Here are all of the posts tagged ‘Japan’.

We Are Social Asia Tuesday TuneUp #121

by Jolene Siow in News

CABCY video gets shorter as it’s shared
Singapore’s ‘Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth’ has created a social video with a real sharing incentive. The video, originally 100 seconds long, shows a child in distress. It gets shorter and shorter each time it is shared on Facebook, and is accompanied by the tagline ‘Share it to End it’.

Facebook passes 100m users in India
India is now Facebook’s second largest national market (after the US), as the network passed 100 million users there. It expects further rapid growth as it increases its mobile focus in a country where eight in 10 users are mobile.

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Yelp launches in Japan, its second market in Asia
Community-sourced restaurant review site Yelp has formally launched in Japan. This is its second entry into Asia, after Singapore in 2012, and the 26th country to receive Yelp. Opening in Japan comes with its own unique set of hurdles, such as the handling of the character set, as well as competing against popular review site Tabelog.

Yelp JapanJust 5% of users contribute to 90% of all Weibo posts
According to a study, Chinese microblogging platform Weibo was found to have a sizeable content gap between its users. Only 10 million users post original content, while the other two hundred million other users are made up of spam or empty accounts, or users who just repost others’ content. Reasons for the small percentage could be due to the large amount of spam accounts, or competitors such as WeChat  gaining popularity in China.

Xiaomi’s social media strategy drives fan loyalty
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has a fiercely loyal fanbase, and a lot of this lies in the way it engages its fans and customers with social media. Xiaomi uses social media in several ways – to drum up excitement about its flash sales, as well as engaging fans and customers in an informal and playful manner, much like how friends speak to each other. Its recent Mi Fan Festival saw 1.3 million handsets sold across China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, raking in CNY1.5 billion (SGD302 million).

Xiaomi Fans

Facebook and YouTube launch unique add-ons for India Elections 2014
For the 16th Lok Sabha Elections, Facebook has launched a ‘I’m a Voter’ button for its users in India, which allows users to post their voting stories on their timeline, sharing with friends that they are voting in this election. YouTube has also launched a India Elections 2014 page, which has garnered over a thousand subscribers. The page features a curated list of videos, aimed at providing a one-stop source of news on the elections.

Facebook voter button

Most social networks are predominantly mobile
The 2014 US Digital Future in Focus Report has been released, with interesting figures about the growth of mobile and social. Of major social networks, only two (Tumblr and LinkedIn) are predominantly desktop (among US users aged 18 and up).

Snapchat, Vine and Instagram are, as expected, the most ‘mobile-first’ social networks, each seeing almost all of their traffic from non-desktop devices. The three sites have grown their unique visitors figures significantly between February and December 2013 – Instagram by 43%, Vine by 515% and Snapchat by 234%.

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Most social content is shared from mobile
It’s not just user growth where mobile is steaming ahead, but also the volume of shared content. Of everything shared to social networks in Q1 2014, 52% came from a mobile device, compared with 48% from desktop. This resulted from much stronger volume growth on mobile: 28% against desktop’s 11%.

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Photos are most popular Facebook content for brands
Despite Facebook pushing brands to use links, it’s clear that photo posts remain the most popular content type for brands on the network. Analysis of over 30,000 brand posts found that 75% were photo posts, followed by just 10% including a link.

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This is perhaps no wonder, when we look at the most engaging content types: photo posts make up 87% of the top 10% of branded content.

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Facebook to remove messenger from mobile app
In an attempt to keep up with standalone messaging apps, Facebook is planning toremove the ‘Messenger’ function in its main mobile app, forcing users to either download the standalone app or lose the service entirely.

Facebook launches new ads as prices increase
As brand pages’ organic reach has dropped throughout Q1, Facebook ad prices have increased by 10%. This news comes as Facebook has announced a new format for ads in the right hand bar; the network has claimed that these will increase engagement and allow brands to use the same image for News Feed and right-hand bar ads.

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Facebook looks to reduce News Feed spam
Facebook is making some changes to its News Feed algorithm that will decrease the reach of certain types of content, each of which is considered ‘spammy’. The initial targets of these changes are:

1. Pages that repeatedly post images asking for likes, comments and shares
2. Frequently-circulated content that users have already seen
3. Spammy links that bring users to pages full of ads

Facebook has looked to reassure pages that this is unlikely to negatively affect their reach; it states that most publishers are not posting ‘spam’ and should instead expect to see their reach increase slightly.

Facebook is updating privacy settings
Facebook is attempting to make its privacy options clearer to users with a series of tests. As can be seen below, the iOS app will include details of who can see any post above the publishing box (left), while desktop users will notice a change to the drop down menu (right).

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There will also be pop-up messages for users who haven’t updated their preferences in a while, straight from the mouth of the privacy dinosaur.


