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Global Social Insights: The Top Social Platforms in Asia Pacific

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As brands expand their global reach, marketers face an increasingly complex ecosystem of digital platforms, people, and preferences. Globally-focused marketers must move beyond “one size fits all” messaging across countries, and toward a better understanding of regional differences in media consumption and behaviors.

Our Global Social Insights blog series aims to help marketers better understand trends in digital and platform adoption across the globe. This is the second post of our series, and covers Asia Pacific. To read more about the series and for an analysis of Europe’s top social platforms, read Post I here.

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Our analysis of the Asia Pacific region (APAC) is inclusive of China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Australia, and compares the social media use of each country’s population to identify noteworthy usage and platform trends across the region.

Top social media platforms in the APAC region consist of both Western platforms (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Twitter) and regional platforms (Kakao, Line, WeChat, and Weibo).  It will be crucial for marketers to research and learn how to optimize for these regional platforms when developing communications strategies in APAC.

On average, 36% of the population aged 16 to 64 in APAC uses at least one social media platform. Social media penetration in the region ranges from 12% of the population in India to 54% in South Korea. However, India leads APAC in growth of social media adoption with an 18% increase in penetration in 2015. Countries with more mature social media penetration like Japan and South Korea only experienced an average of 2.5% growth in the same period. Furthermore, these mature, high-penetration countries only contribute to 10% of the 500 million Internet users accessing social media in APAC.

For our research of the APAC region, we took into consideration the cultural factors that may influence and potentially limit the growth of social media usage in a particular region. For instance, we saw that social media users in India and Indonesia skew heavily male, likely due to cultural standards that more readily grant men access to both the technology and education necessary for social media adoption. Conversely, the general population of social media users in other countries in the region is split more evenly by gender with certain platforms in each country skewing more heavily towards one or the other. In South Korea, for example, Facebook Messenger and Twitter attract twice as many men as women. Whereas, in the Philippines, Facebook Messenger and Skype skew heavily female. This may be due in part to societal expectations for women to sustain strong personal relationships, leading to higher reliance on the immediate and consistent communication afforded by messaging apps.

In addition to understanding social factors influencing who is using social media in APAC, we dug a bit deeper to understand where individuals are engaging and interacting in the space. Compared to other Western or Westernized global regions, chat apps such as WeChat, WhatsApp and Kakao are especially popular throughout APAC.

Despite Facebook’s ubiquitous popularity in Western countries, the 1.5-billion-user platform only ranks first in the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia based on monthly active users. The average percent of Internet users who currently access Facebook via desktop and/or app in APAC is 41%, with Japan and South Korea falling below this average. Although these countries lead APAC in social media adoption by percent of population, only 15% of Japan’s Internet users are active on Facebook, while South Korea has double that percentage at 30%. By comparison, 62% of Internet users in Indonesia, 58% in the Philippines, and 51% in India are on Facebook. Twitter’s average user penetration in APAC, on the other hand, only reached 24% of total Internet users, with Indonesia, the Philippines and India leading. The strong penetration among Internet users of these platforms is likely due in part to the large population of native English speakers in the region.

Despite India’s potential for growth, there are very real cultural factors that skew the social media population towards males, and platform-level skews on Facebook and Twitter in a country like Indonesia suggest a similar cultural bias rooted in gender.

APAC Facebook Usage by Country 

APAC Facebook Usage by Country

 

Takeaways:

  • APAC presents many opportunities for social media marketers who are willing and able to explore both the cultural and technological nuances of this region. With growth stage countries like Indonesia undergoing radical economic change as a new middle class rises to prominence, Internet penetration and social media adoption is on the rise, opening doors for companies to reach these new customers.
  • Cultural factors, like gender, are important considerations when assessing a country’s social media user-base. For instance, social media users skew heavily male in India and Indonesia. Marketers should account for these discrepancies when designing research that requires visibility into what users are saying about a brand or a category, and when planning marketing strategies.
  • Marketers should also consider regional platforms like Line, Kakao and WeChat when developing communications in APAC. These popular messaging apps are among the top trafficked sites in the region due to high rate of mobile adoption and provide seamless transaction capabilities. However, regional issues around privacy and censorship may limit tactical and creative choices on these applications.

360i’s Insights and Global Planning Committee contributed to this post.