Facebook use is fairly high among expats, even in regions where internet penetration is in the single digits; click to enlarge

A majority of expats use Facebook as their social network of choice, according to HSBC’s 2011 Expat Explorer Survey. Even in countries where only 3-4% of locals use Facebook over half of expats are on the site a couple times a week.

Overall, 69% of expats use Facebook and 52% use it once a week or more. LinkedIn came in second at 40%, followed by Twitter at 14% and MySpace at a meager 2%.

But can businesses targeting expats turn this trend into cold hard cash?

The good news is Facebook ads increased in effectiveness over the last quarter. According to data from TBG Digital, click through rates (CTR) were up 18.5%, and cost per click (CPC) down 10.8%. Generally speaking ads were doing more for less.

But it’s not all roses. According to TBG, the industries with the highest CTR are:

  • Beauty & Fitness
  • Food & Drink
  • Entertainment

While travel was #5, other industries that traditionally target expats (such as Jobs & Education and Finance) came in at the bottom of the barrel. And though CPC improved in the third quarter, the improvement followed a 74% increase in the second.

So though expats’ love of Facebook makes it look like an ideal choice for ad campaigns, figures show some of the industries most likely to target them are less popular with users. And the high CPC rates ensure Facebook advertising is still a costly proposition.

Marketers are well advised to consider alternatives before defaulting to a Facebook ad campaign just because “everybody’s doing it.”