Twitter renovates profiles
It’s all change in the world of Twitter this week, as the platform announced a complete overhaul of users’ profiles on desktop. Changes include a larger profile picture, customisable header, and the ability to pin a particular tweet to the top of your profile (though it’s worth noting that this will only be available for free to certain high-profile users or paying accounts). A user’s more engaging tweets will now appear larger on their profile, too. The new style, which is in the process of being rolled out, can be seen here:


Some brands have already begun using the new design. The below, for example, displays Skype’s videos – users can now filter tweets to see just photos or videos.

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The move is being seen as part of a larger attempt to make the network more accessible for the less tech-savvy among us; technical ‘jargon’ like RT and @replies may be at threat, while the network looks to concentrate more on video/images and add emoji functionality. Users are beginning to get notifications on, too, which are fully customisable; anyone can choose what actions they get notified about. All of this, along with the design of the above profiles, has led to a number of comparisons with Facebook and rumours of a ‘land grab’. Watch this space.

Twitter adds 15 new ad types
Twitter will also be ramping up their ad offering, with news that they’re planning 15 new types of ad, such an ‘app-install unit’. This news comes at a similar time to figures that suggest Twitter’s ads receive a higher click-through rate than Facebook’s. Advertisers still spend a lot more on Facebook advertising, as we can see here:

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Moreover, Facebook ads reach much further than their Twitter equivalents. Twitter may get higher click-through rates, but Facebook still earns a much higher volume of clicks and impressions.

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LinkedIn removes ‘Products & Services’ tab
LinkedIn has today removed the ‘Products & Services’ tab from company pages. The network has proposed two different ways around this for brands: they can discuss their offerings in either company updates or the ‘showcase’ pages that LinkedIn has designed for this purpose.

Disqus introduces ‘Sponsored Comments’
Disqus, the commenting platform used by many popular blogs (including this one), has this week launched a native ad product, known as ‘Sponsored Comments’. It launched the new unit in a blog post, in which it looked to reassure users that it would maintain the quality of their experience. The adverts will appear as follows:

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Unilever’s multi-brand YouTube channel
Unilever is launching a multi-brand YouTube channel, named ‘All Things Hair’. Brands including Toni & Guy, Dove and VO5 will all host content on the channel, which is taking much of its content from famous video bloggers.

Oreo brings Snack Hacks to online video
Oreo has launched a series of web videos dubbed ‘Snack Hacks’, which showcase unusual ways of eating the snack. After asking Twitter followers to discuss their favourite #OreoSnackHacks, the brand has since taken the campaign to the next level and produced content of its own. One example, featuring celebrity chef Roy Choi, is presented in this video.

Peter Griffin is now on Instagram
American cartoon, ‘Family Guy’, has created an Instagram account for its protagonist, Peter Griffin, to drive downloads of a new mobile game based on the series.

WWF creates Snapchat campaign
The World Wildlife Fund is using a Snapchat campaign to raise awareness about endangered species. Dubbed #LastSelfie, the campaign plays on the trend for a constant stream of self-taken photographs on the platform.

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Social, Digital & Mobile in APAC in 2014

by Simon Kemp in News

Following on from We Are Social’s hugely popular Social, Digital and Mobile Worldwide in 2014 report from last week, we’re very pleased to share an even more detailed look at the online landscape around the Asia-Pacific region.

It also turns out that a week can make a big difference when it comes to online data; in the past 7 days, and with the help of some of the 200,000 people who’ve viewed our Global report, we’ve found some even fresher stats to the ones we published in last week’s report.

These new discoveries have had a particular impact on India’s stats, where figures for internet users have changed from 151 million to 213 million. Internet figures for Indonesia have also almost doubled, to 72.7 million.

These changes have had a significant impact on the regional and global totals too, so we’ll begin with a refreshed look at the stats from the very top.

The Global Picture

Following revisions to a number of countries, the number of worldwide internet users now exceeds 2.64 billion, representing global penetration of 37%:


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Following our report last week, we also received a number of queries regarding the difference between mobile subscriptions and actual mobile users, so we’re delighted to be able include a new chart comparing the two in this report.

We’ve teamed up with the wonderful team at GSMA Intelligence for this, and they’ve been kind enough to let us share this valuable data in the report – here’s the APAC picture:


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In order to understand the context in which people use mobile devices, it’s also important to understand how people pay for their subscriptions (contracts), and whether they have access to potentially faster mobile data connections.

