A recent social media study conducted by Forrester Research, with over 330,000 completed surveys from around the world, has reinforced figures on social media use in the US and Europe, while also giving readers an interesting insight into how users are approaching these tools in new and emerging markets.

The first piece of obvious information you can come away with from the report is that the overwhelming majority of social media users are classified as ‘spectators,’ in both the US and in the 7 European countries surveyed – UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden. In the US, the spectator category makes up 73% of users, while in Europe it drops only slightly to 69%. Creators account for only one quarter of their social media users, while ‘conversationalists’ are ahead of them only slightly, accounting for 36% of US users, and 26% of Europe’s users.

spectators Study shows China and Indias social media users are more engaged than US counterpartsThe US and Europe statistics don’t come as much of a surprise; not when, earlier this year, we’ve seen reports stating that more than half of Twitter’s content is produced by just 1% of its users.

The report does also show that the European social media market varies from country to country. Creators account for about 38% of Italy’s social media users, dropping to less than 20% in France, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands.

While Internet penetration may be low in countries like India, China, Mexico and Brazil, with users coming somewhat late to the social media party, they certainly have embraced that party with some of the highest social media engagement figures in the world. In these emerging markets, users aren’t signing up for their social media accounts and forgetting all about them. A minuscule 7% of online users in these countries are inactive social media members, in comparison with 14% in the US and 21% in Europe.

In fact, social media users in China and India couldn’t be approaching the exact same tools in a more different way to their western counterparts. Americans and Europeans have taken a very passive approach to their social media practices, choosing to consume information more than anything.

In China, 76% of the country’s social media users are creators, while in India the number increases to 80%. However, 96% of both China and India’s social media users can also be classified as spectators.

In Japan, however, the numbers are more in line with the European and American figures, if not lower.

Even when it comes to conversation, India and China are far more engaged than US and European social media users.

creators Study shows China and Indias social media users are more engaged than US counterparts

Japan is an interesting social media anomaly and veers far from the regional norm. Only 13% of Japanese Internet users visit Facebook on a monthly basis, but Twitter and other microblogging sites that afford them the choice of anonymity are more popular.

So what does all of this mean for the social media marketeer? Not only does each region choose to use a different social media tool, they’re using those tools differently.

Facebook and Twitter may be popular in the US and Europe, but in India, Orkut is the social network of choice, while in China, of course Weibo has the lion’s share of the social media market.

Digging in a little deeper, the study reveals that if you want to reach your audience, not only do you need to use the social network of choice, you need to localize your marketing strategy to suit each region’s distinct nature.

More importantly, the study reveals a huge, highly-engaged and untapped emerging market that is anyone’s for the taking. Social media campaigns rarely target countries outside of the US and Europe, but that is also where they are most likely to be met with open arms.

If you’re looking for consumer reviews, or for your audience to contribute to your content in any way, that’s far more likely to come from a Chinese or Indian audience, than from a North American one.

One of our own predictions for social media in 2012 is a significant growth in the mobile arena, and Forrester’s report echoes the same sentiment. Mobility and location awareness are coming into their own in the field of social media, with over 40% of Facebook users already using mobile apps to access the social network.