The Philippines as a Facebook Nation: We passed 20 Million in 2010, We’re #5 in the World.

Determining the Philippine Internet population has traditionally been a tale of chasing the “guesstimates”. The closest we had to a scientific effort to nail the figure were the studies published by the market research company AGB Nielsen. In 2009, they announced a figure of 20 Million online Filipinos that year, with a projected run up to 30 Million by 2012.

How Nielsen arrives at those projection is always a bit of mystery to me (surveys? projections?), but given the state of the Net in the PH, that might be understandable. Internet access isn’t just measured in terms of Internet ISP accounts since home usage is low (the usual scapegoat – low PC ownership is the oft-cited culprit), but Filipinos access the Internet in alternative ways, through cybercafes, school labs, offices, and mobile phones. The recent phenomenon of the USB dongle – inexpensive 3G modems with prepaid accounts that you can purchase on your own – adds another dimension to the equation. The dongles gives people their own unique “Internet key”. Even if they don’t own a personal computer, they can walk over to their friend’s laptop and plug in, and voila – instant netizen.

But there could be more reliable stats, and that could be in the form of the Facebook numbers coming right out of Facebook’s own advertising API. Facebook calculates the number of unique users for a country based on a combination of IP addresses and registration profile info. The Ad API presents these figures to the user when you select the option to advertise on Facebook. One of the most convenient aspects of this self-service method is that it takes the guesswork out of targeting an ad buy  – you can select a very specific demographic (such as all single males in the Philippines 18-24 years old), or you can select “all” for everybody in the country. The “All” selection returns the number of all users in the country.

The independent Facebook tracking service SocialBakers (formerly known as Facebakers) plugs directly into the Facebook Ad API and uses it as the basis for its country statistics. As far as the Philippines is concerned, we are now clocking in at 21,759,280 users as of today, for a penetration of 21.78% of the total population.

This puts the Philippines among the Top 5 countries on Facebook. And with our high growth rate, (6.2 Million users were added in the last 6 months) we’re #5 on the charts with a bullet!

When you drill deep into the PH stats, Socialbakers turns up all sorts of interesting profile info, like the male/female ratio (48% male, 52% female) and age distribution (44% of users are 18-24 years old).

If we consider Facebook to have a significant market share among Filipino Internet users (It is #1 in the Alexa rankings, and for a lot of people, Facebook *is* the Internet), the Facebook demographics give us an insight into the composition of Filipino netizens as a whole. Socialbakers itself estimates that Facebook is used by 73% of the Philippine online population.

You can argue about the accuracy about the stats coming from the Facebook API, but it does inspire more confidence about accuracy compared to surveys and projections. We can continue to guess that that there are between 20-25 Million Filipinos on the Internet today. But thanks to the Facebook stats, we can say with certainty that there are at least 21,759,280 Philippine users.

8 thoughts on “The Philippines as a Facebook Nation: We passed 20 Million in 2010, We’re #5 in the World.

    1. Well by that logic, Americans are the biggest time wasters in the world, and Indonesians are the biggest time wasters in Asia 🙂 Nah, the point of the analysis isn’t to trumpet the PH world rankings but to point our that because of the high penetration of Facebook usage among online Philippine users (over 70% of online pinoys in the PH) Facebook stats provide ready insights into both the total numbers of PH Internet users, as well as their behavior and demographics. And Facebook stats are up to the minute and can be said to be more accurate than the surveys and projections used by estimates from Nielsen research and other market research companies.

  1. this is a really excellent article, jim. it gives factual support to something we all know (with facebook dominating pinoy social space).

    i wonder if there’s a study on how social-savvy pinoys are. first texting, then friendster, then facebook. can also be related to the filipino diaspora. a way for us to stay connected considering that we are separated by geographical boundaries — both in and out of the country.

    1. There is – do a Google search on the “Universal McCann Third Wave Study”, a global study on social media behavior where the Philippines stands out. It’s a good read (PDF file).

    1. The figure is well over 22M now. I don’t know if this is a competitive advantage but two things stand out:

      (1) More Filipinos GET “social” – the idea of a social graph – that is now becoming ingrained in even enterprise computing and impacting online sales and marketing efforts. Since Facebook is mainstream, not too much explanation of the social graph is needed since people can relate to Facebook experiences.

      (2) With 22M on Facebook, it becomes very easy for a Filipino site or page to scale up and have a large user base thru Facebook activity – it is already typical for Filipino celebrities to amass 1M or more “likes” – companies and businesses are catching up. There is more traffic and engagement on Facebook than on the traditional web. This can only benefit online marketers or anyone who wants to use online as a base for communication – including nonprofits, NGOs, etc.

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