The chart below offers more detail on both these areas, detailing how many people have pre- vs post-paid contracts, and using 3G as a proxy for the likelihood people could access faster internet if they chose to take out a relevant mobile data plan:

APAC mobile contract type

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Asia-Pacific In Context

APAC is home to almost 3.9 billion people, accounting for just under 55% of the total world population. The region hosts just under half the world’s Internet users, and 52.2% of the world’s active social media users:


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apac global share

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Although internet user data for a number of countries around the region hasn’t been updated as recently as we’d hoped, APAC has still shown impressive growth in recent months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 150 million new users since our previous report in October 2012 – many of which were in India and Indonesia:


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However, internet access is still far from a universal reality around APAC, and penetration rates in some countries remain surprisingly low:


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It’s interesting to see how the average number of hours spent on the internet varies around the region too, both in terms of desktop / laptop access, as well as the time spent on the mobile web:


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It’s important to note that the figures in the chart above are based on claimed time spent on the internet, rather than on actual traffic. This has two important consequences:

  • The data will, in part, reveal the story that people choose to tell about their internet use, rather than the exact number of minutes they spend connected
  • However, in a similar way, this ‘claimed’ data helps to avoid over-counting internet usage when someone is connected to the internet, but not actually making use of it (e.g. the browser is open in the background while someone works on another, non-internet related application).
  • There may also be some variations across cultures in what people consider ‘internet’ access. For example, someone who streams music through a service like Spotify for the whole day may not consider this ‘time spent on the internet’, even if we could argue the opposite is also true.

Social Media

2013 was an impressive year of growth across almost every aspect of the social media world in APAC, with chat apps in particular seeing stunning growth thanks to platforms like WeChat, LINE, and Kakaotalk.

We’ve chose to focus on social networks for this report’s data though, as they continue to offer the greater opportunity for marketers.

User figures and penetration rates for social networks still vary hugely around the region, but the overall trend is definitely upwards (note that MAU stands for Monthly Active Users):


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It’s worth highlighting that the figures for social media penetration often exceed those for internet penetration, especially in fast-evolving markets. There may be a number of reasons for this:

  • Social media stats are almost always more up to date than those for internet usage, largely because they are collected by a commercial entity on an on-going basis and published at least quarterly to help with advertising sales. In Facebook’s case, the monthly active user figures are available in almost real-time.
  • Many reports on internet usage and penetration omit mobile internet usage, meaning many mobile-only users aren’t included in the figures (partly because they’re more difficult to identify). In many emerging markets – particularly places like Indonesia or Myanmar – mobile-only use can account for a significant proportion of internet use. People accessing social media through mobile devices will be counted, however, meaning social media numbers are often a more accurate indication of actual internet use and penetration in these markets.
  • On the other hand, some people may have multiple social media accounts on the same platform, leading to a slight skew in the data, although we don’t anticipate this is the main cause for the difference between internet and social media usage numbers.

We’ve also changed the way we report user numbers in this year’s report compared to our previous report in 2012, and we now only report monthly active user numbers (MAUs) for any given platform. This ensures a more reliable and actionable data set, and ensures organisations using the data have the most up-to-date picture of people’s preferences and behaviour throughout the region.

Facebook’s MAUs continued to grow across the region over the past year, adding 54 million by January 2014 in Asian countries alone (excluding countries in Oceania like Australia and New Zealand).

China’s Qzone added 25 million MAUs too, meaning that overall growth around the region is somewhere in the region of 80 million new active users – almost 10% growth year-on-year.

We opted not to include chat apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, LINE and Kakaotalk in this year’s analysis for a couple of reasons:

  • The way that people use these platforms remains largely one-to-one, so they offer less of an obvious mass engagement channel for brands compared to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Weibo (although we recongise that this is changing, especially with tweaks to WeChat’s platform);
  • The companies who operate these platforms tend not to publish monthly active user figures, and where they do, they aren’t broken down by country, making it very difficult for us to attribute usage by country.

However, for handy reference, the global user figures for each of the region’s largest chat apps are as follows:

  • WhatsApp: 400 million monthly active users worldwide
  • WeChat (Weixin): 270 million monthly active users worldwide
  • LINE: 300 million total registered users worldwide
  • Kakaotalk: 130 million total registered users worldwide

We’re  pleased to offer time spent on social media for many of the region’s larger economies too, thanks to some great data from GlobalWebIndex’s Active Usage: Time Spent study, which they’ve kindly allowed us to share. You can find out more about this study here.


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As with the time spent on the internet chart above, this data is based on claimed usage rather than actual traffic information. This again means that data may be coloured by the story people wish to tell about themselves, but at the same time, it also helps to avoid over-counting time where people have social media open in the background.

Based on our qualitative research, many people keep social networks open throughout the day in a distinct browser tab or tool like Tweetdeck, but do not necessarily spend all that time actively engaging with the platform itself, so the data above should be used in conjunction with traffic-based numbers (where available) to paint a multi-dimensional picture of people’s behaviour.

It’s interesting to explore the above chart in the context of the societal norms of each country too; it appears that the time spent on social media is determined as much by a nation’s culture as it is by the speed or ease of internet access. In many countries where fast internet access is still a luxury, people still spend many hours engaging with social media, highlighting once again that social media are playing a huge part in the growth and evolution of the online landscape in APAC.

