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Enjoy Istanbul with Marc Guillet

Turkey #1 as fastest growing Facebook market in Europe

14 Jul
2010
Written by Marc Guillet
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Computer use had a slow start in Turkey but the number of users is growing fast now. Social networking has an even higher growth rate. In January 2010 Turkey ranked number 1 in new Facebook users in Europe. An amazing 1,595,700 Turks joined Facebook that month!

In a country where one third of the population is online every month, Facebook has 21.5 million unique users from Turkey. That is to say 85 percent of Internet users in Turkey use Facebook. And 65 percent of them are between the ages of 18 and 34.

According to www.facebakers.com the UK still has the most Facebook users in Europe, at 25.7 million. Turkey is catching up fast with 21.5 million unique users.

The website Inside Facebook points out that in the UK about 40 percent of the 61 million people use Facebook. ‘It is one of the bigger countries to have this high of a penetration rate anywhere in the world. Typically, from what we’ve seen to date, countries’ Facebook growth slows as they near 50 percent.’

Turkey’s penetration rate is already at 28%. That’s number 2 in Europe, followed by France (24.3%) and Germany (8.1%). The potential for further growth is very high in Turkey because of its young, dynamic and eager to learn population. Half of Turkey’s population is under the age of 29 (36 million people). One quarter of them has the ideal Facebook age between 15 and 29 years old. That is a huge reservoir of potential social networking users.

 

The Turkish’ paradox is that although the Internet has been available in Turkey since 1992 the percentage of users connected to the Internet still lags far behind countries in the European Union.

The Turkish Information Foundation in Istanbul says around 34.5 percent of the population are Internet users. In European Union countries the average online usage is nearly twice as much at 65.3 percent of the population and 76.3 percent in the United States.

There are several reasons for the low usage. Most important is the high cost of high-speed access. That’s why internet café’s are so popular and numerous in Turkey. I see them nearly always full to capacity in whatever part of Turkey I visit.

Another possible factor influencing of the low usage percentage of Internet in this country could be the censorship by the Turkish judiciary of the World Wide Web. They closed down YouTube on the 5th of May 2008 and it is still in place. And in 2007 they banned the entire WordPress.com blog hosting website. There are several legal restrictions on the freedom of speech in the Turkish Criminal Code that also apply to the Internet.

“In its current form Law 5651, commonly known as the Internet Law of Turkey, not only limits freedom of expression, but severely restricts citizens’ right to access information,” says Miklos Haraszti, a representative on media freedom for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

He was amazed to find out that he was even unable to access the OSCE’s YouTube website while he was visiting Turkey. “Blocking access inside Turkey is an affront to the public’s right to the entirety of the Internet. Some of the official reasons to block the Internet are arbitrary and political, and therefore incompatible with the OSCE’s freedom of expression commitments.”

About 3,700 Internet sites are currently blocked in Turkey, including YouTube, GeoCities and Google sites. “Even as some of the content that is deemed ‘bad’, such as child pornography, must be sanctioned, the law is unfit to achieve this. Instead, by blocking access to entire Web sites from Turkey, it paralyzes access to numerous modern file-sharing or social networks,” said Haraszti.

Censorship doesn’t seem to be too big of an obstacle though. Even Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan joked in 2008 about the blocking of YouTube in Turkey and told a journalist: “I know how to get around the ban,” by using proxy servers and he urged everyone else to do the same.

But at the start of the summer of 2010 the Turkish government began an offensive against Google. Turkey’s communications minister, Binali Yildirim, tightened the ban on YouTube and cut access to a number of Google-owned sites. The minister accused Google of dodging taxes.

He said Google should open an office in Turkey and the firm should pay $20 million in taxes on revenues generated through YouTube in Turkey. He expanded the existing ban to include some Google pages that use the same Internet Protocol addresses as YouTube, to prevent users like Prime Minister Erdogan from circumventing the ban.

The increased censorship resulted in a storm of criticism from the media, the opposition and information technology groups, who are challenging the ban in courts. Even President Abdullah Gül joined the protests. On his Twitter account he said the Internet censorship was preventing Turkey from “integrating with the world.” He tweeted that he instructed officials to look into ways of overcoming the ban, including changing laws if necessary. “I cannot approve of Turkey being in the category of countries that bans YouTube and prevents access to Google” he wrote.

