In January, Hootsuite and We Are Social, Ltd. released a set of data showing global social media usage in relation to internet speed. Out of all the countries they studied, the Philippines took the top spot for longest time spent on social media with an average of 4 hours and 17 minutes per day. Ironically, the Philippines also experiences the slowest internet speed AND most expensive internet plans.
The countries next in line in terms of social media usage duration, Brazil and Argentina, share the same challenges. Experts are considering if the usage of the citizens in these countries is related to broadband speed and inaccessibility to low-cost internet. Whatever the reason- it is one of the most lucrative markets for brands to take advantage of.
Brand adaptation in the Philippines
Brands in the Philippines are quick to learn what makes their audiences tick and yearn for more. This goes back to the Filipino’s social habits, which translates to high engagement and conversion rates.
Brands know that Filipinos like to converse, share, and incite reactions from their friends and followers. It is a little known fact outside of the local community that Filipinos are the ideal crowd-sourced resource. Thousands of social media users produce marketable content every day, such as memes, tweets, posts, and stories. Whenever a local trend takes flight, brands immediately jump on it and develop an overnight campaign that maximizes the current trending topic.
Basically, brands are not exactly ideating their campaigns on their own. They rely on the Filipino sentiment and current trends to develop their marketing campaigns. At present, there are three main themes floating around social media in the Philippines.
No brand can use these three together, so they choose the theme that is more marketable for their business interests. To give you an example of how brands have taken advantage of the Filipino content-generating community, here are the top 5 brands that developed the best social networks from the most active social network users in the world.
1. Top Gear Philippines
Top Gear Philippines is a subsidiary of Top Gear in the United Kingdom. The company primarily focuses on automobiles, technology updates, racing events, and news relating to the automotive world.
Top Gear Philippines started sharing content from their followers. Most are related to current events concerning transportation issues in the Philippines. The diversity of their followers on their Facebook page is astounding. People who are not necessarily interested in cars, but are concerned about the state of transportation in the country are engaging and sending their own content in.
Top Gear was designed to publish stories to promote car brands and events however Top Gear PH has ‘disrupted the system’ and stirred their followers’ emotions.
Unfortunately, this comes at a great cost because journalism is a tricky legal and ethical bubble. Whenever they report something misleading or detrimental to a citizen, they face the consequences and risk losing followers in the process.
Being an established name, a little setback now and then tends to be easily remedied by ignoring the trolls and focusing on the followers they want to take care of.
2. Empire Fashion Cafe
Heard of a physical online shopping store? That is what Empire Fashion Cafe is. They started out by sourcing other online shops and selling the brands on their social media accounts. A couple of years later, they opened their first physical store. There are several other brands that followed suit, but Empire offers something that they don’t – a space for people to engage in.
Empire is also a café that serves desserts and coffee, bringing a whole new experience to the Filipino shopper. People eat and talk in the middle of the display racks, giving Empire a two-for-one deal. Consumers dine in their café and if they stay long enough, they won’t resist buying something.
It doesn’t sound too much of a social business model, but that is where crowd-sourced content comes in, again. Visitors and shoppers love getting mentioned by brands they follow, which translates to consumers taking photos of the store and inadvertently advertising the shop. Empire, on the other hand, never forgets to thank those who tag them on social media and they constantly engage with their clients whether they visit the café or not.
Jollibee is a Filipino brand that started out as a small fast food restaurant. With over 3000 stores worldwide, they are now competing against McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and other giant restaurant chains in this part of the world.
Thanks to the South East Asian social community in different parts of the world, Jollibee is now a global brand. YouTubers mentioned the brand numerous times and even produced videos with Jollibee as their chosen topic.
This is another example of crowd-sourced marketing. Jollibee does not pay for these features, but they do invest in huge campaigns to compete with their biggest competitor in the country, McDonald’s.
The two have been butting heads since the 90’s, doling out ad after ad to try and one-up each other. Today, with social media is the marketing mix, Jollibee is leading as a brand name, possibly due to the Filipino’s exuberant patriotism and the company’s competitive fast food products.
