The Republic of Philippines (hereafter Philippines) is a beautiful archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. Due to its sunny and tropical climate, the country attracts many tourists even though there are numerous earthquakes and typhoons every year. The nationals, known as Filipinos, also love entertaining, singing and social sharing.
Google just opened an office in Manila on Jan 23, 2013 as they value its digital economy and tech-savvy population. The number of internet users in the Philippines is 33 million, which is almost a third of the nation’s population (103 million). Filipinos use internet to study, shop, search for ideas and jobs, and connect to the world. Internet access is mainly via computers at home or at an internet café.
Philippines is the fastest growing market for smartphones in South East Asia. Only 9.8% of the population have an internet access on their mobile device and 23.1% of mobile users subscribe to a broadband service (Oxford Business Group, 2012). However, mobile penetration was over 100% at the end of 2012. A study by Mobile Monday reported that Philippines is a mobile-centric country, along with Indonesia and India. Overall, the smartphone market offers a huge potential for marketers in this country.
Social Media Capital in the World
Social network penetration has reached 95%, with a significant contribution from Facebook which is now the number 1 site according to the Alexa traffic rank. The number of Facebook users is 30 million, the 3rd largest in the South East Asia (Social Bakers, 2012), and Twitter has 9.5 million users (KabayanTech, 2012).
The dominance of Facebook has made other local social networking services revamp their business. Friendstar was the most popular social networking platform in 2008. However, they redesigned and re-launched the site in 2012 as a social gaming platform. Friendstar currently has about 100 million users and 40% were from Philippines (Inquirer Technology, 2012).
YouTube outperformed in 2012 as 54.5% of Filipinos viewed YouTube videos (Tech Wire Asia, 2012). Out of the total audience numbers in Philippines, males occupied 54.4% share while the age group of 21-30 had 44% share. Online music videos were the most viewed and shared video type on YouTube. Filipinos also love to create their own videos singing karaoke and share them with friends.
The year of Fun and Pride in 2012
The Department of Tourism in Philippines successfully conducted a campaign in 2012, under the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines”. The campaign went viral and many people uploaded both fun and beautiful photos of Philippines and attaching memes such as “Angry Birds. More fun in the Philippines”. Even during the monsoon season, Filipinos had a sense of humour; photos displaying people relaxing or swimming on a flooded street were shared online and you can see some examples here.
I had a little concern on what Filipinos actually would think about this campaign. A marketing specialist from Philippines said, “Filipinos are giving their piece of mind and showing testimonials on reasons why it is more fun in the Philippines…I have seen testimonials whereby negative situation (i.e. flooding) can turn out to be a fun experience for others. As mentioned, I think it’s the attitude of the Filipinos that makes us unique because we can easily adapt to whatever we are faced to – negative or positive.” (MA.Pia Patricia Arciga, a Marketing & Communication Specialist at B&V Water)
In December 2012, Filipinos showed great enthusiasm in supporting Janine Tugonon online, who was the first runner-up at Miss Universe 2012. Filipinos were very proud of her and extremely excited to share their happiness on a Filipina being judged the 2nd most beautiful woman in the world through social media channels. Janine Tugonon actively responded to her followers on Twitter. Religion is an important aspect for Filipinos as 82.9% are Catholic (Mundi, 2012). One of her tweet highlighting her appreciation for God’s grace had 575 retweets and 436 favorites at the time of this writing. The Filipinos’ beloved boxing champion Manny Pacquiao boosted discussion on Miss Universe 2012 since he lost in his boxing match. Filipinos wanted to turn their sadness from the match into happiness and celebrate the achievement of Janine Tugonon.
Going forward in 2013
As the Philippine general election in 2013 is scheduled for May 13, the first half of 2013 will be full of discussion on political debates on social media channels. Additionally, the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign will continue in 2013 and the online spillover effects can be expected in other South East Asian countries.
The number of internet users in Philippines will rise up constantly and social media channels will become more crowded. To step into the Philippines market, you need to acknowledge a) internet users in Philipines are already experts on technology and social media and b) the cultural sense that Filipinos consider religion to be important as well as understanding how to find happiness in their lives. Being humorous and sharing hope would make your marketing strategy more successful in Philippines.
Thailand, officially named as the Kingdom of Thailand, is located at the center of Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia, surrounded by Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. The population in Thailand is the 11th highest in Asia at 69 million and the country is always busy with foreign travelers, who love the wildlife and nature.
The number of internet users in Thailand is 20 million as of June, 2012 according to Internet World Stats. Of these 20 million, the young age group of 15-24 years old makes up the largest group which is 45%. Thailand is also the biggest online gaming market in Southeast Asia, as market size is forecasted to reach $132M by 2014.
