Facebook in Turkey: What Makes Turkey #1?

MapTurkey

In honor of Turkey Day, today I will be talking about why Turkey is the number one fastest growing network on Facebook.

Thanksgiving is primarily about two things: Turkey (or good food in general) and social networking (reconnecting with old friends and family and meeting new people). This entry is about the exact same thing: Turkey and social connections– on Facebook.

Recommended reading: “Israel Facebook Network Goes Viral: Cultural Reporting from the Front Lines” (I will be referring to it frequently in this entry as the basis for discussion and to determine what we know and what we don’t about Facebook networks and exponential growth.)

Fastest Growing Networks of Facebook: Turkey & Israel

As I wrote about earlier, Turkey and Israel are the number one and two fastest growing networks on Facebook. We deduced that Israel’s Facebook penetration depends on three primary factors:

FlagIsrael

  1. English literacy– even though Facebook is enabled for Hebrew and Arabic scripts, the menus, navigation, and applications beyond these insular communities require dexterity with the English language and alphabet both as a reader and writer
  2. Facility with technology– known worldwide for its technological expertise and the technological saturation of the population as a whole, Israel is considered a very adaptive culture and population
  3. Cultural role of social networking– Israel is widely acknowledged as a communal society where connections are key to social functioning. Facebook enhances and feeds into this inclination

What can we learn about Turkey and Turkish young adult culture that would lead us to similar insights? Let’s figure out what there is to know.

Facebook’s Turkey Network

Let’s examine the basics.

  • Facebook’s Turkish network at time of writing: 1,124,590*
  • Language: Turkish (distinct language, but written with Latin alphabet like English)

* It has grown to 1,129,750 by the time I publish some hours later. That’s a growth of 5,100+ over about four hours, higher even than Israel’s 1,700 for the same period of time. What accounts for numbers that high?

Please note that unlike the Israel network where conversation is in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, I can’t tell you anything about the content or activity of the Turkey network because I don’t speak Turkish.

About Turkey

FlagTurkey

Now let’s look at Turkey itself to see if what we can learn about its potential for technological integration when it comes to social networks like Facebook.

According to the CIA Factbook, one half of Turkey’s population is under the age of 29 (35.55 million people). One quarter of those individuals are between the ages of 15 and 29– prime Facebook age. That’s 17.755 million potential social networking users based on age alone. From here we can narrow it down to more realistic numbers.

Literacy in Turkey is 87% with 95% for men and 80% for women. (It pains me to think that 7 million Turkish women can’t read.)

The population is 99.8% Muslim (mostly Sunni), but the government is a democracy with universal suffrage. Everyone over the age of 18 can vote.

IslamMinarets3

I would like– but do not currently have– figures on internet usage in Muslim countries as opposed to non-Muslim countries. I include this piece about religion because religion and its institutions often dictate social mores on freedom of expression, which is critical to our understanding of internet usage, especially as it is applied to social networking.

Economically speaking, we can assume that those living in poverty or in severe economic situations do not have access to technology. We know the following: 20% of Turks are living in poverty and 14% are unemployed or underemployed.

Technologically speaking, there are approximately 19 million land line phones, 43.6 million cellular phones, and 12.284 million internet users– this is quite a juxtaposition to think that relatively so many have have internet of those who are technologically able. (I curious to know how usage breaks down by businesses, homes, etc.)

It would be safe to say that these numbers are growing rapidly and are likely outdated since the time of the last survey (2005, 2006).

What the Numbers Mean: Prospects for Turkey

But these numbers alone don’t do enough to distinguish Turkey as the number one fastest growing Facebook network. What more can we learn?

Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman tells us that while Facebook is the 7th most visited website in the world, it is the 5th most visited site in Turkey.

TurkeyScenic

Wikipedia tells us that Turkey is home to four “Facebook clones” that operate in the Turkish language: OrtaKantin.com, StudentSN.com, Unihayat.com, and YouniTR. Rumor of a Google buy out of the Student Social Network (StudentSN.com) has been making the rounds this fall, but to date, its administrators say they have not been contacted for discussion.

Student Social Network co-founder İbrahim Tarlig estimates that Turkey has a potential 5 million social network users overall. This is of course applicable to Facebook as one of the outlets for social networking.