However, to enrich this story, it’s worth looking at the infrastructural elements too. Mobile devices play a huge role in Asia’s social media scene, so we’ve added an extra data set to this report to illustrate mobile social access in more detail:

mobile social users

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The number of mobile subscriptions in APAC continue to grow steadily in the past 15 months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 200 million new subscriptions since our previous report in October 2012.

Although it’s likely that some of these new subscriptions constitute second subscriptions (e.g. an additional contract for work or personal use), the importance of mobile devices even in the region’s less developed nations highlights the critical role mobile plays in people’s daily lives in APAC.

While it can be tricky to identify the exact number of people accessing the internet through mobile devices, we have identified reliable data for two important indicators that offer valuable insights: mobile broadband subscriptions, and people accessing social media through mobile devices:


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It’s particularly interesting to note that the proportion of the population accessing social media through a mobile device is much higher than the penetration of mobile broadband, suggesting that many people continue to access social media through slower mobile connections.

You’ll find this data broken down for each country around the region in the full report.

The Individual Country Story

We’re delighted to announce that we now have social media and mobile data for every Asian country, as well as 4 key nations in Oceania.

Major additions to this year’s report are North Korea and Myanmar, and although the numbers aren’t likely to challenge China’s position as the dominant digital player in the region, it’s very exciting to see how online media are helping to open up some of the world’s most secretive nations.

In particular, Myanmar – or Burma, if you prefer – has surprised us with the sheer speed of growth, particularly when it comes to social media. From a country where Facebook was technically blocked barely 12 months ago, this Southeast Asian country now boasts well over 1 million Facebook users, and is still growing at an impressive rate:


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Despite these impressive numbers though, this still represents a social media penetration of just 2% in Myanmar, so there’s clearly plenty more potential for growth as the country continues its journey towards a fully open approach to the internet.

Even mobile subscriptions struggle to reach double-digit penetration, while the internet – albeit based mostly on fixed-line figures – languishes at just 1%.

However, 2014 looks like a promising year for Myanmar’s online landscape, and we’re looking forward to plenty more good news from them in the months to come.

The story in North Korea remains less clear; with the internet still officially blocked in the world’s most reclusive nation, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of what’s going on. However, Facebook themselves state that they now have 8,200 users within the North Asian state, 4,600 of whom access through mobile devices:


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It’s unclear how many of these users are actually North Korean citizens though, and we suspect that a significant proportion may be foreign nationals based in the country.

However, the fact that it is even possible for these people to access Facebook from within North Korea represents a step forward compared to the situation this time last year, so we’ll take that as a glimmer of hope for 2014.

We’ve also included data for Timor-Leste, which, although still small in absolute numbers, represents another reason for optimism, given the young country’s recent history.

East Timor’s social media population in particular is growing steadily, with 6% of the population – or 76,000 people – using Facebook at least once in the past month:


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As with many emerging economies, the numbers for internet usage in Timor-Leste are far lower than those for social media, mainly because it’s harder to measure the exact number of people accessing the internet.

Many people still access from shared devices in internet cafés or in places of work, and data is often collected by surveys that have taken quite some time to gather, analyse and publish.

Social media figures such as those made available by Facebook are almost real-time though, offering a more up-to-date and accurate picture of the online landscape within these fast-evolving digital ecosystems.

Excitingly, mobile phone subscriptions have already surpassed 50% penetration in Timor-Leste too, meaning many more people now have the opportunity to connect to the internet as soon as affordable mobile data plans become available.

Alongside figures for Australia and New Zealand, we’re also pleased to present some initial figures for Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Both nations play an important role in understanding the broader picture across Pacific nations, and the stories their data snapshots tell reveal some interesting insights:


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Fiji already demonstrates relatively strong internet and social media penetration figures, surpassing the regional average in both areas.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea still has plenty of potential for growth, with barely 4% of the population using Facebook in the past month. However, with mobile subscription penetration of 42%, it’s clear that Papuans have an increasing digital opportunity, and we’re confident these figures will all grow considerably during 2014.

We’re also pleased to share statistics on mobile social behaviour for all 30 countries in this study, ensuring marketers have a solid understanding of the opportunities to engage their audiences in a variety of settings and contexts – here are some example stats for Indonesia:


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As mobile increasingly becomes our predominant means of accessing online services and content, it’s likely that Asia-Pacific will continue to lead the world in defining the future of the online landscape.

The India Changes

Finally, given the major changes in internet user numbers since last week’s report, here’s how the individual country situation looks today:



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India Contract Type

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So there you have it – another week, another bumper collection of stats. Do get in touch if you’d like some help making sense of these numbers, or turning them into part of an actionable strategy.

Be sure to check back  to our blog for more updates in the coming weeks too – given how quickly the data seems to be changing, it’s clear 2014 is going to be another vintage year for online growth. We’re already looking forward to next year’s APAC report!