Because of low broadband penetration in Thailand, there is a surge in demand for using the mobile data service. Earlier in 2012, Bangkok Post reported that the spread of smartphones and tablets has accelerated the volume of internet users. Most online traffic was from Apple’s iPhone and iPad, followed by Nokia, BlackBerry and Samsung devices. The smartphone and tablet penetration is expected to reach 25% and 8% by the end of 2012.
State Of Popular Social Media Channels in Thailand
Like many other countries, social media has become very popular over the last few years in Thailand. The user bases on Facebook and Twitter grew quickly and more recently this has continued to grow, but at a slower rate.
Facebook has 18 million users in Thailand at the time of this writing (Social Bakers, 2012). Game features on Facebook contributed mostly to the dramatic increase of the user base. Thais have also become known for taking photos of the tasty food and beautiful places in Thailand and uploading them to Facebook – giving many of their non-Thai friends good reasons to travel to Thailand! This has helped local restaurants and tourist attractions to increase their level of popularity.
Hi5 was the most popular social networking service in Thailand before Facebook surpassed the number of users in 2010. It’s popularity is decreasing; however, Hi5 still remains popular among young people in Thailand.
Twitter, the popular microblogging service in Thailand, has become a channel for citizens to express their opinions and ideas. On December 5th, 2012, tweets celebrating Thai King’s 85th birthday peaked with some hashtags including #WeLoveKingThailand with 103,607 tweets, #ทรงพระเจริญ (Long Live the King in Thai) with 41,497 tweets and #WeLoveKing with 26,987 tweets for the day (Richard Barrow blog, 2012).
As the number of videos shared online is increasing in Thailand, YouTube acquired a large user base and is the most popular video sharing website currently. Duclip.com, the local video sharing website, is far behind in popularity.
Social Media Campaign Tips for Thailand
Many people wonder what language to use for Thai social media campaigns. Many companies in Thailand use English when launching a social media campaign at present. Thais can speak and write English very well in general, though I have observed that most people use Thai, the national language, when commenting on a brand’s Facebook page or tweeting about brands. The use of dual-language is recommended for international brands, while the geo-targeting posts with Thai would be beneficial for the local brands or brands targeting Thais.
A few notes about using Twitter as a social media marketing channel. When Thailand had a general election in July 2011, the Thai government banned any of the social media campaign on Twitter for one and a half days during the vote. Thailand is also the first country to agree with Twitter’s new censorship policy for removing certain tweets that break the local regulation in January 2012.
I believe that targeting young people and smartphone users is a key to planning an effective social media marketing campaign in Thailand. Also, keep in mind that local posts on Facebook and Twitter can be used to attract foreign travelers to Thailand. Language usage and local restrictions should always be under consideration as well.
There is tremendous room for social media marketing to grow in India and I have decided to look into this market next.
It is not surprising that India has the third highest number of Facebook users in the World (60 million) since it is the second most populous country in the world. What has made Indians adapt social media into their life rapidly?
Internet Usage in India
India has the second highest number of internet users in Asia. According to The Times Of India, out of 121 million internet users in India, the female population accounts for 40% and 75% of women are in the age group of 15-34 There is also a rapid growth rate of new internet users in India (41% in 2012) which Live Mint forecasts will push the 121 million mentioned above to 350 million in 2015. As penetration increases from the current 5%, it is even possible that India becomes the largest Facebook user country in the world.
The mobile market in India is also growing rapidly and BBC reports that 59% of Indians access internet via their mobile devices. Moreover, the number of mobile subscribers is anticipated to reach 800 million by the end of 2012 (Gartner, 2012). The proportion of mobile subscriptions is high at 70% in India and the average mobile data speed in India is better than China and the US. Nevertheless, 96% of the entire mobile subscribers have prepaid phones which only make calls or text messages without internet services due to the poor internet connection in a rural area. Furthermore, India has the lowest smartphone penetration rate among middle class and industrialized countries (The Economic Times, 2012).
Which social media channels are popular?
In line with the high popularity of Facebook, there are other social media channels we need to pay attention to in India. As I stated in a prior article on Social Media Platforms & Language Preferences, Twitter and LinkedIn are popular with over 15 million users in India. Orkut, the Google’s social networking channel, dominated the Indian market before Facebook overtook it in 2010 (ComScore, 2010). Although Orkut has seen its daily visitors drop by about 86% over the past year, it still has a large user base in India (though many are inactive). Importantly, the use of online video in India is rising. YouTube has 56 million visitors from India with approximately 4 billion videos watched per month, of which 25% is via mobile devices.
