Asia-Pacific Connections Pte Ltd

August 2010

 

Social media is a global phenomenon that is changing the way we interact socially using web-based technologies to enable interactive communication.  Whilst the U.S. pioneered most of the Web 2.0 initiatives, Asia-Pacific quickly followed and has helped in shaping the new media landscape.  In Asia-Pacific, the key adopters of social media are Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and Singapore.

As social networking is now the leading Internet activity around the world, it is worthy to note that online behaviour in this region is more differentiated by market than in other global geographies.  A study by comScore in February 2010 revealed that Internet users in Asia-Pacific averaged 2.5 hours per month on social-networking sites, with 15 visits to various sites each month.

In addition, social-media adoption rates in the region surpass Western counterparts.  As of December 2009, Neilsen CR reported that China reached 221 million bloggers – twice the number of bloggers in the U.S.  The same study showed that South Korea’s high broadband implementation has almost reached 100 per cent of homes and businesses; whilst Japan is leading the world in terms of mobile engagements.

 

Australia

According to Nielsen’s 2010 Social Media Report released earlier this year, online Australians are rapidly increasing their social-media participation, with content sharing being the most popular social-media activity.  Australians spend an average of seven hours a month on social-networking sites, compared to the global average of five and a half hours.  Almost three quarters of Australian Internet users log onto social-networking sites to view profiles and 37 per cent use these sites daily.

Facebook is the dominant online social-networking site in Australia, with 8 million users spending an average time of 8.19 hours a month leading the Asia-Pacific region.

Twitter is the fastest-growing social-media platform in Australia with adoption increasing by more than 400 per cent since 2009.  Almost 25 per cent of online Australians read Tweets in the past year.

Nine of ten Australian Internet users look to fellow online users for recommendations and new information when considering new purchases (word-of-mouth marketing).  And 26 per cent of social networkers are using mobile devices to access sites.  The Neilson report confirmed that younger consumers are more likely to participate in social networking via their mobile phones, with 66 per cent of mobile social networkers being under 35 years old.

 

China

 Established as the world’s largest online community, China’s Internet population grew to 384 million at the end of 2009, a rise of 28.9 per cent from 2008.  According to Resonance China, the most popular social-networking site in China is QZone, which has 310 million users, and its IM service, QQ, has 50 million concurrent users.  QZone was created in 2005 by Tencent – China’s principal Internet service company and the third largest in the world after Google and Microsoft.  Tencent’s one billion accounts increased the company’s revenue to US$1.8 billion in 2009, compared to Facebook’s US$700 million revenue in the same year.

Local services are by far the top choices for China’s Internet users: Tudou is used in place of YouTube for streaming up to 300 million videos a day, Renren is generally preferred over Facebook with 200 million users; QQ is the instant-messaging platform of choice; whilst search engine, Baidu, operates in the absence of Google.  Despite the struggles with online censorship, Resonance China reported that local social networking continues to flourish with 321 million music downloaders, 272 million instant-messaging users, 221 million bloggers and 222 million citizens creating and uploading videos online.

 

India

There are 52 million active Internet users in India, with 20 million who log onto the Internet daily.  Internet Marketing Journal advised that Google-owned enterprise, Orkut, is the most popular social-networking site with 16 million users in July 2010, followed by Facebook with 7.5 million users that month.  However, it is predicted that Facebook will overtake Orkut as the top social-media platform by the end of 2010.

Aside from aggressive marketing, the increase in Facebook’s Indian audience has been attributed to its creativity in developing local-language versions including Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.  The launch of the simplified Facebook, Facebook Lite, has also enabled parts of the country with low Internet bandwidth to access the portal.

Professional networking sites like LinkedIn also have a strong following in India with 1 million users – representing 12.2 per cent of the LinkedIn global community, second only to the U.S. (Alexa.com).  In addition, marriage websites like Shaadi.com are popular in India, whilst blogging is comparatively less popular.

 

Japan

Three quarters of Japanese social-network users access the sites only from their mobile phones, with 3G penetration at 95 per cent of the market.  In Japan, homegrown social networks dominate because of the English-centric focus of most U.S. sites.  In addition, Social Media Today confirmed that mobile social networking drives a different type of site and different consumer uses.

Mixi is Japan’s most popular social-networking site.  Launched in February 2004, 13 per cent of the Japanese population is reported to be a member of the site, amounting to over 17 million members.  According to Alexa.com, Mixi is ranked in tenth position in terms of overall site traffic in Japan, whereas Facebook is ranked in twenty-first position.  Membership to Mixi is exclusive to Internet users with a valid Japanese mobile number.  As Mixi tends to provide premium content and features at a fee to users, billing is easy since fees can just be added to the user’s mobile phone bill.

Japan constitutes the second largest community in YouTube.  Statistically, the U.S. leads with 22.8 per cent of site traffic, followed by Japan at 6.9 per cent.

