Asian businesses and the use of microblogging

This blog is posted on behalf of Shalabh Pandey who is Editor at

So you think you have seen and heard enough on the evolution, usage and effectiveness of this phenomenon called Twitter. Present almost everywhere on every social media or marketing centric site- this one topic is an omnipresent feature of today's ubiquitous opinion led conversation culture.

Many businesses and consultants have jumped into utilizing this tool- pushed by the harsh realities of today’s extremely fragmented consumer attention that pans across media.

Since this is causing such a storm, I wanted to do a check- like most marketing ‘hypes’- is this something that is largely US centric? A concern echoed by this post on- the Americanization of the Internet. Or is this a worldwide phenomenon?

Having worked in the Asian digital marketing space for about a decade, I know this is gaining traction very fast. A taste of this was seen recently during the ghastly terror attacks that shook Mumbai (and the world)- when Twitter was full of hash tags related to Mumbai. Ditto on the ongoing stand off in Thailand- though not of a similar scale as Mumbai.

But the issue is – are businesses in Asia using Twitter as a customer engagement tool? The answer from my post – probably not! I did an extensive research across all online social networks- tweeted on my Twitter network, asked questions on Facebook and LinkedIn, researched companies in general on twitter (using Twellow, Twitterlocal and other tools), sent DMs on Twitter- to brands and people with seemingly relevant accounts, researched whom they followed and tried to find if they had easily identifiable Asian accounts as well.

And what I found- as a result of this collective intelligence gathering was that – Businesses are not using microblogging very much in Asia. Full story on Twitter usage by businesses in Asia.

Though there are some interesting case studies in the post, and some interesting people and profiles, the number of businesses participating and using these tools is really quite limited.

Which leads us to the inevitable question- What could be the reasons behind this? Asia is home to most ‘thumb happy’ people in the world (You know what I mean). Billions of text messages flow every month- and every Asian country has its own mobile claim to fame- Phillippines becoming the SMS capital of the world, India exploding at the seams with mobile penetrations- and Vietnam and Indonesia touted as the next mobile tigers. I am not even talking about Korea and Japan, where they do unimaginable stuff (and I mean marketing and conversation wise) with their handphones. China of course has more twitter and iPhone clones than probably the rest of the world’s put together. And again, from Brand perspective- there are multinational companies that are using these tools elsewhere but not in Asia! So the big question is- why?

While the aim of the post was to gather information from the wisdom of the crowds, my top 5 reasons could be:
A) There is not enough traction in the market when it comes to online advertising. It is still treated as somewhat of a novelty and marketing budgets hover from less than 1% to close to 10% in some economies
B) Internet usage has exploded but still mobile-internet usage is relatively a niche and complex concept. Lifestreaming on the go is a novelty at best
C) Because of the above two, businesses are more interested in hygiene activities and hold on to the ‘new’ phenomenon till they start becoming mainstream
D) Marketers are more cautious in general and like to spend in tried and tested tools/vehicles
E) MNC marketing teams by regions do not converse effectively when it comes to marketing innovations (though they do so on marketing best practices I believe)

These are my takes on the results- what are yours? Have you come across any examples of businesses using twitter or any microblogging tool? Even if they are not Asian- do you have any interesting stories to share? Let’s collaborate.

Shalabh Pandey


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