Facebook is a massive, global social network, and the international makeup of its audience is only going to tip farther away from its home base in North America. Emerging markets, where Internet penetration is still rising fast, will drive the next big wave of growth for the social network. In particular, China, where Facebook is officially banned, is where BI Intelligence sees Facebook growing its user base fastest in the next years.
Nearly 87 million Internet users from mainland China use Facebook, and they account for more than 7% of Facebook’s entire global user base, according to an ongoing multiyear survey by GlobalWebIndex. This is despite the Chinese government’s ban on Facebook that dates to 2009.
BI Intelligence expects Facebook’s user base in China to explode in the next few years, as free speech restrictions become more lenient, the network is unblocked in certain “free trade” areas, and more people tap into the network using proxy servers which help them remain anonymous to surveillance. Right now, approximately 55% of Facebook users in China already rely on a proxy server to access the social network.
With only 21% penetration among the Internet population in China, Facebook could easily add another 100 million users from China alone over the next few years.
But it’s not all good news for Facebook as it becomes a bigger platform in the most populous country in the world. Few advertisers, if any, will want to target a population that in theory is banned from using the network. So it’s an open question how the social network will monetise its boom in Chinese users.