Going social in Asia #1 : a glance at agencies, products and people of social media in Singapore and Malaysia
“They’re not good at ideas”, but are more “digitally fluent” than Westerners. It’s a “huge market” (growing hugely, say), but some of the big players of the industry don’t even have the beginning of a team to go online. Their inhabitants are among the most connected and engaged on mobile and Facebook, still, it’s no eldorado as regards the way digital marketing budgets are dealt with.
The state of social media in South-East Asia is, to say the least, as diversified as the communities that make these countries. A month of traveling and visiting a few names in digital agencies brings more questions than answers, hopefully this proves helpful as I try to find my way in this area.
The industry : 4 types of digital agencies in South-East Asia
Here’s an overview of how the agencies seem to be organized to meet an increasing demand for social media advice. The established global networks rule the place, meaning no local consultancy or agency has yet managed to spread its name – and volume – abroad .
- Local “hot boutiques”, with a little team and a sharp specialty (social data-mining, say), working on 4-5 projects a year
- Established ad agencies with digital teams, such as TBWA (with Tequila) or Ogilvy (One), they use roughly the same structure as in Europe.
- Established ad agencies without digital teams as Publicis or Leo Burnett, taking advantage of their brands and existing networks of customers to spread in new markets. They sometimes don’t have digital departments, hiring freelances or “hot boutique” for specific needs.
- International specialist agencies, such as Tribal DDB and We are social, they can rely on a well-connected global digital network (see Tribal DDB Radar team or We are social Monday Mashup)
The products : Give them some ideas !
As regards the industry here, a deeper gap seems to exist with what I know in Europe and in the US, notably on idea production, with two consequences.
- First, many local players do not offer a comprehensive strategy for a given brand, but rather an easy-to-buy and ROI-based product. Not that consulting can’t be measured, but I’ve met and heard of many boutiques selling “modules”, such as a “Facebook campaign” (read : Facebook ads), or a help with metrics measurement. Can’t say at this point if this allow to sell ideas in a second step, still, it’s a bit surprising not to see many offers of consulting in social media.
- Second, consulting services as I’ve experienced them in Europe don’t seem to be a big part of the social media business. Many of my hosts confirmed a deficit in creativity and ideas when thinking of a campaign on social media.
I’m a bit puzzled with this point : consulting and ideas are important to make a difference within a competitive field (think of Nike “Plus” on sports, data and health for instance), and I can’t imagine an agency without this strategic thinking, the one that comes because you have many customers, many industries, and a good newsfeed. On the other hand, I also understand the necessity for brands to have products that work rather than social media bla-bla which sometimes doesn’t make you go digital.
The audience : Digital “fluency” widespread and monetized !Â
As for many comparisons, the scale of social media events in Asia is far from Western standards – or Europe, at least. The size of markets, and most likely a more assumed consumption of digital interactions, spread the digital revolution more quickly, and more organically.
- A successful campaign in China counts in millions (of views, fans, citations…), Malaysia Facebook members are the most engaged/engaging in the world (see We are social series on Asiatic countries for more social stats), and Nielsen Wire also confirms key figures on the difference of digital behavior between lagging Westerners and connected Asians. In case you still had doubts that this is the place to be
- Many businesses go social without the help of agencies (somehow reassuringly), as most people are already on Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare (4 more check-ins in Kuala Lumpur Airport than in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, and I dare not read the comments for Paris), they engage their business more naturally on these platforms.
- Last but not least, people are using their smartphones a LOT, and it’s possible to do wild pop-sociology in any transportation you take, as you’ll be surrounded by people with screens of different sizes, with different games, chats and movies to look over their shoulders.
That’s it for the thoughts ! Stay tuned for next pieces on the Singaporean Leisure (ok, Food) blogosphere, and for next reports of a coming trip in a few days, still in Singapore et Kuala Lumpur. I’ll be seeing people from big companies, start-ups and consultancies.
Feel free to comment ! Again, this is my thoughts after a first reckon trip of the area
Category: Going social in Asia