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Social media has come a long way since its inception. It began as a simple way for communication as a user would send a basic email to another computer close by. Now, social media has transformed how people consume news and communicate with each other around the world. It has also empowered the masses, which before never had an outlet or an easy way to communicate and organize ideas. Before, top media companies controlled what issues would be covered, and the view that would be expressed. With social media, this idea is turned upside down. Millions of people with the same view can determine what is important and bring attention to the issue. Examples of this include the revolution in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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Social media has become the dominant mode of communication for the past few years.  This medium for interactive dialogue has not only augmented the rapid exchange of ideas, but also the global economy as a whole.  It has recently been in the news for increasing sales, creating jobs, and positively impacting overall economic of nations.

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As the date of the Facebook Initial Public Offering (IPO) creeps closer and closer, interest in the stocks of other social media companies has been growing.  This is especially true among social media companies that have recently begun trading their stocks publicly.  Social networking companies in the United States, as well as in Latin America and China have seen their stock prices increase significantly thus far in 2012.  As social media grows more and more popular, stocks in this industry are receiving a lot of attention.

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With many companies spending years building a brand and strong image among its customers, few would imagine this task can completed in a relatively short period of time. However, this is exactly what’s possible with social media. In the past years, businesses have increased their use of social media platforms to market products, build a dominant brand image, and interact with their customers. It has come to a point where businesses around the world are focusing less on endorsing their products in advertisements and more on promoting their Facebook page or Twitter account. Now the question is: How does the expanding social presence of companies impact business performance worldwide?

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It seems as if every recent news article and business discussion has some tie to social media. From stories going instantaneously viral due to the power of social media, to businesses using it as a marketing tool, to talks of social media companies going public; social media can be seen everywhere. What’s all the buzz about? That is what we are going to be investigating in this week’s Social Media Blog Series! The globalEDGE blog team will be exploring the impact that social media has on international business. Today’s post will provide an introduction into the world of social media and how we here at globalEDGE use social media in our new interactive site.

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In today’s technology driven society, web browsers are very important as people spend many hours using the internet for business needs or gathering information from sources around the world. A few weeks ago, Google Chrome became the most popular web browser worldwide for a single day, edging out the long-standing dominance of Internet Explorer. Claiming the top spot for only one day may not seem like a noteworthy event, but how Google Chrome was able to take the lead is very important in terms of international business.

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It appears that Saudi Arabia is attempting to become more open to foreign direct investment. Currently they are a large exporter of oil. Saudi Arabia exports about 9 million barrels per day of oil. Since oil prices are high this has benefited Saudi Arabia, but they are attempting to plan for a less oil dependent society in the future. In order to do this, they will need to diversify the types of businesses in operation in the country and work more with foreign investors.

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As economic globalization continues to make foreign markets more accessible, opportunities for small businesses to export abroad remain on the rise. In response to the ongoing global recession, the United States federal government has recognized the importance of small business owners, and the crucial aspect they play in a successful economy. Stemming from the government’s National Export Initiative, many small businesses have stepped out of American markets and found success through exporting abroad, such as the Patton Electronics Company.

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When globalEDGE released its Market Potential Index (MPI) for 2011, it’s no surprise that Asian countries dominated the top of the rankings. For several years now, countries in Asia have been considered the leading emerging markets in today’s economic climate. This year, Singapore found itself as the highest rated emerging market in the MPI rankings. Looking at Singapore, there are several factors that contributed to its success in this year’s rankings.

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Over the past years, free trade agreements have proven to be one of the most effective ways to open up foreign markets for businesses looking to export overseas. Trade agreements help reduce barriers for these businesses and eliminate costly tariffs on imports. The creation of more transparent trading promoted by free trade agreements also contributes to an easier environment for the exporting of goods and services. This past week, the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement entered into full force, creating many opportunities for increased trade between the two countries.

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Small businesses in China for a long time have depended on small firms, wealthy investors, and loan sharks for funding.  Some of these tactics, depending on the terms, are illegal, but often times have been the only source for small businesses in need of loans.  This is the case because China’s major state-owned banks focus on lending money to large enterprises that are owned by the state.  The Chinese government has recently announced that authorities are looking for ways to legitimize this informal-lending sector, in hopes of transforming existing underground lenders into licensed investors and potentially small-loan companies.

