Around the world, social media has taken off. While this is an exciting time for companies, for the global social media executive that means a lot of headaches as we try make sense of it all.

The gradual adoption, platforms that differ by region and the difference in penetration of mobile and broadband connections all mean that there are bound to be disparities in how and where people around the world connect via the social web.

Once upon a time, Universal McCann did a series called Tracking the Impact of Social Media that consisted of four “waves” of the study. You can grab them here:

I found these very useful reference tools as the web was evolving. In fact, I used to use some of the growth charts from Waves 2 & 3 in my presentations. But Wave 4 wasn’t quite as impactful as the previous two, and we had to wait a lot longer for it to appear.

As I was wondering about this fact, I happened to get an email from Tom Smith, who was the lead market researcher at Universal McCann who led these efforts. It turns out he left UM after Wave 3 (which explains the gap and the different feel). Tom has continued with his fine research and has his own company, Trendstream, which is doing some stellar work on the global implications of social media. In addition, they consult with global corporate social media teams to feed research into their local market and agency briefings, conference presentations or internal presentations.

Tom just let me know that his firm has recently developed the Global Web Index – as tool that, as Trendstream puts it, “provides anyone with the free of charge chance to view and play with the GlobalWebIndex data, and more importantly to start developing unique insights on social media.” You may need to click through to the site, depending on how the embed below renders on your monitor.

These are real data, available from January 2010. Of course, this is only the “lite” version; if you want to know more, please click through to the link for info on how to get the full set of data.

Is this useful to you? Do you see any trends or surprises in the data that are particularly relevant to how you do business? Please leave a comment below.

Photo credit: Bill Gracey (Flickr)