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The colonization, rise and fall of social networks

Meanwhile, as the whole new breed of Web 2.0 applications and media tools flushed the world, less multi-functional applications like instant messaging (e.g. AIM, ICQ, QQ in China), real-time chat, micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter) are either being replaced gradually by stronger brands with similar functions (see Figures 3a and 3b) or are simply acquired and integrated into other SNs to form stronger portfolios. For example, Google purchased [4] YouTube in 2006 to fortify its SN presence and Facebook recently acquired [5] Instagram to complete with Pinterest, a photo-sharing rival targeting mainly at young females [6]. SN sites that do not measure up in terms of functionalities or fail to innovate are substituted, no matter how large they once were. MySpace, a previously leading SN founded in 2003, started losing its members to Facebook since 2008 (see Figure 3a) as a result of their inability to protect teenage users from being exposed to pornography [7]. Just as Bloomberg [8] reported, "Influential peers pull others in on the climb up – and signal to flee when it's time to get out." Given MySpace's leading position as the #1 player back in 2007, the phenomenon suggested that the number of ties within an SN (or even number of members) do not necessarily mean longer or more stable memberships, but rather, it could be an indirect metric of the members' potential collective actions to become detrimental in times of difficulties. This is particularly true because when computer-mediated interactions contribute positively to community interaction and involvement (Kavanaugh, Carroll, Rosson, Zin, Reese, 2005), members are easily mobilized (Hampton, Wellman, 2003) and "flee together".

Popularity comparison of selected social media tools
Popularity comparison of selected social media tools
Figure 3a. Popularity comparison of selected social media tools. Source: Google Trends.

Popularity comparison of selected social media tools
Popularity comparison of selected social media tools
Figure 3b. Popularity comparison of selected social media tools. Source: Google Trends.

While the collectivist nature of SNs can play against itself, it can also be constructive. It is reported [9] that, since early 2009, Facebook have been "colonizing" in some countries previously dominated by other local SNs. Mixi (Japan), Cyworld (Korea), etc. fell one after another with Google's Orkut (Brazil) surrendered (i.e. losing the #1 place) most recently in 2011. The number of top social network sites dropped dramatically from some 17 (in June 2009) to now 7 (in June 2012), and the number is still shrinking (see Figure 4a below).

World map of social networks 2009
World map of social networks 2010
World map of social networks 2011
World map of social networks 2012
Figure 4a. World map of social networks 2009-2012. Notice how Facebook (in blue) managed to expand and take over the first place(s) in each and every one of the countries. Source: Google Trends.

Hoftstede's (2001) measure of individualism
Figure 4b. Hoftstede's (2001) measure of individualism

In fact, if we compare such "colonization trends" (Figure 4a) with Hoftstede's measure of individualism (Figure 4b), countries that fell quickly to Facebook in the last two years are those marked as less individualistic, and which, coincidentally or not, had already been previously dominated by one or more geographically and/or linguistically focused SN(s). Such an interesting combination provides a quick answer as to why Facebook has landed in these countries so conveniently. First, new members from these countries already had previous working knowledge about social networking. And while customer education is key to successful market development (Aubert, Khoury, and Jaber, 2005), potential members from these collectivist countries will more likely conform, and hence become quickly mobilized in groups and switch over (or flee!), particularly when Facebook also provides localized versions. And as Facebook welcomed its first billionth user (Ortutay, 2012), leading social networks in the former Soviet republics (i.e. V Kontakte and Odnoklassniki) are left alone to resist and fight on their own in the colonization war, unless there is strong government intervention [10], censorship [11], political crackdowns [12] or anti-media laws [13] that may come to the "rescue".

Next wave of social network

The rise and fall patterns of social networking sites as well as the relative growth and decline in popularity of the various online tools remind us of one simple fact – the current SN market, so sensible to public perception, has yet to top off or reach any state of equilibrium. The volatility of social networks, the difficulty in measuring their effects (Larson & Watson, 2011) mingled with concerns over their ROIs [14] (Hoffman & Fodor, 2010), make it even more difficult to align business (or non-business) goals with the proper SN strategies, let alone deriving from them any measurable commercial or social value (Culnan, Mchugh, & Zubillaga, 2010). And until social networks become a sustainable business with a sound profit or operational model, they are still susceptible to the downside of the collectivist member's highly efficient coordinated capacities (Gorodnichenko, Roland, 2011), "fleeing" in particular. After all, it is just a matter of time when Facebook eventually loses its popular face to another more innovative and drop-dead attractive new social gadget – which Facebook was, sadly, once an outstanding example.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

Raymond Cheng, PhD DPA FRSA, is the founder and chief editor of Commentary.com. He is an adjunct professor in international business and in marketing, an independent policy analyst as well as a language and cultural briefing consultant.

