Local social networks across the world are under pressure by the spread of Facebook. Smaller, local players seem to be no match for the worldwide network. The question arises: Will they survive? A European case shows they can.
The big turnaround kicked off when Facebook started publishing in multiple languages in 2007. Two years ago Skyrock still was the undisputed champion of social networking in France, with Tuenti holding the title in Spain. By now, the American network can pride itself in having twice the number of users in France as Skyrock and about 1.5 times as many as Tuenti in Spain.
‘Two years, no longer’
In Germany, the popular StudiVZ Group remains top of the chart for now but Facebook is closing in fast showing impressive growth numbers. It’s a matter of time before it will top StudiVZ as well. Björn Hasse (Director at Edelman Frankfurt, Germany) said it best when he stated: “Let’s give it two years, no longer. The globals will win.”
There is hope however for brave little local networking sites. Take a look at Hyves in the Netherlands. The Amsterdam-based organization is showing encouraging endurance. Its market share continues to grow and one in every five pages visited in the Netherlands is a Hyves page. In a country inhabited by sixteen million people, Hyves claims an impressive eight million unique visitors a month with Facebook lagging at a mere 2.5 million (source: ComScore).
Despite being founded in the internationally oriented Dutch market, Hyves retains its dominance against global player Facebook and provides other local networks with an interesting business case.
What sets Hyves apart is its talent for making the most out of local trends and current events such as elections, national holidays and sports highlights. It successfully engages users in discussions and co-creation initiatives on the platform. Offline, smart partnerships with key Dutch brands and organizations like national TV stations and the Dutch national football team ensure visibility and emphasize the local relevance of the network.
Worth coming back
According to the statistics, Hyves offers more than half the country a user experience worth coming back for – and with that, a wealth of segmented target audiences for advertisers and social media strategists. It’s therefore not surprising that the company has been profitable since 2006.
In short: local networks can co-exist with Facebook and will continue to do so. Skyrock, Tuenti and StudiVZ are all cooking up ways to differentiate themselves from Facebook – as Hyves has. Local online networks will remain a force to be reckoned with when developing social media strategies.
Image credit: Vincos
Image credit: Vincos