Thursday, 24 May 2012

Facebook Vs the Great wall of China; Penetration could see Mark Zuckerberg overtake Slim Helu.

More than 900 million users, 300 million photos uploaded everyday, available in more than 70 languages and a valuation of close to $100bn (£60bn), Facebook surely isn't new to staggering figures. Just last week, it pocketed $16 Billion in one of the largest IPO debut for an internet company. Mark seems to have conquered the world, but just one place remains. With a population of over 1.3 billion, The PR of China's sole usage of Facebook could rake in more billions for Zuckerberg than the current user figures. Well, we know Zuckerberg aint after the money (says who?) but Facebook Inc cannot continue to ignore the impact that Chinese infiltration would have on it as a brand. And to think that facebook has no users in China? Quite suprising, but #dassorai!
Facebook has an uphill task of melting down the great wall especially as it will be looking to expand to justify its valuation and China has some 500 million internet users. Analysts say the longer Facebook takes to enter China, the harder it will become for the firm to crack the market. With more than 500 million internet users China is seen as key to Facebook's future growth. If the Chinese market is invaded, I solidly do think Facebook would be able to keep up with its IPO evaluation.And to do that, Mark, Sandberg and Co would need to go back to the drawing board to map out new strategies. It wold be a great mistake to think that just because they are Facebook, they'll just be able to break into the Chinese Market. No way!
China is in a world of its own. The Chinese already have a thriving and fast-growing social networking market and the sector is controlled solely by domestic players. Yes, Homegrown. The so-called Great Firewall of China means Facebook cannot be accessed from within the country. Local players such as Renren and Sina Weibo have been given a head start in the market, given the suprising absence of Facebook (and Twiturrr!). Renren which is often labelled "China's Facebook" has 154 million users while Sina Weibo, a local equivalent of Twitter, has 300 million, more than twice as many as Twitter. Can you imagine that? While Facebook and Twitter are celebrating success stories on their expansion, I don't think they are truly global if 1/3rd of the World's 6 billion population is yet to be covered.That means a big part of Zuckie's dream to 'connect the world" is still missing, and evidently so. Definitely, with the current emotional attachment that Chinese internet users have for their own locally made portals, Facebook and Twitter would have a real tough task, especially with the issue of censorship.
"It is highly unlikely that China will unblock Facebook anytime soon, given that the country is going through a leadership change and some politically sensitive times”
says Duncan Clark of BDA. Social networking sites played a key role in recent political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa, and given the political state at China and how it wants to guard its interest, the door to Facebook now seems to be shut more tighter than ever.
Currently, some internet users get to break China's firewall by using virtual private networks. However, their numbers are quite negligible. The vast majority access social networking through the Chinese system and that means the companies and administrators need to censor the information that is uploaded.(I personally do think this is such a great idea, especially now that we are trying to "curb some excesses" on social media sites). They are required by the authorities to block or remove any material that may be considered "sensitive". If Facebook wants China to allow access to its website, it will have to abide by these censorship rules. Facebook is sure wary of this, given the current trend on social media. But I strongly think Facebook should compromise at least, if they are to keep up with its huge 'IPO expectations". But the problem will be with the Users outside China. How would they react to the fact that their beloved Facebook would compromise just to enter the Chinese markets. Sure if this compromise was  to happen, there would be some stain to  Facebook's image, but nothing explosive ever begins easy. Or Is there any other way round this for Mark and Co. I strongly believe so.
China is big enough to have its own brand of Facebook. So why doesn't Mark and Co give China its own 'version of Facebook'? China is so big that it justifies having something different, something Chinese enough to match its rules. Just like the popular Chinese restaurants which span the globe, China can have it own social networking food cooked the way She wants it.
So what if Facebook can't conquer China? Then it has to turn over to improving its mobile offering, and probably stick out a leg into telecommunications by launching its own mobile devices and tablets. Facebook has to in one way or the other keep up to its Post-IPO era, and to do that, it has to be a little bit just "more than a social network". It has to create an indispensable nature, just like Google. Nobody searches for anything on web without using Google. Facebook should strive to reach that level of 'indispensability". The company has already listed the sector as a risk to its future growth saying that it does "not currently directly generate meaningful revenue" from its mobile products--a key reason for the Post-IPO lawsuits.  With more and more people accessing the site through smart phones, it is an area of concern. And even if Facebook were to conquer China, they would still have need to Upgrade their revenues via mobile, cos obviously the "world is now pocketed", even in China.
Some quarters maintain that Facebook may find it easier to increase its revenues from mobile subscribers, than to enter and be successful in the Chinese market. They say that a substantial jump in mobile revenue will also help it offset any lost opportunities in China.(Personally, I do not think so)
However, while Facebook may be able to financially make up for its lack of presence in China, its vision may remain unrealized. Mark Zuckerberg wants to connect the world - that is his vision - if Facebook hasn't got China, he hasn't connected the world. So it now comes down to making a choice---Keep the vision OR make more revenues. Well, before May 18 2012, Zuckerberg could have gone with the former. He may still control a large chunk of the incorporation but Facebook is now 'a public network/company". Mr Zuckerberg, your investors aint no more interested in just "your vision", but how much their FB shares can yield them dividends also. So I say,
"Improve the mobile platform and look on how to enter China. It's possible to kill 2 birds with one stone, especially if both birds are close to each other. Just use a big stone"

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