Sources for all the above data are listed in the full report. We’d especially like to thank GlobalWebIndex and GSMA Intelligence for their help in providing data for these reports, and for allowing us to publish their valuable data.

UPDATE: We’ve amended this post, and some slides in the original report, due to a request from one of our data partners.

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We Are Social Asia Tuesday TuneUp #92

by Ji Eun Kim in News

Sina Weibo expands to Singapore and Indonesia
According to Techinasia, Sina Weibo has officially appointed Trends Media as Sina Weibo’s Singapore and Indonesia exclusive reseller, supporting its expansion in the region. The main focus of expansion will be to increase the number of sign-ups of the ‘blue V enterprise-verified’ Weibo accounts. It is similar to Facebook brand pages but it attempts to help brands in Singapore and Indonesia to effectively target Chinese speaking users on Sina Weibo. About 70% of the Singapore’s population are able to converse in Mandarin. Singapore is fourth largest nation in terms of registered Sina Weibo users globally with 1.5 million registered users. However, Facebook and Twitter are still most used social media platform in Singapore. Will Sina Weibo become major social media platform in Singapore? Only time will tell.


Rakuten buys singapore-based video streaming site Viki
According to TechinasiaRakuten has officially revealed the acquisition of video streaming site Viki. Viki is a Singapore based start up company offering premium TV shows, movies and music video content with crowdsourced subtitles, allowing multi language users to consume the content created from various nations. The acquisition appears to be one further step for Rakuten to go beyond e-commerce and attract worldwide users with unique service to compete with the market leaders like Amazon. This move is in line with its investment in social bookmarking site Pinterest and acquisition of Spanish online video service last year. It will be interesting to see how Japan originated e-commerce site, Rakuten will shape its path to become international digital content provider.


DrawChat joins Chat app competition in Asia
The Japanese startup known for developing the popular photo customization app DecoAlbum, has released new chat app, DrawChat. It’s the first Facebook API that utilized messenger featuring doodling and handmade emoticons. While drawing functionality and a set of cute emoticons are nothing new (as we have seen them from Taiwan-made messaging app Cubie), DrawChat is expected to be more accessible by connecting with your Facebook friends. Do you think DrawChat will be able to grab Asia’s competitive chat market, by leveraging Facebook messenger API?


Facebook open newsfeed competitions
Facebook, which previously stipulated that an app be used for pages to run a competition, has decided to allow them through the newsfeed. This should be interesting for brands, who will no longer require the budget necessary to create or lease an app; fans can enter simply by liking, commenting on or sharing a status. For the full lowdown, take a look at the post we’ve written on the changes.

Update to conversations on Twitter
Twitter has updated how it presents conversations, intending to make them easier to read. Now, tweets that are part of a conversation appear in chronological order, with a little blue line connecting them to make it clear what’s going on. The video below explains the update.

Twitter test ability to tweet excerpts from articles
Twitter last week performed a test with the New York Times that allowed users to tweet certain sections from an article, not just the headline, as had previously been the case. In one article about Saturday Night Live, the network chose certain sections that they felt people were likely to want to tweet, then highlighted them such that they could be automatically selected for sharing. The newspaper noted that the story was shared 11 times more frequently than the average from their top 500 articles of the last month, so it’s likely that we’ll be seeing this tool more in the future.

Location aware recommendations on Foursquare without checkin
Foursquare has announced that it is trialling push notifications based on location, without users having to checkin. The system will suggest occasional places to eat, or sights that you should see if in a new city and will function based on a variety of location signals. By not using GPS alone, it manages to dramatically reduce the battery life necessary, making this a possibility for the first time. The system is being rolled out to a few thousand Android users for testing.

Tumblr creates collaborations for New York Fashion Week
Tumblr has linked 20 fashion bloggers with designers and relevant organisations tocreate content for New York Fashion Week. These will take the form of ‘apprenticeships’, with the bloggers learning from their mentors and helping them produce an installation, which will be displayed in a New York gallery during the event.

Pinterest and Fashion Week
Pinterest, too, is ramping up its Fashion Week activity and has created a dedicated hub where designers and other influencers can share their various inspiration, featuring content from the likes of Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta. In addition, the network has partnered with the television channel ‘Style Network’ to bring an on-screen ‘It List’, featuring the top ten trends for the upcoming season.

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ESPN using Twitter’s Amplify for sport highlights
Sports broadcaster ESPN is set to use Twitter’s social TV platform, Amplify, to show highlights of the college American football season on Twitter. These will be pre-rolled by adverts for Verizon Wireless as part of a larger #DidYouSeeThat campaign, which will extend to ESPN’s on-screen TV coverage of the sport. The move comes after similar deals by Twitter for the MTV VMAs and with the USTA for US Open coverage – evidently, Twitter is working hard on bulking up its already strong links with TV.

