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Mistakes and misconceptions about social media in Asia. You’ll be surprised by how little you know! Don’t get caught out

Two years ago social media advertising revenue worldwide was $7.5B. In two years time it will be twice that. If you had this return on any shares you owned, you’d be pretty happy! Break this number down for closer inspection and analysis and we see a marginal increase in North America, a dip in Western Europe, and low and behold a big kick in the Asia Pacific. Interestingly, the money won’t come from where you might think. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest etcetera, well they have their work cut out for them in Asia. Indeed, I’m going to suggest you can’t name a single social media site from China’s 10 most popular. This is the biggest country in the world and this cultural fragmentation of the social media phenomenon is telling! For all the Tweets and Likes in the world, those we know as the big boys in social don’t even rate a mention in some crucial markets. Remember this Blog post syncs directly with my last one, East of what? Getting a regional comms program right! The point I am articulating is, the sheer size and scope of the Asia region with its 4.3B people speaking 2,197 languages in 52 countries, means getting social is all about getting sophisticated.

Nielsen’s survey on the changing Asian media landscape reveals that more than 60 per cent of respondents profess to the influence of social media – an average much higher than mature markets like Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The top four Asian nations are in fact Vietnam, China, Thailand, and the Philippines. To contextualise this, 91 per cent of the online population in China has an account on a social media site, compared to 67 per cent in the US. This is an astonishing reality check if ever I’ve seen one.

So, what does this mean to you? Well, like the geography and the population, it’s a BIG question! Too big of a question to deal with adequately here, so let me break it down by the top four nations, which represent no less than 1.6B people, or 22 per cent of the world.

Vietnam: Twenty-five per cent of the population of Vietnam is under 15 years of age. In fact 53 per cent of the internet population is under 30 years old. It makes sense then to learn 81 per cent of online Vietnamese consumers use social media to make purchase decisions. This willingness to embrace digital means Vietnam is a breeding ground for social innovation. Zing, a home grown social media site, is case in point. It is neck and neck with Facebook with about 12M people using the service. Youth is fueling the addiction to social media channels in Vietnam but this is very resolutely opposed by the Vietnamese Government who will next week ban the discussion of politics, news and anything else that doesn’t fall under its definition of “personal information” on social media.

The new law, known as Decree 72, will make it a crime to use social media for anything other than to “provide or exchange personal information”. The head of Vietnam’s Broadcast and Electronic Information Department is reported to have said “individuals should not quote or share information from press agencies or websites of government agencies”.

This collision of interests is sure to cause much on-going debate and has been heavily criticised by the digital community. It is certainly a key factor for consideration for any comms pro in the region.

Check this out for even more interesting data points!

China: With 41 per cent of China’s population under 30, it is probably little surprise to know China now has 564 million internet users and 420 million mobile web users. Further still 58 per cent of smart phone users browse social media sites in China, compared to a lowly 43 per cent in the US. Suffice to say, social is a big deal in China, despite Government censorship.

As eluded to earlier, the main sites used in China are also different to what you might expect. As an example, there are more than 70M users of professional social media services in China. Amazingly though Tianji, Dajie, and Ruolin are the top three, with Linkedin barely scraping the surface.

Twitter too has a low profile, despite micro-blogging being huge. Instead, a word you should get familiar with in China is Weibo (微博). It is the Chinese word for microblog. It refers to social chat sites and platform sharing. Sina Weibo is just one of these services. It has over 230,000 companies that have a presence on it. It also facilitates 60,000 government accounts. Like Twitter, Sina Weibo has a 140-character limit but as these generally correspond to syllables rather than single letters, the hot tip is, you can get more information out in a “Tweet/post” than you would normally on Twitter.

Here are 10 Chinese social media sites you should be following! And for some other good stats, click here.

Thailand: Bangkok is many things to both adventurers and locals. It’s fair to say it is a centrepiece to a host of tales. The saying ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’, might no longer apply there however. Intriguingly Bangkok is the city with more Facebook users than any other city in the world and Suvarnabhumi Airport and Siam Paragon are the top two most popular places in the world for Instagram posts. Might make some think twice about what they get up to there and goes to show the power of social in the country. When compared to many other Asian nations, Thailand is more closely aligned with Australia and other Western countries that have adopted the more broadly recognised social media services, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

As the fastest growing social media platform in the country, Instagram has grown 163 per cent in the past 12 months to approximately 600,000. Facebook, while still the largest platform with 18M users, has slowed slightly as it has transitioned through the maturity cycle, with 28 per cent growth. Furthermore there are now two million Thais on Twitter, who on average tweet five-and-half times a day.

For more detail on social media in Thailand, take a look at this.

Philippines: 
Eighty-three per cent of Filipinos are members of a social network. This has resulted in Filipinos generating the second largest amount of content on social networks worldwide. In the Philippines Facebook has 400M registered members, but Twitter has an incredible 500M, growing at an amazing rate of 11 users per second. That might surprise you, given only 51 per cent of Australians are on Facebook while 17 per cent are on Twitter.

With over 8M Filipinos using the internet, and 7M of them visiting a social networking site at least once a month, you might also find it interesting that the seemingly forgotten Friendster has remained reasonably popular in the Philippines.

Seventy-one per cent of active Filipino internet users say that social networks are integral to their social lives, still 76 per cent have also expressed concern for the amount of personal data they share online. This could be attributed to the country’s Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. While this law has some support, in the sense it was established to penalise people for committing illegal acts online, it has come under criticism for the criminalisation of ‘libel’, which is believed by Filipinos in some quarters to curtail freedom of expression.

For more social insights on the Philippines, you’ll find some other good info here.

All in all, social in Asia is fascinating and rapidly changing. The only thing that won’t change is your need to give it your undivided attention!

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

One thought on “Pitfalls and tips – getting social right in Asia

  1. Pingback: East of what? Getting a regional comms program right! |

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