In Beijing, Facebook on the Radio – Not My Phone

I am in Beijing on business and find it difficult to access my social media favourites. Twitter is erratic. Facebook is not available. Some say it’s the wireless access at the Fairmont Hotel. Others say it’s the Great Firewall of China.

Yet here I am in traffic on my way to Kreab Gavin Anderson’s offices in China World Towers. The top of the hour news is that Facebook has priced its IPO (initial public offering) shares at US$38 each. Commentators are saying it’s over-valued. There are likely to be investors from China.

Yet here on the street, few can access Facebook. Those that do use VPN (Virtual Private Networks) available privately for a small fee or in many offices.

China is renowned for blocking access for most citizens to global social media sites. In their place local equivalents have gained traction. There’s no Twitter but Weibo reigns supreme. You can’t get YouTube but you can get Youku. Across the spectrum of social media sites there’s a Chinese equivalent.

For Facebook investors, the premium paid today is done in anticipation of an increase tomorrow. Right now the revenue forecast by Facebook for Greater China is US$0.00. That’s the total estiamte of potential earnings for a nation of 1.2 billion people – most of whome are electronically connected and mad for social media.

For some the investment in Facebook today is a worthwhile bet on the day China opens to outside sites. The citizenry is wired. They already have strong social media habits. There’s an immense amount of time spent daily on similar sites. And of course the IPO has raised awareness. It was the lead story on the local radio station in the taxi today.

Facebook isn’t available “on the streets” in China today. The day it is, expect a tsunami of take-up. That may make the US$38 per share seem relatively affordable.

Until then, I’ll wait to udpate my status until I return to Hong Kong.

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