Two weeks ago I had the good fortune to chair and speak at the 4th annual Internet Show in Singapore. This show draws speakers and attendees from across Asia-Pacific and features some prominent, leading brands doing some of the most exciting work in the region (if not globally). I took note of some trends and insights that are relevant and current in Asia-Pacific presently. Some of them reinforce what is happening elsewhere in the world. Others are unique to Asia-Pacific, at least for now. On the series of social media sessions that I chaired there were speakers representing enterprises of all sizes – large, global brands like McDonald‘s, regional brands like NAB in Australia, and local boutique brands like yogurt purveyor Sour Sally in Indonesia. Four key insights stood out to me as compelling.
Insight #1: Mobile = Social = Internet
Across APAC, mobile penetration tops 80 percent, and in some markets – like Hong Kong – it is over 200%. That’s two phone for every person. Same thing holds true, albeit to a lesser extend, in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
What I find really compelling is that in these markets there is comparably little desktop Internet usage, at least not from a social or digital brand perspective. Faced with lengthy commutes and strong 4G signals, the mobile Internet is the primary Internet for many consumers. 18 percent of total Web traffic in Asia is mobile, a number that will likely grow exponentially in the next 18 months.
In the US brands still often see mobile as a “+1″ environment; some marketers believe that it’s important, but it is not the primary means of interaction with their consumers. As 4G signals become more widespread in the US I believe we will continued deterioration in desktop usage. If Facebook has adopted a “mobile first” mentality, isn’t it time you consider it too? If you need a model for what that environment looks like, look no further than Asia-Pacific. There is simply no other alternative.
Insight #2: Providing actual utility, not just talking about it
Brands are talking about developing tools, processes and platforms that provide tangible and practical utility to their consumers. McDonald’s in Australia is providing supply chain information for meals based on QR code scan on the food packaging. The results show the consumer the actual place of origin for the food and in some cases, a story about the farmers. Another McDonald’s effort in Australia is an ordering app which makes it easy to place group orders and reduce queues in the store for lengthy and complex orders. Provides utility to everyone, including those consumers who benefit from not being stuck in line behind someone ordering multiple meals. That app has a 95%+ satisfaction rate among consumers and has received rave reviews. Beyond these examples there is also a lot of effort in all APAC markets around e-payments via mobile; different markets have different standards, but all are trying to find the right solution. Adoption is still challenging – less than 50% of consumers in Asia are willing to transact on their phone – but it is growing rapidly.
Insight #3: Social disintermediation
This is a very real concern for any marketer. Facebook is taking a very central position in the social playbook for many organizations. It is the hub social platform, the backbone of their social infrastructure and the first platform where they engage. This not true in every market of course, as some markets have very dominant local players. But in those markets where it is true, the challenge marketers are facing is the increasing difficulty with monetizing the platform. This is underscored by the almost relentless pursuit by Facebook to improve engagement, often at the expense of brands that are active on the platform. For one brand, recent changes to the EdgeRank platform meant they went from making line item profit on their Facebook efforts – hard ROI – to losing money on their efforts there. That has caused the company to reconsider its commitment to the platform to avoid a third-party from disintermediating its direct consumer relationship.
What is a marketer to do? Diversify. BBC is actively exploring options to break free from the Facebook platform, looking at Google+ and Twitter as alternatives for their efforts. They are also exploring creating a homegrown social solution for their Asia-Pacific media properties that mimics some of the Facebook feature sets on their own site and media networks.
Insight #4: Dumping the fake metrics
I was particularly impressed by the advanced and singular focus on KPIs, metrics and ROI analysis. Marketers have become very savvy over the last 6-9 months about the need to stop reporting on and tracking likes, shares and pins in favor of real metrics like net subscribers, retail visitor conversions and cost basis analysis for social efforts. Metrics need to be tangible and speak to the business. Facebook likes, repins and retweets do not generally address that need; they are granular, valuable primarily to the social team for purposes of improving interaction rates and content development. I saw different approaches depending on organization size but even smaller brands – like Sour Sally in Indonesia – are looking at the hard cost analysis of their focused social efforts.
I will be continuing to write about some of the case studies over the next few weeks. You can see the full agenda of presenters on the conference website.
If you are following the news you may have seen reports that consumers – at least those in the US – have at some point taken a break from Facebook. A recent Pew study found that 61% of Americans claim they have taken a break of several weeks or more, and 20% of all online US adults who say they once used Facebook are no longer members.
Alarming as the numbers may seem, they are not an excuse to avoid building or maintaining a presence on that or any other social network as a brand; indeed, Facebook still reaches more than half of the US population (163 million), and 71% of the US online user population.
Pew found a handful of key reasons for the extended breaks taken from Facebook. The top two reasons: people grow busy or simply say they don’t like it. As a brand marketer, you will not be able to overcome those obstacles. But the third reason cited – by 10% of those surveyed – is irrelevant content. People grow weary of seeing poorly constructed brand content on Facebook and tune out.
Indeed, Facebook in December announced a 20% rule for text in images. Under this rule, which is now being enforced, brands are not permitted to post images that contain more than 20% text. This is in part to maintain the organic and personal nature of the network, and in part to stave off the commercialization of its news feed.
The engagement breakthroughs on Facebook have a short shelf life and new tactics quickly lose their appeal. How do you stay ahead of it all as a brand, and how do you keep your fan base engaged and enthusiastic?
- Follow what other (perhaps more leading) brands are doing and follow their example
- Likewise, follow influential KOLs (key opinion leaders) on Facebook and elsewhere and see how they are engaging with their own fans
- Listen to your fans and pay attention to what they do with your content. If they are sharing it in fun or unusual ways, it may be worth experimenting with that format
- Follow Facebook’s rules, as onerous and complex as they are. Generally, they are designed to maximize the user experience and that is going to be good for your brand
- Avoid tactical interference and don’t get caught up in doing things a certain way. If you see that a content type has stopped working, stop using it
- Experiment with new content styles and keep them on your short list of current tactics
- Be part of the story and actively engage with your fans; a little recognition of a consumer in the comments section makes everyone feel more involved
- Don’t annoy people with overly promotional or awkward content or make things too complicated to take part in what you are doing
By heeding the insights and advice of others, you can keep your fans engaged and sharing your story, and avoid the impact of Facebook fatigue on your brand.