Conventional wisdom, at least as far as the local Internet is concerned, would have it that the Philippines is something of an oddball oasis where localized tastes have catapulted obscure web players to top status, while global top dogs trail far behind. We inhabit an alternate universe. In DC Comic book terms, we are Earth-23 in the multiverse of realities. Or the bottled city of Kandor in the Fortress of Solitude.
Thus, Friendster and Multiply were considered the top names in social networking, while the Canada-based Plurk.com lorded it over the microblogging category. This was typical for the ASEAN region, particularly in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines – the so-called “SIMP” countries.
In other words, Friendster was widely known to be #1, trumping Facebook. And anecdotally, Plurk was considered more popular than Twitter. This constituted conventional wisdom, and that notion has been challenged by new data.
The latest Alexa rankings for the top websites in the Philippines now show the following results for these specific players:
Note that Facebook is not just the #1 social network, it is now listed as the #1 website in the Philippines, period.
Elsewhere on Alexa, you’ll find that Facebook is now ranked #1 for the rest of SIMP – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Facebook’s dominance in the region is now a fait acompli.
According to the Alexa website, the rankings are “calculated using a combination of average daily visitors and pageviews over the past month. The site with the highest combination of visitors and pageviews is ranked #1.”
While Friendster comes in at a respectable #3 position (just after Yahoo), what might be giving it cause to worry is that Facebook’s incredible growth may be siphoning off its traditional base among the mass based CD segment.
Data released by Facebook in September 2009, show the Philippines ranked at #13 in terms of Facebook users, with 4,832,040 registered users. In Asia, we are second only to Indonesia, which registered 8,786,920 users.
But the growth period from January to September 2009 shows Pinoy Facebook population growing at a whopping 1136.76%. That is the second highest rate in the world, second only to Taiwan.
Current estimates of Philippine Facebook registered users put the number at around 5.7 Million.
This still pales in comparison to Friendster’s claims of 40M registered Philippine users. But let’s look at a comparison of Philippine data for September 2009:
Unique visitors (users) – 6.6M
Page views – 4.9B
Total visits – 200M
Avg visits per visitor – 30
Avg time on site – 33:20
Unique visitors (users) – 5.5M
Page views – 3.6B
Total visits – 100M
Avg visits per visitor – 18
Avg time on site – 25:00
In other words, not only does Facebook now have more Philippine monthly unique visitors, Facebookers are more engaged, spending more time online than their Friendsterian counterparts.
The source for all this tantalizing info is the research section of Google Ad Planner, which uses data supplied directly by the web publishers.
In the Philippine Twitter versus Plurk face-off, the tale of the tape reads as follows:
Unique visitors (users) – 1.1M
Page views – 66M
Total visits – 7.9M
Avg visits per visitor – 7.2
Avg time on site – 13:50
Unique visitors (users) – 320K
Page views – 34M
Total visits – 3.9M
Avg visits per visitor – 12
Avg time on site – 23:20
All this and there’s even a possibility that the amount of Twitter traffic may actually be understated, since these figures only account for traffic on the Twitter.com site. Not included are the multitudes using desktop and mobile clients that access Twitter via its API, such as Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Twitterberry, Tweetie, and so forth.
In the final analysis, what this all means for sites like Friendster and Plurk is that they need to notch up their game if they want to regain their leadership positions in this country.
This was especially visible during the recent typhoon crisis in the Philippines, where social networking was documented to have played a major role in disseminating information about relief efforts.
In an informal scan of the local and international media coverage of the typhoon relief efforts, the brand names of Facebook and Twitter were always mentioned. I saw Plurk mentioned just once, in a piece in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. And though Friendster did put up a Friendster Cares special page to centralize their online efforts regarding this crisis, this got hardly a peep in the media.
All this, despite the fact that Facebook and Twitter have no on-ground presence in the Philippines to do their marketing or events (unlike web brands like Friendster, Yahoo, and Multiply).
For Friendster – and maybe for Plurk – perhaps a review of their feature offerings are in order, as well as a user study to explain the shifting of the tides. On second thought, this appears to have already begun.
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