-time entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking they need to blaze a new trail to be successful. Of course, the market always needs innovators, but a business doesn’t necessarily have to be disruptive in order to succeed.

Rather than struggling to come up with a brand new idea, take a look at your target industry and see where there’s a void to be filled. Then, figure out the best possible way to service that need and run with it. Starbucks wasn’t the first company to sell coffee, but they did revolutionize the coffee shop by selling an experience along with a caffeine fix.

These days there may be more than 17,000 Starbucks all over the world, but other coffeehouses around the country are finding a niche. From Smokey Row in Des Moines, Iowa, to Rock City Café in Rockland, Maine, local coffee shops are succeeding by promising more than a cup of coffee and a place to sit. They’re tapping into some of the most primal elements — community, connectedness, security and comfort.

Your product and service may be similar in many aspects to that of the competition, except for a few defining factors — and those are the key to everything. You should be good (or great) at all the basics, and then put your energy and focus on being exceptional at what makes you different.


2. Customer-Centric Companies Win


When trainer Chris Stevenson wanted to open a fitness center in Southern California, many questioned the decision. Here he was, in the heart of the recession, starting a business in an area that was already saturated with multiple boutique gyms and two large, corporate, chain fitness centers competing for the same customers from the same nearby neighborhoods.

Yet despite contending against huge chains with deep pockets and big advertising budgets, Stevenson Fitness is hugely successful today. Why? Chris focused on creating a one-of-a-kind culture at his company that defies people’s expectations of what a fitness center can be. There’s no snootiness, intimidation or pretentiousness at Stevenson Fitness. Yes, it offers top-caliber facilities and a great range of classes, but what sets Stevenson Fitness apart is the friendly, approachable personality of the entire staff. The tag line “Your community, your gym” says it all. His company continues to grow because customers love what Chris’s company gives them.

No matter how big your business gets and how much staff you bring on, I always advise business owners and top management to stay as close to their customers as possible. Talking to customers one-on-one is the best way to truly take the pulse of the market, customer needs and just how your company is doing.


3. Don’t Compete on Price


Eager to attract customers, many small businesses feel the only way they can compete in a crowded market is to undercut the competition on price. I have to admit that my husband and I fell into this same trap with our company — we dropped our prices to unsustainable levels. Our business grew, customers were happy, more customers came in, yet we were nearly losing money with every new order.

This happens to many small businesses in crowded markets. They find themselves running as fast as they can, yet they are still barely bringing in enough money to keep their operations afloat. Faced with this situation, what we did do? We repositioned from competing on price to competing on service.

In a saturated market, someone will always be able (or willing) to absorb a lower cost than you. You’ll need to find a new way to stand out; for us, this was by offering personal service. We began providing free business consultations to everyone who wanted one. We increased our customer service. We even increased our prices to support the higher service levels, and we saw sales and repeat business rise. The key was defining who we were and what made us different, and then focusing on being as exceptional as possible in those differentiating areas.


4. Saturation Can Mean Strength


A competitive and crowded industry indicates that customer demand exists, and that the market is viable. If you carve your own niche, there will be room for your business.

If you’re considering starting a business, don’t be disheartened if a lot of other companies are already offering a similar kind of product or service. You should still look before you leap and do your research on how you can stand out, but don’t let the idea of a saturated market stand in your way.


More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

Should Small Businesses Follow Everyone Back on Twitter?
Are You Falling into the Pricing Trap?
How to Innovate for Top Social Media Sites

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Maliketh, fotosipsak