(Category: Affiliate Webmaster World)
Posted by joginvik
Thursday 08 March 2012 - 17:25:27

AS MOST OF you are probably aware, social networks are currently the fastest growing form of online media. Speak to any marketer and they will tell you it is the most effective form of inbound marketing out there. However, the opportunities for business are still largely misunderstood.

Many businesses have flooded-in to the social sphere wildly, without proper strategies in place and become lost and disillusioned when they don??™t get the sort of ROI that they were expecting. Social media is not the silver bullet that many marketers would have you believe but used strategically to drive key business objectives, it can be an incredibly powerful tool.

Businesses looking to create a social media policy to engage with their customer base in Europe face a veritable smorgasbord of different platforms to choose from and it??™s difficult to know which ones will still be around in a year??™s time.

In Europe, the market leader is the US social networking juggernaut Facebook, having usurped most of the locally-based networks over the past two to three years. With over 200 million users it is now the number one choice of social network for 15 out of 18 European markets, with only Poland, Russia and Latvia holding out against the US site??™s irresistible force.

Mike Shaw, comScore??™s director of marketing solutions, predicts that Facebook will jump ahead of Poland??™s ???Nasza-Klasa??™ in user numbers within a month or two. While these markets may have held off Facebook??™s dominance due to having fewer international contacts, Shaw also predicts that ???in a year??™s time, there won??™t be a single European country, including Russia, where Facebook is not leading.???

French site ???Skyrock??™ has lost about a third of its audience to the US giant. Current figures show that around 25 to 30 percent of its users found Facebook was a better experience for what they wanted. Around 30 percent use both, and 30 percent are not interested in Facebook, staying loyal to the French network.

Skyrock is not alone in its battle against Facebook. Sites such as StudiVZ in Germany, Tuenti in Spain and Hyves in the Netherlands, were undisputed leaders in their domestic markets. Published in their home languages, the sites were limited in international expansion, but had deep roots in their home countries.

Despite fleeting popularity in the UK and US, My Space could not compete against these locally-based networks, only gaining popularity in a handful of nations, most notably Italy and the former Yugoslavia. Facebook, which in 2007 began its efforts to translate the site into local languages, made a much more concerted assault on local social networks and has enjoyed substantial successes.

In 2009, Skyrock and Facebook were equal in terms of popularity in France, but the US behemoth now far outstrips all rivals. It has 20.3 million users in France, about twice the number of Skyrock, according to comScore, the market research company.

The same picture endures elsewhere. In Spain, Facebook overtook Tuenti in 2009, and now has 12 million users compared with the Spanish site??™s 6.8 million. In Germany, the VZ Netzwerke group of three websites are still collectively the market leader with 17 million users, but Facebook is closing in fast with 14.2 million. In a year, Facebook??™s user numbers have more than tripled, while growth in VZ Netzwerke user numbers is flat.

Amongst the thousands of apps and features that Facebook offers, online gaming has proven to be one of the most popular. Over half of Facebook??™s 800 million users worldwide use their accounts for gaming and in 2010, Social Gaming passed email to become the second leading activity online, taking up over ten percent of the average user??™s time online. Companies such as Zynga, Playdom and EA??™s Playfish are dominating the industry at this current juncture - Zynga??™s games which include Farmville and Mafia Wars are particularly popular having over 58 million active users per day.

Zynga??™s Texas Hold??™em Poker??™ app is the most popular Facebook app of all time with nearly 84 million active users. Poker games are also some of the most popular titles for both Playdom and Playfish, however, in all of these games players earn chips or ???Facebook Credits??™ that allow them to purchase virtual items, instead of actual currency.

However, times are changing fast. In August 2011, Facebook changed its advertising guidelines to allow ads for online gambling after a long-standing period of prohibition. The whole online gaming gamut will be allowed to advertise on the network including online poker sites, casinos and sportsbooks, but targeting US users will be prohibited.

Interest over time

This means that these ads can be served to the 150 million-plus users in Europe and if you have a minimum of $30,000 to spare then you can reach all of these potential gamers. Facebook is yet to allow the exchange of real currency in its games; since the site is based in the US it would be near impossible for it to allow any third-party developer to create a gambling system within their product. However, with the rising demand from Facebook users for casino games and gambling and the need for publishers and developers of social games to raise revenue, it could only be a matter of time before Facebook works out a way round the legal issues to cash in on the popularity of online gaming.

This news item is from Sport, Casino, Poker and Games Affiliates portal
( )