Ronald McDonald is a favorite target for memes out west, but he doesn’t incite as much comedy as Jollibee in the Philippines. The brand stays relevant because Filipinos can’t get enough of the entertainment factor of the brand.
Their latest campaign is considered a record-breaking event for the company as well. Their Valentine’s videos earned a whopping 9 million views EACH in less than 24 hours. A million of those were from the first three hours alone.
Why did those videos work? Because they made Filipinos laugh, cry, and engage all at the same time. This is a huge milestone for Jollibee and a great example of social network exposure probably worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
4. Cebu Pacific Air
With reports of extremely delayed flights, poor customer service, and expensive in-flight amenities, one might wonder why Cebu Pacific Air is still one of the most frequently availed airline carriers in the Philippines. Their prices are lower than their competitors’, but that alone is not enough to push the other guys out of the picture.
So why is Cebu Pacific Air still flying? Ironically, one of their main source of exposure are the complaints that people lodge against them on Twitter and Facebook. As much as people air – not an intentional pun – their grievances online, Cebu Pacific Air is quick to respond with a solution, a complementary addition to their service (most people are not aware that they are legally entitled to this), and a warm and soothing online tone that keeps irate customers at bay.
When it comes to marketing, Cebu Pacific Air wins against all their competitors. Not only do they offer Piso Fares, which converts to 0.02 USD per passenger, but they do so in a way that is unforgettable. Since they started offering these promos, they have consistently used one template – a pun relating to current events within the Philippines and the globe. Summer, college basketball games, itinerary names – only politically incorrect terms are off-limits.
They deliver these puns in such an offbeat way that Filipinos share it to their friends, discuss it on Twitter, and create their own versions and memes about it. Again, thanks to Filipino crowd-sourcing, a company has risen to viral levels of both notoriety and popularity.
Not unlike Cebu Pacific Air, a huge percentage of the population has a bone to pick with Rappler. The recent discussion that gave people pause is the fact that Rappler reported higher losses instead of gains in the recent fiscal quarter.
Due to the technical illiteracy of people when it comes to venture capitalism, startup protocols and such, many were alarmed that the company was still running regardless of the 7-figure loss it reported.
What most Filipinos don’t know is that Rappler is a corporation that did not start out as a publishing company. Its editor-in-chief Maria Ressa specifically developed the company as a startup by partnering with the contacts she made throughout her journalistic career.
Rappler has many sub-departments that cover niche topics, but their main income is generated from their news reporting. Rappler came out of the woodwork about half a decade ago and I was fortunate enough to listen to Maria Ressa talk about why Rappler is a startup.
They are the first news outlet considered a technology company. According to writer Oliver Segovia, “Rappler’s built its own infrastructure to manage and process its content, via a proprietary content management system, its mood meter, and its own data science operation.”
Additionally they tapped some of the most prominent writers in the Philippines to produce content for them, technically involving literary influencers in the mix and adding a new following to their brand.
Rappler’s Social aspect relies on call to actions, interactive web pages, and the mood meters that they are very proud of. During the 2016 election, the mood meters were one of the most accurate tools used to gauge public sentiment.
By combining the engagement potential of a news outlet and the technology needed to process content at a rate that is still not being used by other news providers, Rappler is owning the social media arena in the news coverage niche, regardless of public sentiment. No matter how much people disagree with them, they just can’t help but click on the little red circle that lets Rappler know they are pissed off.
What global brands can learn from the Filipino social network
The obvious factor that these brands have cashed in on is the fact that Filipinos are the most active social media users on the planet. The United States and United Kingdom are at the bottom of the census, with around 2 hours of social media usage per day, showing that they are either used to their extremely fast internet and don’t linger online as much, or that they engage in more non-digital activities the rest of the day.
It is difficult to know exactly how much in total China uses social media as they are in their own social bubble. In the Philippines, brands are getting boosted with the help of citizen themselves. Global brands pride themselves on originality and making big campaigns that can rival Superbowl ads. However, they are slowly learning that crowd-sourced content and open-ended engagement are the real money-makers in the social marketing industry here.