GAP make us of .gif on Facebook
After tech firm Giphy has created a product that allows .gifs on Facebook, high-street fashion brand GAP has made use of the technology. It posted its first .gif, shown below, to its Facebook page last week, accompanied by #BacktoBlue copy.


Co-op produces Snapchat campaign
The co-operative is set to become the first major UK brand to use Snapchat in a marketing campaign, promoting their electrical business. Customers will be sent a code for a £30 discount on a laptop, which will ‘self destruct’ after a short time, as with all Snapchat messages.

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iMedia Agency Summit: Social Roundtable

by Simon Kemp in News


Day Two of the iMedia Agency Summit kicked off with a series of roundtables, and I hosted a great discussion on “Demystifying The Complexities of Social in a Diverse Region”.

I was joined by delegates from Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and the UK, each of whom highlighted the specific nuances of the social media landscape and audience behaviours on their respective markets.

Key Take-Aways

  1. Brands can’t just adapt global campaigns for social in Asia; the cultural context means we need a dedicated approach for local needs.
  2. Industry growth and improved ROI requires greater involvement from senior marketers within client organisations and agencies.
  3. Listening technologies still don’t offer a universal solution across the region, and this is a major barrier to improved success.
  4. Marketers need to think more about how to deliver meaningful social value, instead of antisocial product spam.
  5. We need to build social communities that people find welcoming and rewarding, and not egocentric brand fan clubs.

In-Depth Conversation Review

We started the roundtable by discussing the diversity of technologies and platforms around the region. Facebook and Twitter are still the dominant networks in markets like Malaysia and Singapore, but we’re seeing increased use of new platforms and services such as WeChat, Line and KakaoTalk, especially in Northern Asia.

However, while audiences have jumped on these platforms at a startling pace, Miki from Comnico suggested that many brands in Japan still struggle to use these platforms for marketing, especially where the interactions are more personal, private and contextual. She stressed that large-scale social media marketing in Japan is still dominated by Facebook and Twitter, whom she feels are better set up to cater to the needs of big brands.

Hanh from VietBuzzAd stressed the continued importance of forums in Vietnam’s social media ecosystem, pointing out that forum seeding and paid interactions still form a large part of many Vietnamese brands’ investments in social. Contrary to Miki’s experiences though, Hanh says that brands in Vietnam are already exploring how to use chat apps for marketing, and she’s been involved in activities for a fast-food chain where chat apps played a central part of communications. She believes that the mobile nature of these apps makes them ideal for marketers who want to connect with Vietnam’s permanently mobile youth.

This kicked off questions around the kinds of content brands are using in different channels, and Lola from Tribal in Malaysia pointed out the difficulties in managing consistent brand delivery across the region, whilst also catering to local cultural and linguistic nuances. This was a theme we discussed at the iMedia Brand Summit a few months back too, and it continues to challenge both agency and client-side marketers alike.

One thing all participants agreed on, however, was the need to develop content specifically for Asian audiences. Simply translating a global campaign into Asian languages rarely delivers meaningful audience engagement, because the ways Asian audiences engage around content are different. Asian audiences can be more reserved in the way they interact with content in social media, so brands need to make extra effort to ensure the content is tailored to specific audience needs and behaviour.

This segued into a conversation about how difficult it is to measure success across different markets. The cultural dimensions of engagement mean that it’s very tough for brands to benchmark and compare success metrics across markets like the Philippines, whose audiences are culturally more socially gregarious, and those in, say, Japan, whose audiences are often more reserved.

Kate from Profero said that these differences really struck her as a recent arrival to Asia; she wasn’t prepared for the diversity of platforms and technologies around the region, and the challenges this diversity causes. She noted that marketers in the West are used to using a single tool that can collect comparable data across markets – often in different languages – but that this was currently still unfeasible in Asia, where no single social listening tool covers all of the top languages.

This not only makes marketers’ jobs more difficult, it also makes it more difficult to compare the successes of activities across markets. As a result, marketers in Asia spend lots of time simply collecting data, rather than analysing it, and as a consequence struggle to gain the same momentum as their Western counterparts. This compounds the challenges marketers face when trying to develop regional activities, as it’s much more difficult to find common insights to inform strategy.

The difference here isn’t one of skills though; rather, it’s often about access to reliable tools and technology that would allow marketers in Asia to optimise activities more efficiently, and report their successes more accurately.

Many complexities stem from differences in how people around the region do business too; the challenges we face are not just technological, but also relate to the ways marketers approach things in their individual business cultures. Lola pointed out that differences in business culture can make it tougher to gain traction with regional clients too, so it’s imperative that agencies build strong relationships with senior marketers.