In Japan, gaming tends to be central to the user experience. Whereas Facebook and Twitter mostly serve to exchange content, many Japanese social networks have a strong gaming element that attracts and connects users.  TechCrunch stated that Mobage-town, a virtual-gaming platform owned by DeNA, reported nearly 15 billion page views last year in a mobile-only environment.  The availability of free games – coupled with interactivity such as exchanging messages, chatting in communities, sharing music, and reading pocket novels and blogs – boosted the site to be one of the most active platforms in Japan.

Korea

More than half of Asia’s cities with the fastest Internet bandwidth are in Korea, driving Internet usage to 33 million or 67 per cent of the population.

This Internet-savvy market with local-language needs presents an interesting case study where native social-networking services dominate.  Cyworld is Korea’s most popular social-networking site owned by SK Communications, with about 18 million registered users as of August 2010 – accounting for more than a third of the country’s entire population.  This is contrasted sharply against the 1.7 million Facebook users in South Korea in the same period, according to Facebakers.

Me2Day is Korea’s local microblogging platform that was launched by NHN Corporation in February 2007.  Drawing more than one million users currently, NHN aims to achieve five million users by the end of this year by introducing additional features – such as the uploading of photographs and videos.  Unlike Twitter, Me2Day has stricter privacy settings and requires approval in order to receive updates from a particular user.  Naver is the preferred search engine over Google, according to Alexa, competing with Daum, another local browser.

 

Singapore

As one of the most advanced digital markets in the region, Singapore’s household broadband penetration rate stands at 168.7 per cent, says Internetworldstats.com.

In June 2010, more than 3.7 million people in Singapore accessed the Internet from home and work locations, representing 78 per cent of the population.  The combination of high broadband penetration, strong online engagement and the tech savvy nature of Singapore’s Internet users make it an ideal market for the adoption of existing and emerging digital technologies – including search, social media and online video.

In April 2010, 87 per cent of Singapore’s Internet population viewed video online in April, with the average viewer consuming 10.5 hours of video during the month – reported comStore.

To date, Facebook is the most popular social-media network with 2.4 million users in Singapore alone, whilst YouTube is the top video-sharing site.

 

How to Monetise All the Buzz

Choosing the right medium to reach your target audiences is critical to any successful social-media campaign.  Three case studies below illustrate successful promotions using leading social-networking tools.

In January 2009, Tourism Queensland launched the “Best Job in the World” campaign – promoting the Great Barrier Reef as a global tourism destination and encouraging people worldwide to apply to be selected as the Islands’ caretaker on Hamilton Island for six months.  The search for this newly created position was aimed to build brand awareness and promote the islands across eight international markets.  Recruitment was driven though online job sites and advertisements, with a strong presence on social-networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The results were overwhelming – IAB Australia reported 34,684 applications from 201 countries generated 610 hours of video content.  In 56 days, the campaign generated 6.9 million visits to www.islandreefjob.com, with 47.5 million page views and an average of 8.62 minutes spent on the site.

The generated PR value of the campaign reached more than US$300 million, though the actual spend was only US$855,000 – making it one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever.  It won Platinum awards and a Best of Show for best worldwide PR campaign of the year at the 2010 HSMAI Adrian Awards.

A second case study worth mentioning is Lenovo’s “Voices of the Olympic Games” campaign.  As a worldwide partner of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games, Lenovo wanted to encourage sports fans to follow Olympic athlete bloggers describing their Olympic experiences on the sponsored blog.  One hundred athletes were selected from 25 countries and given Lenovo laptops and Flip cameras to connect to sports fans around the world, with merely a badge on their blogs to identify their participation in the programme.

The results were impressive with 10.4 million unique visitors reading at least one posting on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Delicious.  The athletes posted 1,500 entries, generating over 8,000 comments from fans.

Lastly, Cornetto Australia launched a full-fledged social-media campaign titled “No Boring Bits” in 2008 to introduce a new range of Cornetto ice-cream flavours.  Armed with a mascot named Terry the Executioner, the company created a persona for the mascot with a blog, a YouTube channel, a MySpace account, and a Flickr account.  Cornetto’s main website boasted an interesting interface offering interactivity with a number of games and videos involving Terry and Cornetto cones.  The online platforms garnered over 1.5 million video views, almost 172,000 profile views, 42,000 picture views, 1,736 comments and 1,005 friends.

Over the course of the campaign, over 48 million ads were served, including TV ads.  Cornetto reported an increase of 11.1 per cent market share from 2007 to 2008, and a 13 per cent increase in sales growth over the same period.

In summary, social media, when used appropriately, allows a company to reach out to its audiences effectively.  However, social-media return on investment is difficult to measure and to date, there is still no direct correlation between social-media “hits” and financial ROI.  Nonetheless, there seems to be consensus that successful social-media campaigns happen in sequence – starting with investment, followed by action, reaction, non-financial impact, and finally financial impact.  There are a myriad of free online tools, including Google Analytics, that can track social-media expenditures vis-à-vis gains.  In addition, there a number of companies whose business model is to listen to the conversations, track the conversations and report social-media metrics.  These tools and resources can help companies position their brands more effectively and leverage the growing popularity of social media.

 

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