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:
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- “Syria Says No to Facebook: Bloggers Talk Back”
- “Israel Facebook Network Goes Viral: Cultural Reporting from the Front Lines” (linked above)
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