Stephanie Myers
Jul 2, 2014

Why social media can never be a regional effort

Social media simply doesn’t lend itself to a one-size-fits-all solution, particularly in a region as diverse as Asia.

Stephanie Myers
Stephanie Myers

Why shouldn’t regional marketing leads in Asia look for regional marketing solutions, even when it comes to social media? It just makes good business sense to standardize the approach, particularly in a fragmented region where local marketing departments are often underfunded and under-resourced. After all, Facebook holds a comfortable lead in the majority of markets—with the exception of China, Korea, and Japan—and Twitter frequently holds second place. It should be a straightforward proposition to extend the same content plan or contest or promotion across markets, ensuring brand consistency and making more efficient use of budgets.

There’s just one problem with this approach: social media simply doesn’t lend itself to a one-size-fits-all solutions, particularly in a region as diverse as Asia. There are the obvious differences between markets, of course, including culture, religion, income, education, and more. Like all other marketing, social media activation becomes more effective the more closely it ties to local audience insights. There are also the differences in the degree to which social media is integrated into everyday life. Social media penetration in the region ranges from over 60 per cent in Taiwan and Hong Kong to a mere 7 per cent in India, according to We Are Social. Time spent on social media also varies considerably: it’s a solid four hours a day in the Philippines but just 48 minutes in Japan.

Even more importantly from the marketer’s perspective, consumers in each country have very different reactions to a brand’s presence within the semi-private, semi-public space of social media. One market will happily engage with brands on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram while another is indifferent. One set of consumers make for enthusiastic advocates while others are unlikely to share brand news. In general, fast growth markets—of which Asia has many—are more open to socializing with brands on social networks, as found by TNS. Understanding the differences between markets and calibrating strategies accordingly can be the defining factor in the success or failure of a regional marketing plan.

For example, one cluster of Asian markets—all fast growth—offers what can only be described as the perfect audience for brand content in social media. Consumers in China, Vietnam, India and the Philippines welcome brands into their online space, almost universally follow their favourites and will eagerly click on most content, according to a report by Waggener Edstrom Communications. In Indonesia, however, consumers are not as easy to please. They follow their favourite brands in social media and even rank the highest among Asian markets for obtaining product and service information from social platforms. Yet they are less likely to engage in or recommend a brand’s promotional content, suggesting a strong preference for information over advertising. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, consumers can’t be relied on for brand advocacy but are the most likely to participate in contests. Finally, brands attempting to engage Japanese and, to a lesser extent, Korean audiences in social media have an uphill battle. These consumers are reluctant to follow their favourite brands and more reluctant still to engage in content or make recommendations to their network.

The differences between markets are significant and call for distinct strategies—or, at the very least, an appreciation for why a single campaign will produce very different results on a country level. Ideally, for Indonesia, choose rich content and don’t bother with a contest. For Hong Kong, put that contest front and centre. Almost anything goes in social media for the Philippines and China but temper expectations for Japan and Korea. And these are just a small selection of the dozens of markets that comprise Asia. That’s why, in a region this diverse, the best and most effective approach will always be local—guided, of course, by a clear brand strategy at the regional level.

Stephanie Myers is engagement director, Asia Pacific, with Possible in Singapore.


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