Social Media

360i Report: Global Twitter Trends: South Korea

May 25, 2015

Executive Summary:

Just three years out from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, many marketers are turning their sights on South Korea. Widely considered to be one of the most connected and Internet-savvy countries, South Koreans have distinct habits when it comes to the consumption of online media.

This whitepaper explores the role of culture when it comes to how, where and with what purpose people in South Korea engage on Twitter, and how their engagement compares to other markets. These findings can be used as an indication of South Korean consumers’ engagement on social media overall and offer important implications for marketers targeting South Korean consumers on Twitter. The findings in this report are part of a larger series from 360i that compares Twitter usage in the U.S., U.K., Brazil and India.
Key Findings
Twitter users in South Korea are ‘always on.’ In addition to posting consistently throughout the day, South Korean users are more likely to post late in the evening compared to other markets analyzed, specifically between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. Availability of affordable, fast-speed wireless Internet means South Korean users are able to post frequently on their mobile devices at any given time or location.

Twitter is a platform for expressing frustration. A notable portion of conversations revolve around the frustration experienced in everyday situations such as in school or in the workplace. With 90 percent of the user sample consisting of teenagers and young adults, South Korea’s highly competitive and stressful culture appears to fuel the large majority of posts expressing negative sentiment.

Anonymity leads to more personal engagement. Anonymity plays a notable role in determining how open a Korean user is to sharing information online. For example, anonymous users are 1.5 times more likely than identifiable users to share something personal about themselves. Marketers will want to keep this in mind and ensure engagement does not come at the cost of a user having to reveal too much about his or herself.
Twitter users in South Korea are ‘always on’

When comparing usage behaviors across the different, we found noticeable contrasts in the time of day when users are most active on Twitter. In addition to posting consistently throughout the day, Twitter users in South Korea are more likely than other markets to post late in the evening, specifically between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.
twitter trends by time
The majority of users in South Korea are also accessing Twitter via their mobile devices (89 percent). This is due, in part, to the availability of affordable, high-speed wireless Internet services, which allows them to post frequently and conveniently at any given time or location. With mobile and smartphone penetration of South Korea expected to reach 86 percent and 70 percent respectively in 2014, according to eMarketer, the number of South Korean users accessing Twitter via their mobile devices is expected to grow further.

twitter trends mobile posts
twitter trends smartphone pen
What this means for marketers: Brands have a broad range of opportunities to engage with Twitter users in South Korea, as users are active throughout the day. Campaigns should be optimized for easy mobile viewing, and, with users’ accessibility to high-speed Internet, brands should not overlook ways to creatively implement rich media content.

Twitter is a platform for expressing frustration

Tweets posted by South Korean users are generally more neutral or negative in tone than in other countries. With 90 percent of the user sample consisting of teenagers and young adults, a notable portion of these conversations revolve around the frustration experienced in everyday situations such as in school or the workplace. For example, 15 percent of tweets expressing a negative sentiment are related to school and/or work (e.g. “What is wrong… I studied everything… Should I just sleep?”), while 41 percent are related to personal issues and personal reflection such as self-doubt (e.g. “I am disappointed in myself. I am too afraid to confront my fears”).
conversation by emotion
twitter trends neg posts
twitter trends breakdown age
South Korea is known for having one of the most competitive educational systems in the world and this, in part, may explain why tweets posted by South Korean users are more negative in sentiment. A typical day for students in South Korea does not end at school. Many attend afterschool tutoring sessions that go well into the night, leaving little room for relaxation and recreation. Twitter appears to provide the young audience an ideal platform for venting frustration without fear of repercussion. With 42 percent of negative posts being part of ongoing conversations between friends, the study found a strong likelihood of users sharing their frustrations with another person (e.g. “@USER Eee ugh… it’s exam period for everyone these days… let’s play once exams are over!”).

