Inside the Numbers: Facebook’s Third-Largest Country, Indonesia, Uses English Heavily

[Editor's Note: The following stats are excerpted from Inside Facebook Gold, our membership service tracking Facebook's business and growth around the world. Click here to learn more about our complete data and analysis offering.]

In this month’s language stats, we’re focusing in on Indonesia, which recently became Facebook’s third-largest country by monthly active users and is poised to pass the United Kingdom for second place. Because it’s growing quickly, Indonesia’s importance for marketers and localization of apps is quickly rising.

We recently looked at country-by-country language data on Facebook. While each country with a presence on Facebook tends to have its own primary language, it’s also common for countries to have a number of less significant, secondary languages in use. In the United States; for instance, between one and two percent of users, totaling over 1.6 million users, access Facebook in Spanish.

Beyond the US, the shares of secondary languages quickly become much larger, with English usually remaining a significant presence.

In particular, language demographics become rather complicated in Asia, where users often choose to surf the web in English. That’s certainly true for Indonesia’s Facebook audience:

Although English usage fell over the month from 21.7% to 21.34% of Indonesia users, that’s still a huge chunk, much larger than we’d typically see for a secondary language in Europe. For example, English is only used by 5.2 percent in France, Facebook’s fifth-largest country.

But it turns out that Indonesians are cultural stalwarts in comparison to others in their region. Here’s how Indonesia’s percentage of Facebook users who load the site in English compared to four neighbors:

This data is not perfect; for instance, we can’t tell whether users are choosing to interact with Facebook in English, but communicate with their friends and family in their native language. This could be a habit developed while using the mainly English-language internet over the years, and simply preserved on Facebook.

However, there are a few more things we can tell about this large population of English users. Here’s how they break down by age, just in Indonesia:

These splits between age groups tend to reflect Indonesia’s predominantly youthful audience. However, there’s an interesting phenomenon to pick out: it’s actually Indonesia’s older users who are more likely to use the site in English. Up to the age of 25, some 17 percent of Indonesians are using Facebook in English, while 30 percent of those over 25 use the site in English. The likelihood of using English increases as the age group gets younger or older.

For a country like the Philippines, in which almost all users are already accessing Facebook in English, it is difficult to get a clear picture of how language demographics are changing, if at all. Indonesia’s stats, though, suggest that the Asian audience will likely move to using their own languages over time as more young users join the site.

All of this article’s metrics on population, age, language and more come from our data subscription package at Inside Facebook Gold. Learn more about this service at gold.insidenetwork.com/facebook.

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11 Responses to “Inside the Numbers: Facebook’s Third-Largest Country, Indonesia, Uses English Heavily”

  1. Florante says:

    It is not surprising to see that Philippine Facebook users have the highest percentage when it comes to the use of English instead of the official Philippine language which is Tagalog. For one, the medium of instruction in majority of Philippine schools are in English and the cultural proclivity of Filipinos are influenced by “Americanized” mentality. Although local dialects and the official language is also widely used in FB, English is the preferred language of communication as well as the less formal form called “Taglish”.

  2. Artha Wiguna says:

    The site translation in Bahasa Indonesia is poor and confusing. No wonder we Indonesian prefer it in default English language.

  3. This Week’s Headlines on Inside Facebook says:

    [...] Inside the Numbers: Facebook’s Third-Largest Country, Indonesia, Uses English Heavily [...]

  4. » Spring Creek Group :: Blog – Stats & Info in Bullets: SCG’s Weekly Social Media Digest Volume 1 says:

    [...] English version of Facebook is used in many non-english speaking countries: Philippines (98.7%), Singapore (94.6%), Malaysia (78.8%), and Hong Kong [...]

  5. Evan says:

    “This data is not perfect; for instance, we can’t tell whether users are choosing to interact with Facebook in English, but communicate with their friends and family in their native language.”

    _ I agree with the “not-so-perfect” Facebook translation to Bahasa Indonesia. The other factor that causes English interface preference is because most people are already used to use the English interface.

    Regarding to what I quote here, it is true that almost all Indonesians that access English Facebook do communicate with their friends with Bahasa Indonesia, sometimes with a occasional and very little use of English. Though they chose to use English Facebook, they still favor interacting in Bahasa Indonesia. The use of English is much much lower in Indonesia than in Malaysia, not because of incompetence but more of “historical customs”. Malaysia was colonized by the Britain, whereas Indonesia by the Netherlands, which is why Malaysians tend to speak more English.

  6. Dewara says:

    English word translations to Bahasa Indonesia are usually confusing, that’s why while we comfortably use English Facebook but use Bahasa Indonesia in everyday use instead.

  7. How mobiles will drive social media in developing countries says:

    [...] Indonesia is Facebook’s third biggest market after the US and the UK. And Philippines is often referred to [...]

  8. PHILIPPINES says:

    PHILIPPINES IS THE MOST USERS OF FACEBOOK IN ASIA

  9. How To Market To Latinos With Social Media | NewsTaco says:

    [...] Farm Latino, that has the text mostly in Spanish. This seems off, as I said, because only about 1.6 million people in the U.S. use Facebook in Spanish, and as the Pew Hispanic Center has reported, most Latinos in the U.S. are English [...]

  10. 2.7 Million U.S. Facebook Users Speak Spanish | NewsTaco says:

    [...] as one of their languages, this according to the company’s own add tool. About a year ago, Inside Facebook reported that there were 1.6 million U.S. users who used Facebook in Spanish. All told, Facebook’s ad tool shows there are about [...]

  11. 2.7 Million U.S. Facebook Users speak Spanish : La Plaza says:

    [...] as one of their languages, this according to the company’s own add tool. About a year ago, Inside Facebook reported that there were 1.6 million U.S. users who used Facebook in Spanish. All told, Facebook’s ad tool shows there are about 140 [...]

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