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Tell me how often you ‘Like’, I’ll tell you where you’re from: A cross-language comparison of the use of the Like button (2012 version)

Twelve months ago, we carried out a study about Facebook Likes across 13 languages to determine which speakers were the most inclined to click on Facebook’s omnipresent Like button. The results brought conclusive trends that revealed the gap between some speakers very spontaneously clicking and others more reluctant to do so. A year has passed and we have carried out the same analysis, with the addition of Danish, to get an overview of how these 2011 trends have evolved in a different direction or remained as they were. What’s your bet?

Before we strip the numbers, some points we would like to mention:

We gathered the Facebook likes since adding the functionality in April 2011 until August 2012. Like Buttons are gathered by language ( operates by language subdomains).

The number of Internet users per country and Facebook users per country were taken from Internetworldstats. These are snapshots and quite recent numbers (December 2011 and March 2012 respectively) but they are not 100% accurate (we are comparing longitudinal Like button data with one-time user numbers). Nonetheless, we feel that the time frame considered is short enough to do this kind of comparison.

Our visitor numbers are based on Google Analytics. As we gathered the Like buttons by language we grouped the users this way as well. In some countries (such as Switzerland) many languages are spoken so we needed to make a choice which language group the country belonged to. We checked on the country level which language subdomain was used most and then added the country accordingly.

As we launched the Danish version of in October 2011, the Danish numbers suffer some slight disadvantage, yet it is still interesting to see how they are positioned among other languages.

Let’s see how many likes we’ve accumulated in 12 months:


Graph 1: Number of likes per language (August 2012)

Our sample consists of 21,817 likes as of August 2012 – over 4 times the amount we had a year ago (4,868 likes). Remember you can always compare the graphs with last year’s ones on the previous article.

So what’s new here? First of all Portuguese and Spanish have over taken the lead, leaving last year’s number one – English – on the third spot. There is also a huge decrease to notice from there on: the top  three languages have between 3,500 and 4,500 likes, leaving a huge gap to the next language – Polish – which gathers around 2,500 likes. Swedish and Dutch, albeit still rather small overtook Romanian and Japanese respectively compared to last year.

Let’s now have a glimpse of how many Internet users have a Facebook account:


Graph 2: Percentage of Facebook users per language (August 2012)

Turkish is still number one, far ahead of any other country. Spanish is still number two, while English speaking countries caught up on Italian ones. Newcomer Danish is a worth-mentioning number 5. Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal) reaches a whopping 55% this year, compared to 30% a year ago. German experienced an increase in similar proportions. Russian and Japanese are still to be conquered by Facebook, they shares are below 10% and still seem to be using respectively VK and Mixi more than Zuckerberg’s social network. Overall, Facebook is still on the increase for the past twelve months.


Graph 3: Number of unique visitors required per like (August 2012)

Using the data we have from of unique visitors over the given timeframe and the amount of likes across languages, we now know how many users we need to get one like. Russian is still the most clicking language; 1 like for each 825 unique visitor. Nonetheless significantly more than last year – about only 300 were needed. This trend can be observed in all languages: proportions are similar compared to last year, as are positions except for a few. It is becoming harder and harder to get users to like your product.

Next Romanian, English and Japanese are still rather willing to like, needing around 2,500 visitors for a like. Polish and Portuguese, which were in the top four last year are on the decrease, needing now over 3,000 users per like, twice as many compared to last year. Swedish is still the toughest crowd with over 7,000 unique visitors required to get a like, overtaking Dutch which was last year’s most reluctant language. Dutch, unlike most languages went drastically down from over 6,000 to 4,391 visitors. Danish is the third hardest crowd to please, just behind Turkish.

Towards a horizontalisation of clicking habits?

Table 1. Levels of difficulty to obtain Likes per language

On a scale from one to ten, how difficult is it to get a crowd to like you? A bit harder than last year on the overall, however the results are more homogenous. Russian is again the reference point (difficulty one, the weakest) and the difficulty extends to a mere 8.5 – last year it went up to beyond 16. As such, categories stand much closer to each other – spontaneous Likers (3-5 points), cool-headed Likers (5-6 points) and reluctant Likers (6 points and more). The largest amount of languages falls in the spontaneous category, while Italian, German, Dutch, French and Danish are more hesitant to click on the Like button. Finally, Turkish and especially Swedish are very reluctant “clickers”. The Italians and especially the Dutch are the communities that gained most clicking friendliness.


Graph 4: Facebook user penetration (% of total Internet users) compared to Like difficulty level in August 2011


Graph 5: Facebook user penetration (% of total Internet users) compared to Like difficulty level in August 2012

These two graphs display the development of the use of Facebook against the frequency in clicking the Like button. As mentioned earlier, the percentage of Internet users with a Facebook account is on the increase, with a few exceptions like French and Spanish speaking countries which seem to be more stable, even slightly down compared to last year. There also seems to be a normalisation in behaviour appearing across most languages: around 50% of Internet users are on Facebook and their clicking rates are a lot similar- between 3 and 6 on the difficulty scale – with the exception of Russia, Japan, Turkey and Sweden which have more atypical behaviours. In spite of its growing popularity in countries where it does not have the lion’s share, Facebook is still struggling to impose it product where other social media are already well implemented, like in Russia or in Japan. Korean and Hindi pages have so few likes that the data could not be used.

That evolution could be due to the fact that most Facebook users have a steadily better idea of how to click: informal norms have started to establish with the increasing presence of Like buttons on web pages.  Consequently a user will be more picky in its liking and it also knows that an excess of liked pages will generate a boring, overcrowded Timeline. Will this gap between language communities narrow further down next year? Likely, yet some cultural differences in use and preferences will hopefully prevail, avoiding the homogenisation of our social media habits.