She suggested that social media doesn’t always get enough senior attention within larger agencies, and that by making it the domain of junior teams, social media would continue to remain a novelty, and would always struggle to gain the backing that it needs. She stressed that youthful enthusiasm had huge value, but agencies also need people with broader experience and an understanding of business to work on social activities.

In particular, senior marketers continue to worry about negative comments and ‘trolling’, and this is particularly important in Asia where senior marketers have an elevated need to ‘manage face’. This often makes it more difficult for senior managers in Asia to take big risks, and as a result, social media remains a marginal activity in traditional industries like Banking and professional services.

Hanh noted that this is one of the reasons why it’s so difficult for agencies to find a good remuneration model. She noted that clients are used to paying for people’s time when it comes to producing social content (e.g. images), but they don’t really understand the value of activities such as community management, so don’t want to pay for them. Consequently, many agencies in Vietnam have been including these for little or no cost, which has further devalued them in clients’ eyes.

Miki said the situation in Japan was equally tricky for two reasons: firstly, because too many of the people working in social media are very junior, and secondly, because very few senior marketers use any form of social media in their personal or professional lives. She said that even when clients were keen to get involved in social media, it was more as a result of looking at what their competitors were doing, rather than because they saw a unique opportunity for their own brands.

This leads to a lot of copying between brands. The resulting lack of differentiation results in much lower engagement, creating a vicious cycle where senior marketers don’t see any meaningful value in social media. Miki noted that this problem is particularly prevalent in Japan, where few people speak English well enough to be able to benchmark what brands in other countries are doing, and as a result, Japanese social marketing has become a bit of an echo chamber.

Lola said things are different in Malaysia, where clients are more comfortable paying for strategy and listening, although on-going community management is far from being an attractive, scalable opportunity despite its potential to add value to clients’ brands.

Cristel from OMG noted that Filipinos are generally highly social anyway, and are much more likely to click ‘Like’ or follow brands than people in other cultures. As a result, social media seems to work well for many brands locally, and marketers are getting increasingly involved. Social media is popular across the population, but when it comes to people in lower socio-economic groups, social media activity is driven by interactions with celebrities and staying in touch with family members who are working overseas.

Interestingly, however, the majority of the 93% of internet users in the Philippines who already use Facebook, most still access predominantly through desktops due to the cost and patchy reliability of mobile data. This means that internet cafes are still very important around the country, although home internet access is on the increase.

We then got into a heated conversation about the need for brands to add distinct value in social media. We agreed that too many brands are still filling in content calendars, rather than understanding how the brand can actively offer entertainment, information and education to its audiences through social activities. Kate made the important distinction between ‘Liking’ a brand page, which is a one-off, versus ‘Liking’ individual content and posts, which is what brands need to strive for. If content doesn’t continue to offer value, people will quickly ignore it. In particular, as an industry, we need to take a stand on unscrupulous marketers, and the proliferation of spam.

Social media’s role in political issues is also causing concerns for marketers around the region, especially in areas like China and Vietnam where people are turning to social channels for more ‘activist’ activities. Political beliefs aside, this makes the social environment more tricky for marketers to navigate, and fears that certain (or even all) channels may be blocked continue to worry brands and agencies across the region. We agreed that open social media were preferable to highly regulated platforms, but that, just like in offline communities, some degree of protection and moderation was needed to ensure people’s safety and a welcoming environment for everyone.

In a similar way, the wide array of religious beliefs around the region also adds to the complexity for marketers. For example, if a brand wants to make a social media app for a particular religious festival, laws and cultural sensitivity may require them to create such an app for all relevant religious festivals. Marketers need to show a high degree of social, cultural and religious sensitivity when engaging with Asia’s multi-ethnic audiences.

However, we also agreed that traditional media are often a large part of the problem, sensationalising stories about social media, and focusing heavily on the negative aspects of social media behaviour. Sadly, this sensationalism often extends to the marketing trade press too, so it’s important for agencies to offer meaningful contributions to stories that help to mitigate the issues.

Cristel then made the point that too many brands focus on sales and trade, and they’re missing the ‘engaging heart’ of social. If marketers are not matching cultural context, they’re going to struggle to engage people. She contested that audiences go to social media to have a conversation with their peers about the things they care about – not to be sold products – so marketers need to offer people something to connect around that adds social value.

Hanh noted that many marketers resort to competitions for this though, which again contributed to the erosion of social value. She and Cristel both said this has led to the rise of ‘professional competition entrants’ in their markets, and sometimes whole families make a living by entering social competitions and voting for each other in order to win. Marketers and audiences alike are increasingly frustrated about this, and it’s rendering competitions less and less effective.

Cristel brought the roundtable to a fitting conclusion by noting that brands are still stuck in conversations about quantity, but the real opportunity is one of quality. Too many marketers are envious of their competitors’ “vanity scores” (e.g. Facebook Page Likes), but they’re not looking at whether the size of the community actually delivers any value. As an industry, we need to stop focusing on ‘lowest common denominator activities’ (e.g. “like this post if…”) that dilute the quality of engagement and make social media marketing far too antisocial.