Conclusions

So why is it so hard to make conclusions about technology penetration in countries like Turkey? For one thing, the data is outdated as soon as it hits the page. Wikipedia’s Facebook entry was last edited in August 2007 and it is that data upon which everyone relies. However, the numbers contained therein no longer apply.

Wikipedia’s August assertion that London, England and Toronto, Canada are the largest networks at 1.7 million and 966,000 each are blown out of the water by Turkey and Israel’s October and November Facebook growth. (Take a look at Jeff Pulver’s chart in my Israel Facebook entry for the line item comparisons of fastest growing networks.)

How then can we learn what is happening and what we can expect without getting a PhD in technology and its associated fields? Certainly it would behoove us to learn English, Hebrew, and Turkish as well as being culturally fluent in all three cultures.

ToDo

Perhaps for those of us interested in technology and the future of social networking Facebook should publish a monthly report of progress and patterns.

While it seeks like a lot of work to aggregate and analyze all that data on an ongoing basis, this reporting would be an invaluable source for understanding both present and future patterns, as well as technological integration by country, region, and custom.

In the meantime, the best we can do is pay attention, watch the trends, and try to figure out what is happening and why. Time will answer our questions.

Credit

Images credited to the following sources: map of Turkey, flag (attributable to multiple sources), mosque and minarets, snow scene, piled papers (multiple sources). With thanks.

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28 Responses to Facebook in Turkey: What Makes Turkey #1?

  1. Gurol Dogantan says:

    Dear Sir,
    There is one more important thing why facebook is so popular in turkey. That is the media coverage of facebook in Turkish televisions and newspapers. Everyday for last 3 months there were news telling how people find school friends, celebrities in facebook or even about illegal sex connections. And let me give some info about figures. There are 16 million internet user in Turkey out of population of 75 million. There are 3,8 million broadband subscriptions. And this figures are rising. And the last thing is turkish people likes to keep connections alive with remote friends. Facebook seems to be filling this requirement. Besides size is always matter. Now everybody can find most of his/her friends on the network.
    Regards

  2. thenewjew says:

    Dear Gurol,

    Thanks for your comment and for giving us a firsthand perspective of what it is like in Turkey.

    Do you personally feel like everyone you know is on Facebook, or at least online, because I can tell you that in Israel, the number of people joining social networking communities each day astounds me.

    Why do you think Turkey’s technological integration has outpaced other countries so significantly? What is it that makes Turkey special in this way? I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

    Maya

    P.S. I am a woman.

  3. arkebion says:

    Hello,

    This is an IT professional from Istanbul/Turkiye.
    ok, let me update your information with some fresh data:

    residence-wise internet penetration in Turkiye is 18.94%.
    Which means every house out of five has internet. The popullation is 75-80 million and if we presume 2 people in avg. using internet in a house this makes apx. 28 million users. Broadband internet (adsl, hsdsl, leased-line, cable, metro etc) user ratio is 78.03%. ( http://www.turkstat.gov.tr/PreTablo.do?tb_id=60&tb_adi=ICT%20Usage%20Statistics&ust_id=2 )

    The intresting thing is these numbers have been reached all of a sudden in 2 years. i think the reason is the amount of invesments recently made in this area.

    i can’t find any info about the user count growth for Turkiye but network member count seems to be 1.5 million right now. And it is totally understandable. As Mr. Dogantan said media and also the word of mouth is the base factors of this growth. And also i think the hipe has reached to an end for Turkiye at least facebook-wise.

    At first i was astonished by the number of people joining to the social networks like facebook or yonja. but now i can understand the motivation. First people are afraid of internet in Turkiye. (because of what if’s around personal information security) but now community is getting enlightened by the internet and media. So we can hear more news about IT (esp. internet) growth from Turkiye.

    Last words are about the democracy in Turkiye. Let me give you a little tip: This site, i mean wordpress.com and all of it’s subdomains cannot be reached from any location in Turkiye using Turkish Telecoms DNS servers due to a court arbitrament.

