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Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide, and as such is a very important platform in enabling destinations and tourism organisations to communicate with their customers. Given the network’s standing, eMarketer recently published estimates of its usage statistics in the coming years, broken down by region and country.

Emerging Markets' Usage Rising

India, Brazil and Russia, along with the Middle East and Africa, are driving the biggest gains in Facebook’s worldwide user base. According to new estimates, Facebook will pass 1 billion active users worldwide in 2013 as the company sees particularly strong growth in its Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and Latin American user bases, with each region set to rise by about 30% or more this year. By next year, Facebook will reach 1.26 billion global users. The new figures represent individual monthly active users who access Facebook via any device at least once per month. That’s different from Facebook’s reported figures, which includes all monthly active users —such as pets, brands and other types of accounts, along with individual users.

In the US, UK and Western Europe, growth will be much slower than in emerging markets. About half of the population in both the US and the UK will actively use Facebook this year. In Western Europe as a whole, penetration is somewhat lower, at 37% of the population in 2013. That will rise to 43% by 2017, as consumers in France, Italy and Germany remain marginally less enthusiastic about the social network.

Penetration rates, though, are still highest in the developed markets of North America and Western Europe. In Canada, nearly half of the population will use Facebook monthly this year; in the Netherlands penetration will be closer to two-thirds. While such high penetration does lead to slower growth, eMarketer does not believe Facebook has reached saturation even in the most-penetrated markets. Facebook users as a share of the total population will go up more than 6 percentage points in the Netherlands between 2013 and 2017, for example. Usage will climb more slowly in the US, but will rise from 46.4% of the population this year to 49.6% by 2017.

Implications

In terms of destinations and tourism organisations, these further solidify the existing and growing worldwide importance of Facebook as a marketing channel. Tourist boards should ensure their Facebook presences are solid and effective, as a huge market is available and ready to interact via the network.

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