Where is Facebook’s Chinese-Language Population Heading? A Look at Future Growth and Reasons to Invest

Editor’s note: The following data is an excerpt from Inside Facebook Gold, our research and data membership service covering Facebook’s platform and advertising ecosystem.

Nevermind China’s country-wide block on Facebook; the Chinese language is still the ninth-largest language on Facebook, thanks to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. Chinese is growing at a steady pace, and it’s beginning to draw the attention of some of Facebook’s biggest players.

Zynga is a case in point. Two weeks ago, the top social gaming company published a Chinese-language version of Zynga Poker, one of its flagship apps.

But rather than trying to reach China with the new game, where Zynga Beijing helped localize the app, the company settled for a release to Facebook’s 11.5 million Chinese-language users.

There were likely several motivations behind Zynga’s Facebook launch. The first is that China is not an easy market to push into, for a foreign company. The Chinese government requires that outside entrants be partially owned by a Chinese company — a hurdle that Zynga may not want to cross until it’s sure the project is worthwhile.

Luckily, Facebook can provide a great litmus test for entering the mainland. Hong Kong is an administrative region of China, while independent Taiwan is still culturally close (and often claimed by China as a province).

On Facebook, Zynga Poker will be competing for this cuturally Chinese audience, with actual Chinese game developers like Elex and Boyaa, which has its own successful poker game. The results should tell it how it might do in China.

There are other reasons to enter Facebook’s Chinese-language market beyond just testing for China itself, though.

The second is that the Chinese-language user group will likely contain more social game players, proportionately, than a similarly-sized group of English or Spanish speakers. Among the 11.5 million Chinese-language users, a large majority are visiting Facebook just to play games, judging both from what we’ve heard and seen in user behavior.

Additionally, these are users who not only play games, but spend freely on virtual goods within their games experience (as a side note, the virtual goods industry is estimated to surpass $5 billion this year). So, the East Asian user base is not only growing but also valuable. Here’s a rough estimate of how the Chinese-language market could continue to grow into next year:

The total population of Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan is around 35 million users, so there will obviously be some upper boundaries to growth; however, localizing existing games looks like a winning proposition from here.

As for the users themselves, our look at the performance of three apps in Taiwan earlier this month shows that there are more differences.

For instance, the average age of users playing the largest three games is around 27. In the United States or another Western country, the average age for a give group of apps would likely be a decade higher.

These youthful users, who have a strong propensity to put their disposable income into online activities, may also be cheaper to acquire than their counterparts in Western markets.

Here’s a look at cost-per-click ad rates across the three big Chinese-language markets:

For developers that do want to move their apps over, a Beijing office isn’t necessarily vital; some publishers in the region are offering localization services to Western developers, including Hong Kong-based 6waves, which we interviewed on the subject in July.

The full Facebook Global Language Report is available through a membership to Inside Facebook Gold, which also includes monthly data on total global audience growth and demographics. To learn more or join, please visit Inside Facebook Gold.