What is the biggest challenge for social media marketing in India?
Even though the Indian market is growing fast, only 2% of people in a rural area use internet (BBC, 2012). While there is a niche of people who purchase luxury brands such as Mercedes Benz and Louis Vuitton, The Wall Street Journal reports that more than half of Indians are working to earn one dollar per day. So, it is important to target the specific range of Indian consumers and decide whether to use social media to promote a value-conscious price brand or a luxury brand.
A deep understanding of Indian culture would help embed a brand into Indian society. Standard Chartered found out that their credit cards were used primarily for food purchases. The bank also noticed Indians love to talk about food online. In March 2011, Standard Chartered launched a Facebook page, Indian Food Explorer (IFE). This is not only for promoting their credit card, but is also creating a food community. The result was successful. Light House Insights reports Standard Chartered’s fan base reaches more than 700K and is mostly from the big cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Are you struggling to attract Indians for your social media marketing strategy? First, you should prepare for the fast growing mobile market in India and continue your effort on video content. Second, I would recommend re-formulating the segment being targeted. And remember that young people are crazy about Facebook in India, much more than other countries.
If you’re going to focus on Asian countries from the social media perspective, Indonesia is one of the important markets to begin with. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia is now the most active city in the world in terms of posted tweets (contributing 2% of all geo localised public tweets), according to Semiocast . The Asian continent has the highest number of all Facebook users and Indonesia (with 50 million users) ranks second here as stated by Social Bakers.
Indonesia is the 4th populous country (237 million) in the world, which comprises 17,508 islands. Even with low penetration rates of personal computers, the internet user base of 55 million people makes it one of the world’s biggest communities in social media (Internet World Stats, 2012).
What Has Made Indonesians Fall In Love With Social Media?
Facebook and Twitter are important platforms for Indonesians to have their voices heard not only on issues of social justice, but also for indicating personal product preferences.
Based on all these numbers, you may be surprised to learn that internet speeds in Indonesia are the slowest in the world. The average Web page loading speed on desktops was 20.3 seconds in Indonesia (Bloomberg, 2012). Since penetration of personal computers and household internet access is low, Indonesians rely on Internet cafes and mobiles to be active on social media.
The availability of low price smartphones and free internet connection plans have caused mobile internet access by Indonesians to increase significantly over the last 2 years from 48% to 58% (Media Buzz, 2012). BlackBerry smartphones still have a high popularity in Indonesia despite the huge loss in market share they are suffering elsewhere in the world. This is partly driven by the popularity of BBM as the text messenger.
In the future, Indonesia’s economic growth and expanding middle class will likely boost the mobile penetration rate even higher. Demographically, it is a young country and the largest segment on Facebook (at 20M) as well as the segment recording the largest growth is between the ages of 18 to 24 as per Social Bakers.
Some examples highlight the importance and usage of social media in Indonesia. This year, we saw the #indonesiawantsHarryPotter movement on Twitter after the announcement that the latest Harry Potter movie would not be screened in Indonesia. Fans expressed rage and enthusiastically amassed public support for the film release on Twitter. Emma Watson, the main actress of the movie also tweeted in support of the crowd. Angry Birds, the popular mobile game, chose Jakarta as the host city for its global launch of the Facebook version in February 2012. This is indicative of the city’s importance for the social game.
What About Content?
Local language is important since the majority of Indonesians use Bahasa Indonesia on Facebook. However, more Indonesian bloggers are posting in English nowadays (SMU Wiki, 2012). Due to the internet environment discussed above, photos and messages would always be favoured more than videos. My first impression when I go out with my Indonesian friends is that they take lots of photos like crazy and then share them on social media immediately!
To conclude, Indonesian people love to talk, share and tweet. Therefore social media will be an important tool in the country and can only grow in importance over time. It should be focused on the young age group of 18 to 24, smartphone applications and photo contents. Posts in the local language Bahasa Indonesia are important as well.
In order to improve social media effectiveness, a multi-national company needs to be aware of the various launguage-specific social media platforms, developed from different cultural styles in each country. Let’s take a look at these platforms and how language preference varies within different countries.
Facebook and Twitter have cross-continental reach and dominate global social media usage, occupying 955 million and 500 million users respectively. Facebook is currently (as of August, 2012) available in 70 languages and Twitter in 30 languages. This includes right-to-left languages, such as Arabic and Farsi.
Beyond the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, there are local social media platforms that are more popular in specific countries because of language advantages. For example, Mixi is one of the market leaders in Japan, and Sina Weibo leads the Chinese market.