    Emrah

    P.S. i found your blog looking for the ranking info for facebook network-growth and i have no data but hopes now ;)

  4. thenewjew says:

    Wow, Emrah, great info. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

    Why isn’t WordPress accessible in Turkey?

    All the best in 2008,

    Maya

  5. arkebion says:

    You’re welcome.

    as i said it is because of a court decision. “some guy” sued (i am not writing the name because his men can sue you or me too :/ ) a sub domain because of a content with violation of his personal rights. After that the ultra-intelligent court have restricted the access to whole site.

    As i learned early today, sedat kapanoglu (sozluk.sourtimes.org) has sued the “decision” itselft ;) and now the site is accessible.

    i don’t beleive in the space and time space-time continuum, but all the best from Turkiye too ;)

    Emrah

  6. Maya Norton says:

    Dear Ekrem,

    I’m not sure that’s entirely true as Turkish and English use the same alphabets therefore Facebook would be fairly easy to adapt to the Turkish community as it could create its own organizations, profiles, etc. all in Turkish (it wouldn’t be the fastest growing community if it couldn’t provide that).

    On the other hand, as noted above (although I’m not sure all the links are still working), other social networking communities have done quite well with the Turkish population, both in Turkey and abroad.

    Thanks for your comment,

    Maya

  7. Tankut T says:

    Hi,
    First, I should say this is an interesting review, then I want to mention two things, one of them completely irrelevant.
    Let me start with the irrelevant one (you can skip to the next paragraph), the mosque picture you used seems to be from Iran, I can hear you saying “wtf? don’t waste my time with that”. I think it’s worth mentioning, because the dome and the minaret in the picture would look ridiculous to someone who spent some time in Turkey. I can guarantee you that not a single mosque in turkey looks like that. (I warned you!)

    Secondly, I come across to “99.8% Muslim” statistic in almost every article I read about Turkey from a foreigner’s point of view, and sometimes from Turks’ point of view, too. It’s like saying all the German people (all the minority religions subtracted) are Christians (would be a close-to-accurate data a hundred years ago). It’s a totally ridiculous piece of data, and for a reason. I guess this data is collected regarding the “Religion” field in the Turkish ID cards, and it almost always says “Islam”, unless the person states otherwise after they turn 18, or they’re of some other ethnic origin. The funny thing is, nobody dares/cares to say he/she does not want to be labeled as a muslim, I’m not even mentioning how stupid it is to have religion field. I personally think (without any sort of official proof), 90-95% (practicing, non-practicing, secular..etc all together) would sound better (didn’t make much difference eh?)

    good luck,
    tankut

  8. Ercu says:

    The reason why Turkish people don’t use wikipedia much is that, they have their own social knowledge sharing systems. such as ek$i sozluk, http://sozluk.sourtimes.org

  9. [...] “Facebook in Turkey: What Makes Turkey #1?” – One of my top posts [...]

  10. Maya Norton says:

    A reminder that I can only accept comments posted in English. Thanks for your consideration.

    ~ Maya

  11. Maya Norton says:

    Sorry, but only comments in English will be accepted. This comment is being deleted.

    ~ Maya

  12. What an interesting point of view on this topic. I am glad you shared your thoughts and I find myself agreeing. I really appreciate your coherent writing and the effort you have spent on this post. Thanks for the solid work and good luck with the site, I look forward to future updates.

  13. Thanks for the solid work and good luck with the site, I look forward to future updates good.

  14. Nun says:

    C:\Documents and Settings\pk\My Documents\My Pictures\me.jpg.

    I have been waiting for this turkish guy. He can alive shortly as illness. please let me know. Hope to hear someone whome knows him “Facebook ID is Ibrahim Yarpuz” MSN is “meanmachine_76@msn.com. I have worried about him very much. Thank you.

    • Maya Norton says:

      Sorry, Nun. I don’t know him.

      ~ Maya

      • Nun says:

        Thank you very much Maya, please let me know some information how can I find the people in Turkey while I know not much about “meanmachine_76@msn.com” because we know via internet, but this’s my the best sincerity to him…you can say “it’s not my business” but I think you won’t and I will try more and more although I might hear he leave from us forever.

        Thank you advance
        Nun

  15. RA says:

    I love turky and people

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