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90 percent

90 percent of South Koreans under the age of 20 are reported to be registered on CyWorld.

The US version of this very popular South Korean network launched today, and despite a few technical hiccups, it seems to be off to a decent start. Not sure what people will think of the relatively tame functionality, though. The design will certainly will appeal to a limited set of users, but I imagine that those who like it will like it a lot. Acorns and little rooms filled with stuff.

CyWorld's situation reminds me a bit of LunarStorm, the very popular network in Sweden. They've had lots of trouble establishing themselves in the UK. So bad, in fact, that NMA just reported that LunarStorm has hired its third UK marketing director in eight months as it "struggles to make an impact on the UK social netowrking scene."

I met with some of the folks behind LunarStorm last year, and whist they knew they would capture the sizable Swedish expat audience in the UK, their biggest concern was trying to figure out how to tap the local market and not seem like an outsider.

Seems like LunarStorm has yet to figure it out. Will CyWorld? I have my doubts.

Why should we be surprised that popular social networks in one country/language/culture are not instantly popular in another?

Word of mouth and great referral marketing from member to member is what will drive adoption. If "foreign" networks can't make local connections easy for new members to make, it will take a lot more than three marketing directors to make things work.

If the usability and design of these imports are seen as "foreign" to those being invited/targeted to join, you may as well not even bother.

TechCrunch has some more details on CyWorld:
According to this report by Katie Fehrenbacher, CyWorld parent company SK Communications has set up a 30 person office in San Francisco, spent around $10 million to the US version and pledges to spend whatever it takes to be succesful in the new market. Still to come are a mobile play and music sales through CyWorld. The company already has localized versions in Japan, China and Taiwan. Localization for most of the rest of the world is in the works.

If MySpace and Facebook are struggling to define themselves as places that include young adults with money, how hard is that going to be for CyWorld? Perhaps in other parts of the world very young children make frequent micro-payment online purchases online (see Finlandís Habbo Hotel - $30m in twenty cent transactions), but I donít think thatís common practice in the US. Perhaps they are targetting the demographic of adults who love HelloKitty, perhaps Iím wrong and will be surprised.

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