Email Raymond at raymond {dot} cheng {at} kellogg {dot} oxon {dot} org



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Note 4: See "Google buys YouTube for $1.65bn", BBC, dated October 10, 2006, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6034577.stm

Note 5: See "Facebook finalizes Instagram deal - but the prices drops from $1bn to $300m (although it does throw in 23 million shares)" dated September 7, 2012, available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2199925/Facebook-finalises-Instagram-deal--prices-drops-1bn-300m-does-throw-23-million-shares.html

Note 6: Not only do young females use social networks to more frequently maintain contact with friends (Barker & Ota, 2011), they are also much more willing to buy over the Internet than males (Dittmar, Long, & Meek, 2004).

Note 7: See "Do you know what your kids are doing on MySpace? It's not as scary as you've heard and you can keep them safe" by Dr. Larry D. Rosen, available at http://education.com/reference/article/Ref_MySpace_Your_ChildMe/ and "CT, NC Attorneys General say MySpace response to subpoena reveals 90,000 registered sex offenders with profiles", Connecticut Attorney General's Office, dated February 3, 2009, available online at http://www.ct.gov/ag/cwp/view.asp?A=3673&Q=433228

Note 8: See "The rise and inglorious fall of Myspace" by Felix Gillette, dated June 22, 2011, available at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_27/b4235053917570.htm

Note 9: See "Facebook colonization of the world progress report" by Dan Farber, CNET, dated June 10, 2012, available at news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57450075-93/facebook-colonization-of-the-world-progress-report/ and "World map of social networks" by Vincenzo Cosenza, available at http://www.vincos.it/world-map-of-social-networks/

Note 10: China puts blocks on foreign websites like Facebook and YouTube, see "Facebook's China problem" by Jessi Hempel, CNN Money, dated September 10, 2012, available at http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/09/10/facebookchina-problem/ and also Global Post article, "China: Facebook, Twitter have millions of users despite ban, survey shows" by Allison Jackson dated September 28, 2012, available online at http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asiapacific/china/120927/china-facebook-twitter-users-ban-survey

Note 11: Iran is said to be preparing for an "internal version" of the Internet by blocking all international traffic, see "Iran deploys domestic Internet system, blocks Google" by Ellyne Phneah dated September 24, 2012, available online at http://www.zdnet.com/iran-deploys-domestic-internet-system-blocks-google-7000004686/

Note 12: Three Vietnamese reporters who blogged on government corruption issues were prosecuted, see "Vietnam cracks down on blogs (Hanoi)", Associated Press dated September 13, 2012, available online at http://www.northjersey.com/news/international/169618006_Vietnam_Cracks_Down_on_Blogs__Hanoi_.html

Note 13: With the enactment of the new Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 on September 12, 2012, the Philippines government can imprison anyone who commits libel either by written messages, comments, blogs, or posts in sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other comment-spaces of social media in the Internet, see "Anticybercrime law threatens media freedom" by Mong Palatino dated September 19, 2012, available at http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/09/19/philippines-anti-cybercrime-law-threatens-media-freedom/

Note 14: ROI, Return on Investment




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COUNT ON THE STATISTICS  100% Towels (c) Daniel Chittka
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This new section contains some interesting statistics in bribe and corruption, please check back for more as we pile up our numbers!

It's statistics time!  Using n-gram: kickback, graft, bribe and corruption - Comparison of their historical occurrences from 1810 to 2009 A.D.

  The word guanxi (collocation) and meanings of bribe: Deeply rooted, disgusting, sad endings

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GLUCK ON SOCIALISM AND CHINA Asia (c) Robert Churchill
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Professor Sidney Gluck (c) Sandi BachomI am honored to have obtained Professor Sidney Gluck's (right) permission to allow me to repost here some of his work and interview related to China and socialism. Professor Gluck is professor emertius at the New School University in New York. A classical Marxist, Gluck has been studying China for 60 years in history and modern development. He has lectured all over the U.S. and still welcomes engagement at the age of 94 – photo © Sandi Bachom

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