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Coface, a world leader in domestic and international trade receivable management, is hosting their annual Country Risk Meeting at the Sentry Center in New York City on Thursday, May 10, 2012.  Featured speakers include business leaders, economists, and forecasting analysts discussing the short-term economic situation on a region by region basis in North America for the rest of the 2012 calendar year.  They will focus on hot spots, booming regions, and the global economic power bases.  It is a wonderful event that spotlights major international trade and investment opportunities in today’s business arena.

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As globalization increases, small businesses are gaining many opportunities to export their products overseas. However, less than two percent of all United States companies export to foreign markets. With the National Export Initiative, the United States plans to turn this surprising fact around and double U.S. exports within the upcoming years. Small businesses can play a crucial role in helping the United States accomplish its exporting goals. In fact, some small businesses in the United States have already found success in markets abroad.

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Parisian influence is growing in Asia as French citizens pour into Hong Kong looking for economic hotspots in luxury retail, commercial and residential real estate, and business services. Recently, World Economic Forum rated Hong Kong as the world’s most developed economy.  The country’s booming economy, coupled with Europe’s debt crisis, has significantly increased the rate at which French citizens are immigrating to Hong Kong.  Since 2006, the French community in Hong Kong has grown by more than 60%.  But Hong Kong is not the only country where Westerners are flocking; mainland China, Thailand, Singapore, and India have been expanding rapidly as their markets open up.

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In an attempt to decrease its carbon footprint, China is asking its energy-intensive industries to reduce their energy consumption by a greater percentage than previously mandated.  These efforts by China are also a result of growing domestic and international pressure to decrease its reliance on fossil fuels.  Last year, China’s industries fell short of the government’s goals for lowering energy intensity and pollutant emissions, but the government is optimistic about firms meeting this year’s targets due to new and improved policies and controls.

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With concerns of a changing global climate, many countries around the world are looking for efficient energy sources designed to lower carbon emissions and combat global warming. One well-known energy project is harnessing the power of the wind with turbines to produce electricity. While many wind farms are built on land, offshore wind turbines are expected to grow rapidly as these climates are filled with constant driving winds. These offshore wind turbines hold great potential for the future of energy and new technology is changing the way wind farms operate.

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In France, those that have grown accustomed to downloading free, illegal music and videos from the internet have found themselves facing stricter government warnings and fines. Since the inception of the 2009 HADOPI law, which promotes the distribution and protection of creative works on the internet, French officials have noticed a sharp decline in illegal file-sharing. The three-warning system, which by the end of 2011 had sent out 822,00 warning e-mails, 68,000 second warnings, and 165 cases where offenders have been fined around $2,000 (USD), has had an immense impact on the music and film industries in France. Following the implementation of the law, French music industry revenues have been stabilizing, digital sales markets are growing, and iTunes sales have risen more strongly than in any other European country, most notably by bringing an extra €13.8 million a year worth of iTunes music sales into the economy.

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China has grown immensely in the global gold market. India has been the largest gold consuming nation for many years, but in 2012 China is predicted to take over the top spot. Chinese demand reached around 770 metric tons in 2011. This demand is a 20% increase from the previous year. This growth is strong, and experts see the demand continuing to skyrocket in China. There are several factors that have caused this increase in demand.

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With poor infrastructure, pervasive corruption, and widespread poverty, being an entrepreneur in a developing country in Africa can be quite a challenge. But to one Rwandan, a problem became an opportunity. Oliver Nizeyimana started a bus transportation company in the year before he graduated with a degree in management. As a student of the National University of Rwanda in Butare, it would take him a very long time to get to class, and he had an idea to start a bus company that stressed punctuality. He saw an opportunity and took advantage, but it wasn’t without many obstacles and problems to overcome.

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Africa is a land with vast natural resources, but they come at a high price. Africa is known for having some of the most unstable countries in the world. Even with these dangers, China has broadened its exposure in the region to secure the natural resources needed by the factories and businesses of the world’s fastest growing economy.