Online users from emerging markets are more engaged in the Internet than their counterparts from developed countries. So concludes a recent survey of nearly 50,000 online users from around the world. User engagement - as determined by levels of usage, behavior and attitudes towards the Internet - is far higher in Egypt and China, for instance, than it is in countries such as Finland and Japan. Internet users in emerging markets are also more engaged in social networking, instant messaging and blogging than email and static Internet pages, which are more heavily used in developed counties. And people in emerging markets are becoming avid online users despite having less access to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet than in developed countries.
The results of this survey comes on the heels of a host of reports underscoring the increasing global importance of social networking. A recent report published by Intuit on the 20 trends that will shape the next decade cites social networking and collaboration as key trends that will infiltrate education, work and life. The McKinsey Quarterly spotlights the impact of digital communities, networks and collaboration on the business landscape while also focusing in on how Asian countries such as Malaysia, China and India differ in their Internet usage habits and content preferences. What is clear from these reports is that - while individuals in emerging markets have become increasingly digitally savvy and connected - they are still thirsty for content, tools and services that will enhance their experience as citizens, consumers and employees.
Unleashing this demand will require creative product, partnership and promotional strategies with a little help from improving infrastructure. There is an opportunity for multinationals to make social networking tools available on low-end devices, still pervasive in the developing world, while fostering the development of localized applications. Bringing in new partners such as advertisers and other third parties to defray the cost of the device and services to the consumer can improve accessibility and catalyze further network effects. Finally, there may be opportunities to utilize the Internet as a sales channel and social networks as a promotional vehicle, but companies may want to tool their approach to local usage patterns and preferences.