 

Chatting and social networking

 

In May 2009 ComScore.com released an analysis about online time spending in Turkey. From this report we know that Turkish people are using internet mainly for communication and social networking. Instant messaging was the most popular online activity accounting for 25.9 percent of total time spent online, followed by social networking (9.9 percent), online games (6.9 percent) and e-mail (4.6 percent).

 

Top 10 Online Activities in Turkey ranked by % share of total time spent online

May 2009

Total Turkey, Age 15+ – Home & Work Locations*

Source: comScore World Metrix

Activity       % Share of Total Time Spent Online

Total Internet       100.0%

Instant Messengers        25.9%

Social Networking         9.9%

Games        6.9%

e-mail         4.6%

News/Information         4.1%

Multimedia  2.7%

Search/Navigation 2.5%

Newspapers         2.3%

Sports        1.9%

Auctions     1.5%

All Other     37.9%

 

*Excludes Internet activity from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

 

According to Alexa.com most recent statistics of top using websites in Turkey, Facebook is in 2nd position after the Google.com. Twitter ranks 23 , Flickr.com is in 62nd position, and MySpace.com is in 83rd position.

Twitter is a younger platform than Facebook and its interface mainly depends on simplicity. Even if it lags the exploding popularity of Facebook, Twitter is fastly becoming a popular social networking platform in Turkey too.

According to statistics comScore shared with Webrazzi – Turkey’s most popular web technologies blog – Twitter.com got 2.1 million unique visitors in January 2010 from Turkey.

Twitter is attracting attention mainly by celebrities, other public figures, and journalists in Turkey. The number of users is rapidly growing.

 

Sex is still a taboo

 

Facebook’s explosive growth as it becomes the premiere online environment for young Turks has several reasons. Turks use Facebook to connect with their friends, share – personal updates, pictures, videos or simply an online article they find interesting – and organize their social life offline.

For Mirac Arslan , a student of Business Administration at Bogazici University in Istanbul, it is obvious why social networks are so attractive for young Turks. ‘Sex is still a taboo in Turkey. Traditional parents don’t talk about this kind of issues with their kids. Most of Turkish youth are uneducated about sexuality. Additionally there is a common opinion in traditional Turkish families and their Islamic values. Family ‘honor’ is crucial. Especially for their daughters. Girls cannot be open to boys. If they do neighbors and others will start to gossip about her ‘honor’ and that is what Turkish parents are most afraid of.”

Mirac, who is from the eastern provincial city Malatya, knows the do’s and don’ts of conservative provincial towns where most women still wear the headscarf to show their modesty. “In my city and other eastern towns you will seldom see young women and men walking on the street together. Because there are so many restrictions and family pressures op open teenage relationships that they go more online where they can chat in the privacy of their room or internet cafe. There they can escape from all the pressures.”

Another reason for Facebook’s success in Turkey is that you connect with ‘real people’.

Users create a profile with their real name and they share real photos. A problem of earlier social networking and dating websites in Turkey like Yonja, Hi5, or Siberalem was that you could open an account with a nickname and create a fake profile to attract more people. Mirac: ‘There were thousands of fake girl profiles in those websites and chat channels, just to attract Turkish young men.”

 

Businesses are discovering social media

 

Turkish companies are also discovering the advantages of social media ‘but two steps behind the general public’, says Rana Babac, an expert on online marketing and social media in Istanbul.

She points out the enormous potential for business to business networking but also to get their products to consumers. Eighty percent of internet users in Turkey use Facebook. “These figures constitute a huge marketing potential for companies”, says Babac. “Social networking websites are reliable environments where companies can chose who exactly to target their advertisements while they can get accurate statistics of how many people view their ads based on what age, gender, profession, education level, location their viewers are and what is more important – they would know how many people actually clicked their ads. The simple fact that companies can obtain so much reliable information about their ad campaign revolutionizes the advertising industry and provides businesses with cheap and effective advertising alternatives.”

However more and more businesses in Turkey start to realize the potential of social networking websites. Babac: “Especially the tourism industry, entertainment industry, or producers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods like energy drinks, dairy products, glassware, paper products, pharmaceuticals, are beginning to establish company pages where they interact with their ‘fans’ on a one to one basis. They announce new promotions, invite their followers to sponsored events, address complaints and generally try to remain present in the online social networks”.

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