Gauging Facebook’s Growth Across the Region
Facebook user growth in Western markets may be tailing off, but that is not the case for Asia-Pacific. In 2018, Facebook’s audience in the region will increase 13.4%—nearly double the rate of worldwide gains—reaching 663.0 million users. India will spearhead this jump, climbing 17.3% and accounting for nearly one-third of users in the region.
Facebook’s growth in India is a result of an expansion of more affordable mobile services. In 2016, 4G LTE mobile internet use exploded in the country after the arrival of mobile operator Reliance Jio and its low-priced data plans. Competitors like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone lowered data costs to stay competitive, which motivated consumers to sign up. Between 2016 and 2018, the percentage of mobile phone internet users grew from 24.0% to 32.3% of the population.
With growing mobile uptake, many of these new internet users also signed up for Facebook to connect with friends and family. New phones coming with Facebook Lite preinstalled was a boon as well. During the same two-year period, Facebook’s share of the population rose from 11.4% to 16.7%. By 2022, continued adoption of mobile internet will further Facebook’s reach to 25.0% of India’s population.
Whereas India represents high-end growth for Facebook, other Asia-Pacific markets are slowing. In Japan, Facebook’s share of social network users will decline between 2018 and 2022, falling from 39.3% to 38.5%. Facebook has struggled to catch up to Twitter and messaging app Line, which built large audiences after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami damaged traditional telecom infrastructure. Twitter’s 280-character limit has not deterred usage in Japan since Japanese requires few characters to communicate complex messages.
For the most part, Facebook’s expansion in Asia-Pacific will be based on the maturation of mobile broadband coverage. For example, user growth in developing Asia-Pacific markets like Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam will outpace Facebook’s worldwide growth of 7.7% in 2018. Together, these countries will add 16.6 million users this year.
Although Facebook’s penetration of Asia-Pacific appears low at 44.5% of social network users, this is due to China’s ban on the platform. Excluding China, Facebook will actually reach 81.2% of social network users in the region.
It’s worth noting that some of Facebook’s growth can be attributed to Facebook Lite. The data-efficient Facebook app reportedly has over 200 million users and remains critical for usage in 2G and 3G areas cross Asia-Pacific. Facebook is looking to replicate its success with the release of Instagram Lite, which arrived in June 2018.
It’s too early to tell what impact Instagram Lite will have, but growth for Instagram in Asia-Pacific will be strong this year, rising 24.6% to 216.9 million users. Increases will be fastest in India (48.3%) and Vietnam (21.3%)—again, driven by improving mobile internet coverage. By the end of 2018, 26.6% of social network users in the region (excluding China) will use Instagram.
Source: emarketer.com; 12 Sep 2018