What this means for marketers: Brands can better connect and make their content resonate with the South Korean Twitter audience by offering them a means for relieving stress. With a sizable percentage of users sharing their negative experiences with their followers, brands can provide an alternate outlet of conversation and build genuine relationships with consumers by understanding their daily concerns and sharing content that is empathetic or humorous. Brands should also consider the young skew of the South Korean Twitter audience when creating content by featuring or incorporating topics that are trending amongst this teen and college-aged demographic.

twitter trends type of neg posts
Anonymity leads to more personal engagement

In South Korea brands receive few organic mentions on Twitter, being referenced in fewer than 3 percent of overall conversations. While this isn’t significantly lower than other markets, barring India, there is an interesting correlation between anonymity and how it affects openness to share on the platform.
twitter trends brand mentions
Compared to Twitter users in other global markets, South Korean consumers share less personal information online. Only 35 percent use photos of themselves for profile pictures, preferring instead to use photos of celebrities or art and/or anime. Even more interesting is that only 23 percent use their real name on Twitter. The majority of profile names instead consist of pseudonyms or aliases. Consumers in countries such as India on the other hand, are more open about their identity with 92 percent of users displaying photos of themselves, and 83 percent using their real names on Twitter.

While it may seem as though South Korean consumers are not open to sharing personal information on Twitter, luckily for brands, this is not the case. Anonymous users are 1.5 times more likely to share something personal about themselves (e.g. “My family does not know that I have had dreams of becoming a singer since elementary school”) than identifiable users, and contribute 80 percent of the brand mentions. This can be explained by the overall trend of social media users in South Korea gravitating towards “less open, more exclusive social networking” according to Youkyung Lee of Business Insider. Being anonymous on Twitter is a reflection of this trend, highlighting why South Korean users are more comfortable in what they say online.

twitter trends photo of self
Twitter trends real name
What this means for marketers: Brands should not expect or request identifiable information from South Korean consumers. However, brands can still expect to see personal and vocal engagement from consumers, especially from those who may not have a profile picture, or use their real name. Marketers can even leverage this by providing branded templates, online stickers or profile pictures that appeal to users — further supporting their anonymity while also allowing them an easy way to showcase brand love or affinity in a unique way.


What is currently lacking on Twitter in South Korea is the two-way conversation between brands and consumers. Our study suggests there is an untapped opportunity for brands to do exactly that by sparking genuine conversations around the daily concerns engulfing South Korea’s young Twitter audience.
Because of the prevalence of mobile phones and accessibility to high-speed Internet, South Korea is one of the few markets where marketers have the ability to reach consumers consistently throughout the day. The nature of the conversations currently being had by Twitter users leaves an open opportunity for brands to engage and provide relief from users’ hardships throughout the day.

Due to the reluctance of South Korean users to provide identifiable information, an optimal way to engage with users is for marketers to focus on offering fun Twitter templates, avatars and online stickers which have become prevalent in social culture since the emergence of the platform, KakaoTalk. KakaoTalk is a multi-platform messaging app that also offers users mobile commerce, a digital store, and gaming network. This platform saw the most growth of any social media platform in Korea in 2014, gaining 23.9 percent in usage rates year over year, according to eMarketer.

While the social media usage in recent years has shifted slightly away from Twitter in South Korea, the way consumers have evolved in using the platform is opening up new doors for brands looking to increase awareness and acquire advocates in the market. These Twitter users are open to brand engagement — if brands approach them in a way that corresponds with their needs.


This data comes from 360i’s research and analysis conducted January 2014 to April 2014 on Twitter conversations spanning 31st March, 2013 – 30th September, 2013. A random sample of 200 posts was collected and analyzed from public Twitter profiles.

This random sample was not targeted to subject matter. Data was vetted and cleaned to ensure tweets were coming from relevant users and then analyzed for behavioral trends among Twitter users in South Korea. Top-line metrics and categories were analyzed out of the 200-post sample, and time of day was analyzed on a larger sample of 10,000 posts per market.