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The globalization of social media

Twittergate in Germany, Facebook adultery in Indonesia, and a big pile of Russian money.

We've seen Twitter used by political activists in the Philippines. The European Parliament has a Twitter feed to help drive interest in its elections. Twitter users have played an important role in the recent controversy over Guatemala's president.

In an attempt to ride this social networking wave, just about every news organization on the planet is experimenting with tweets and Facebook, including GlobalPost.

So the big question: Is social media here to stay? In three characters: yes.

Crazy growth like this — across Twitter, Facebook and local versions popping up in India, China and elsewhere — obviously indicates strong demand. And when people really want something, clever entrepreneurs almost always figure out a way to give it to them.

The other big, and perhaps more relevant, question is this: Can social media pioneers make any serious money?

So far, Facebook and Twitter have had challenges in that department. This week's Russian investment values Facebook at $10 billion — a tidy sum, to be sure — but that's $5 billion less than it was when Microsoft invested in the company in 2007.

Twitter, meanwhile, has only 45 employees to manage its skyrocketing growth. Oh, and it doesn't yet have a working revenue model, though it's trying mightily to develop one.

So this story, clearly, has a long way to run.

But when social media sites finally figure out all the financial aspects — and my bet is that they will — don't be surprised if you first learn about it in 140 characters or less.

Recent columns by Thomas Mucha:

The Great Recession of 2009

Reflections on the big, sick dog

A World of Trouble, the sequel