The most popular Social Media channels are as follows:
- China: Sina Weibo, Youku, Renren
- India: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Orkut
- Japan: Ameba, Mixi, Facebook, Twitter
- South Korea: Cyworld, Facebook, Twitter, Blog.me
The difference in popularity of the social media platforms in APAC would be relevant to the preference of Japanese and Chinese customers who purchase products from localized channels. It leads us to infer that they also prefer to chat within localized online communities in their own languages.
Although English is the universal language of the Internet, any social media strategy for the Asian market needs to take into consideration the local diversity of languages.
According to the research by Lionbridge, language preference in social media varies within countries. Many non-English speaking countries showed a higher preference of their own language over English. China was the strongest at 86% preference for content in simplified Chinese. On the other hand, it is interesting that 94% of Indians preferred English rather than Hindi, even though Hindi is the 5th most spoken language in the world. It must be noted that this particular research did not cover a few key Asian countries, such as South Korea or Japan, which also tend to show a higher preference for local languages.
It is evident that local language selection is crucial for social media when conducting business globally. It helps to build trust and ownership of the community among local residents. Even though there are differing national preferences for social media channels, Facebook and Twitter may still be used as single multi-national platforms for social media. It was observed that some companies use local languages on their Facebook and Twitter in several ways:
- Post both in English and in local language of the country
- Use local language in the header or the profile, although posts are in English (or both)
- Geo-target a post when using local language
Efficient language use would be a key driver for the engagement, especially for countries with a high preference for their language such as China, South Korea and Japan.
Lionbridge, 2010. Global Social Media Usage and the Language Factor [pdf]
IABC, 2012. Connecting the World Through Social Media [online]
Infoplease, 2012. Most Widely Spoken Languages in the World [online]
 Hindi in this paper encompasses multiple dialects in India.
Before You Drive Engagement, You Must First Understand The Numbers
The number of internet users in Asia is over 1 billion as of 2012. The countries with the highest Internet access rate in Asia are Japan, China and South Korea.
Facebook Dominates Social Media in Japan and South Korea
Japan and South Korea have a high Internet penetration rate at 80% and 82.7% respectively, as well as the fastest broadband speed in Asia (Internet World Stats, 2012). It is not surprising that Facebook is showing a solid growth in both countries.The number of Facebook visitors in Japan reached about 17 million in May 2012. This is an increase from about 8 million in May 2011. In South Korea, the use of Facebook increased from 2.6% in November 2009 to 39.3% in May 2012; while Cyworld, the popular domestic social network service has experienced a 17.1% decline during this period (Nielson/NetRatings, 2012).
A notable social media trend in Japan and South Korea is mobile access because of the easy accessibility of Mobile Internet and prevalence of smart phones. In Japan, 72.1% of Facebook users access Facebook via mobile phones (Mobile Marketing Daily, 2012). 1 in 5 South Koreans own smart phones and the country’s mobile penetration rate is 85.4% (Moonlight Marketing, 2012). These results are also linked to video usage on mobile phones. The percentage of video sharing over smart phones is 59% in Japan and 51% in South Korea (Search Engine Journal, 2012). The use of online videos is imperative, in line with the integration of various social media channels such as Pinterest and YouTube.
China Leads In Users, But Social Media Works Differently
China has 513 million Internet users – the highest number of Internet users in Asia. Social media in China works differently as Facebook and some foreign websites are banned (Mashable, 2012). Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo and Renren are leading Chinese social networking sites to keep an eye on. They have 324, 337 and 147 million users respectively (Tech In Asia, May 2012). Although Tencent Weibo has a significant number of users, Sina Weibo is considered to have more active account users than Tencent Weibo.
The reason for the rise in popularity of Social Media Networking sites in China as it is for the rest of the world is connectivity. According to ADMA (Asia Digital Marketing Association), other factors mentioned for going online were “Networking for work”, “Stay in touch with friends” and “Update my friends with my life”.
In view of that, celebrity effect has a strong effect in China, as people prefer to be connected with their favorite stars. Tom Cruise has 4 million followers on Sina Weibo, one million more than Bill Gates; on the other hand, Tom Cruise has half the number of followers on Twitter than Bill Gates. This shows that adding a celebrity element to a social media campaign would drive engagement in China quickly. For example, a company can invite celebrities to an offline campaign and ask to post their experience at the venue mentioning the name of the company with a hash tag on their Sina Weibo account.
It is important to choose the appropriate content and channel (i.e. Facebook vs. Sina Weibo vs. Cyworld), and localize a social media campaign for Asia.
Stay tuned to our blog to learn more about Social Media in Asia-Pacific including keys to understanding the different Asian cultures when marketing in Asia.