If you’re looking for more insights into the diversities of social media around Asia, be sure to check out our Social, Digital and Mobile series of reports.

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Five Friday Facts #85

by Laura Picard in News

Line hits 200M users; adds 100M in 6 months
A new article by TechInAsia reports that Japan-based chat app Line has reached a milestone user base of 200 million. Line had just recently reached 100 million in January of this year, indicating that the chat app has doubled its user base in the last six months alone. Korean competitor KakaoTalk reached its first 100 million users earlier this month. China-based WeChat is closing in on 400 million users, most of whom are based in China. TechInAsia notes that Line is commemorating this milestone by giving out premium stickers until July 26.

Hashtags not doing much for brands on FB
A recent article by Inside Facebook revealed that hashtags have not led to higher engagement for brands on Facebook. The new Twitter-like feature launched in early June on the social network, and hashtag prominence grew steadily throughout the month. Based on a study by Simply Measured, the findings indicate that nearly 20 percent of all Interbrand 100 posts contained hashtags by the end of June–up from 3 percent on June 12. Hashtagged brand posts also saw two peaks during the month, with 26 percent of brand posts incorporating them on both July 20 and July 27. The study also found, however, that these hashtags were still not having much of an effect on engagement levels for brands. Nate Smith, a Marketing analyst for Simply Measured is noted as suggesting hashtags may become more effective if their presence is collaboratively reinforced and given cohesion across multiple platforms.

Simply Measured’s report further indicated that visual content receive the highest levels of engagement by a long shot, as photo and video posts received 98 percent of all engagement on brand posts. Simply Measured notes that brands are well-aware of the allure of imagery, as 80 percent of brand posts from the period featured photos or video. Meanwhile, questions received negligible engagement (thereby justifying the termination of Facebook questions, a product option previously available for brand pages).

Another interesting finding from the study revealed that posts between 50 and 99 characters received the highest levels of engagement. The success of brand posts declined as they got longer, with a sharp drop at posts over 250 characters in length.

In India, Line added 5M new users in 3 weeks
Line has been turning up the heat on its competitors, establishing aggressive expansion tactics worldwide. As TechInAsia reports, this strategy has reaped its rewards for the Japan-based chat app, particularly in its recent efforts and focus on the Indian market. A mere three weeks into launching a TV ad campaign in the market, Line reported adding 5 million new users in India. That’s almost 250,000 new users per day, in India alone. TechInAsia notes that, given a majority 70 percent of Line users are overseas users, odds are there were some Indian users prior to the official launch in the market. In any case, Line is clearly starting to tip the scales, by focusing on areas where WeChat’s dominance amongst Asian chat apps remains largely curtailed (virtually everywhere outside of China).

90% of Thai netizens use social media
Social media has continued to grow in popularity in Thailand this year. The country is the 16th biggest for Facebook, with 18 million users. Meanwhile, Bangkok remained the biggest city on Facebook, a title earned in 2012, and also continued to be one of the two most-Instagrammed places worldwide. So it comes as no surprise that Thais are even more engaged on social media this year. Based on a survey by Thailand’s Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), findings reported by TechInAsia illustrated how Thais spent a weekly average of 32 hours on the internet, with over 38 percent spending at least 20 hours on a weekly basis. The survey also found that more than 90 percent of Thai netizens were using social media. Facebook remained the most popular platform, claiming over 92 percent of responses. YouTube came in at 63.7 percent, while Line followed close behind with just over 61 percent. Desktop PCs were still the most popular choice for web access (45 percent), while notebooks claimed just over a quarter of responses. Smartphones followed with 22.7 percent, while Tablets came in with 6.8 percent.

Variety of options still key for social logins
eMarketer recently reported on the state of social logins in Q2 2013. Although Facebook has remained the most popular platform amongst consumers, its slight majority amongst other social login platforms–a 54 percent stake in Q3 2012–has declined as other social login platforms have maintained preference amongst “solid minorities”. The Janrain study indicates that Facebook’s share of 46.2 percent holds against Google’s 34 percent. Yahoo comes in third, but trails far behind with just 6.6 percent of respondents indicating preference. Twitter follows Yahoo with 5.7 percent. Twitter in particular has lost significant ground as a preferred platform for social logins, losing a considerable share since holding 10 percent Q3 2012.

eMarketer notes that the preference for social logins directly corresponds to the kind of site being accessed. Facebook logins were much more preferred for gaming and entertainment sites (64 percent). Facebook came out ahead with a majority on music and retail sites as well (61 percent and 59 percent respectively). Nonetheless, the breakdown shows a widened spread of preference for social logins, indicating that variety has remained crucial for the success of social logins throughout this year.

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