Not so long ago, I facilitated a workshop in Jakarta with teenagers aged 18 to 19. In a spare moment, I casually asked them about the social media they were using. Expecting to hear them chorus “Facebook”, I was surprised when instead they chimed in with “Instagram” and “Path”, along with a host of unfamiliar platforms. When it came to Facebook, they told me that they had used it back in high school, but had since graduated to newer forms of social media.
According to We Are Social, there are over 1 billion active social-media accounts in Asia Pacific—half of the global total. This number is growing by 12 per cent year-on-year as emerging markets such as Myanmar and Cambodia start logging on and signing up to platforms for the first time. And there are more platforms to choose from than ever before. According to the latest TNS Connected Life survey, on average, people across Asia Pacific use eight different social-media or instant-messaging platforms. That’s more than any other region in the world; a massive opportunity for engagement but also a competitive battleground for platforms.
Many will remember the spectacular rise and fall of MySpace, which in June 2006 surpassed Google as the most visited website in the United States, but by June 2013 had fallen to 223rd. Today marketers need to keep a close eye on the latest patterns of migration that are occurring across social networks. Why do Millennials, who started using social media early on, outgrow certain sites and flock to others?
Just like other products and services, usage patterns for social media are influenced by ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. Peer influence is certainly among one of the strongest ‘pull’ factors. In addition, characteristics such as ease of use, access via mobile and the features on offer all contribute to the overall success of a platform.
Conversely, the ‘push’ factors include too widespread a popularity—teens are less likely to use a platform their ‘uncool’ mother decides to join—along with the fatigue that comes with functioning within a large network and struggling to keep up with information overload.
Last year, 92 per cent of marketers confirmed that social-media marketing was important for their business, according to Hubspot. Although the majority of advertisers have added Facebook and Twitter to their media mix, the landscape is rapidly becoming more fragmented, especially across Asia. With so many networks to choose from, marketing teams need to think carefully about which sites warrant a big chunk of their strategic communication budgets.
What’s more, these sites are also becoming harder to access. Ironically, as the world becomes more interconnected, Millennials are scouting out more private places. For many, Path is a preferred option because it limits the size of the group. Facebook is used for public broadcasting, while Path is for sharing messages with close friends.
Yet marketing teams also need to remember that social-media conversations do not happen in silos. Discussion is exchanged between platforms; something shared on Instagram may make it to Twitter, a piece of YouTube content is quickly embedded into a Facebook post. It’s not just about identifying the right platform or site, it’s about understanding the cross-platform conversations that are happening and creating content that works across them. This means if one audience segment changes its preferred social site, it can still be reached.
While user data on the popularity of various sites is readily available, the patterns of movement across social-media sites are less clear. It is crucial for marketers to consider how their specific audiences are using and moving across these sites and adapt their approaches in tandem.
Serena Jacob is MD for TNS Qualitative in APAC