The status of social media in Southeast Asia

Social media plays a significant role in the Southeast Asian (SEA) region, reaching over more than half of the population across SEA. According to a study conducted by social media dashboard Hootsuite and global agency We Are Social, Brunei leads the pack in terms of social media users over total population at 86%. This is followed by Singapore at 77%, Malaysia at 71%, Thailand at 67%, and Philippines at 58%.


In fact, the overall percentage of active social media accounts in the SEA is globally competitive at 11% as compared to the average penetration of 8% across regions. This number is second only to East Asia, which has 33% active social media accounts.

At a platform level, it is a tight competition between Facebook and YouTube. According to the same study, the majority of social media users in Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are more active on Facebook while the majority of social media users in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are more active on YouTube.

In addition, the study also reveals that social media platforms are not the only active players in the SEA. Online messaging such as WhatsApp, FB Messenger, and Line capture a significant share of users in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.



Mobile technology supports social media use in the SEA

The extent of social media use in the SEA, as well as the increase in digital activities, can be traced mainly to the expansion of technological infrastructures in the region. Mobile connections appear to overshadow Internet use, with 11% of the total SEA population connected through mobile and only 9% through Internet, which nonetheless exceed the global average.

Timor-Leste holds the highest increase in mobile subscriptions as of January 2016 at 47%. This is followed by Myanmar at 38%, Laos at 18%, Indonesia at 14%, and Thailand at 10%. In spite of the overall increase in mobile subscriptions in the region, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam nonetheless recorded decreases in mobile subscriptions.



Opportunities and weaknesses in SEA social media marketing

With high levels of digital, mobile, and social media use in the SEA, the market in this region is undoubtedly ripe with several opportunities. On the onset, it allows businesses to expand its market, as well as establish a good customer relationship. In fact, according to a market research conducted by Econsultancy in 2015, 98% of marketers based in Singapore and Malaysia have reportedly used social media heavily or at least experimented with it.

The optimization of social media is, however, not without a struggle. According to the same market research, while there is an increasing number of businesses investing in social media marketing and coming up with a better strategic approach, several marketers remain challenged in developing methods to measure social media impact.

Dark social media is a good example of online content that cannot be measured by web analytics, such as sharing content through messaging apps instead of social media platforms. But this does not mean that it does not offer potential benefits to businesses. On that account, it would be wise for marketers not to stop at measuring social traffic as this may undervalue social media impact to the business.

Integrating email marketing, online display advertising, and SEO with social media to track and optimize the effects of campaigns on customers may significantly help in measuring overall impact.



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