As strongly as I've touted the lighting-speed ubiquity of social media technologies, and as often as I have tried to think about its global implications, it seems to me that mine and Doug's analyses have often remained sadly landlocked. In fact, social media beyond US borders hint at vibrant trends which will be crucial lessons for those digerati who first understand that 300 million people domestically are just the beginning.
Doug and I decided to learn more. We had a chance to speak with James Cooper, a media technology strategy consultant based in the UK who has worked with numerous major content, infrastructure and distribution companies with which most readers of this blog should be deeply familiar. His perspective on the links and departures between US and European social media left us with powerful points to ponder:
American social media plays especially well in the UK, where the language barrier is lowest. MySpace has already attracted about a million UK users according to the BBC, for example. It has already become powerful enough to propel the Arctic Monkeys' radio single to first place on the UK charts. Thanks generally attributed to a fan-created MySpace profile, the band has become the first ever to achieve that position without obtaining a record contract beforehand. Sites such as FaceParty and Friends Reunited which seem derivative of popular American sites have enjoyed only moderate success
There is, by contrast, enormous room for growth in applications that target differences in culture and available technology. Wider availability of 3G and heavier reliance on SMS and mobile communication provide one important such growth area. O2's MyWap encourages users to build WAP-compliant profiles accessible by both web and mobile device, for example. Don't Stay In is accessible primarily via the web, on the other hand, but can only be joined by those who are photographed by a picture-phone or digital-camera equipped "spotter" while enjoying the European club scene. Because mobile technology trends and capabilities in Europe so clearly lead those in the USA, each of these sites lend precious glimpses at what can work in future here at home.
There are fascinating efforts on the other side of the language barrier as well. Consider the enormously popular Korean Cyworld platform, through which users build "mini-hompy" (homepages). Also have a look at LunarStorm, a Swedish networking platform for teenagers that has attracted 1.2 million members. That's 25 out of every 30 students in Swedish secondary schools: a whopping 83% of 15-20 year old Swedes.
We covered these sites and others in even more detail on the call, which you can grab by clicking here (MP3, 2.4MB). Many thanks to James for joining us. He mentioned he's going to launch a blog of his own sometime soon, so stay tuned for the link.
'Sexa Graden' translates roughly to 'Six Degrees' in Swedish.