Social media in the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) has largely been dominated by social networks other than Facebook. Russia has Vkontakte.ru; China has RenRen.com; and both Brazil and India have enjoyed Google's social network Orkut.
However, in the past year we've seen Orkut's last frontier of dominance quietly being wiped out by Facebook in Brazil and India. Brazil has seen Facebook grow nearly threefold, from 6.5 million users six months ago to 16 million users as of this month, according to SocialBakers.com.
We're seeing a similar situation in India as well. I don't know about you, but roughly 20 percent of my Facebook friend requests these days are coming from Indian connections.
India accounts now are one of the top five countries on Facebook. Either there is some serious outsourcing going on, or Facebook is getting phenomenal growth in usage -- nearly doubling over the last six months.
Is it just the ill fate of companies like GeoCities, MySpace, and many others before it who move away from being proactive and become reactive and docile when they get bought big conglomerates? When does this start to happen and is there some kind of Moore's law to be discovered?
So while trying to answer my own question, I popped over to Google Trends to understand when Orkut's demise began in both India and Brazil.
In India, it looks like it started around the first half of 2009 with Facebook wiping out Orkut by the first quarter of 2010.
Now taking a look at Brazil, the trends are showing massive Facebook usage starting around the middle of the fourth quarter in 2010. If this wipeout rate mirrors India in an any way, Facebook should be the most popular Brazilian social network by the end of the third quarter 2011.
So what is it about Facebook that's driving these massive populations to start using it at such an astonishing rate?
The Viral Effect
Getting introduced to Facebook from your email when your friends invite you to join, certainly helps create users. However, it's the photo tagging that really gets the "cool factor" experience going.
When you can tag your buddies and comment on past experiences, it drives conversation and social interaction. Photo tagging also builds the profiles up on new users. Even though Orkut added the feature in 2008, it never caught on as well as Facebook.
Lack of Privacy
Nothing new about Facebook. It depends on the lack of privacy in order to grow. If someone wants to be public (by default) then they are; if they don't want to and can figure out how to control their privacy settings, then users are given that ability.
If you want to search for profiles without logging in, no problem. But try doing the same on Orkut -- it's impossible.
Social interactive games, like Farmville and Mafia Wars, are highly addictive and encouraging more people to utilize the social networks as a forum for gaming. There are tons of studies showing that about half the time spent on social networks are contributed by these free applications.
Orkut was never developed around third party application integration like Facebook. This is probably due to not providing social sharing plugins and modules these applications depend on in order to function.
As both Brazilian and Indian brands are driving users to "Like" and join their fan pages as well as offering discounts, Orkut doesn't provide the ability to create a page for business promotion.
Even though Orkut can claim they want to be pure in social networking, many brands reflect the identities of their followers. Adidas, for example, exemplifies a certain "cool factor" for following and liking it.
Will Vkontakte.ru and RenRen.com Fall Next?
It will be tough. Not only are you looking at different characters (Russian Cylliric and Simplified Chinese) there are other factors to consider.
Vkontakte.ru is proactive and it works around the language and encourages social interaction. RenRen.com is nearly a carbon copy of Facebook, however with Chinese regulations and privacy controls, Facebook (if ever unblocked) may not be allowed to have the same type of interactivity and messaging which makes it so popular.
Orkut may be able to maintain some of its users left in Brazil for now, but the clock is certainly ticking when people get tired of updating both profiles.
Moore's law states that computer technology doubles every 18 months. In the case of Facebook, Zuckerberg's Law should state that social media connections double every six months.
Considering many of us watched the mass exodus of people to Facebook from MySpace, Bebo, StudiVZ , and now witnessing Orkut's deterioration, I have a law myself: "social loyalty dissipates every 4 to 10 years."
With that said, goodbye, Orkut.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!