Today, social networks are an important tool for people to connect to each other. The utilization of these platforms vary, from personal branding, product marketing to creating community groups of people with the same interest. Broadly speaking, social networks are tools that connect people using the same online system. Social networks are often used to connect people beyond geographical boundaries, time and space, and for sharing and expressing opinions online.
Throughout Asia, social networks are widely used as means of communication. Despite the popularity of Facebook, a Silicon Valley based social network, Asia-based tech companies have been successful in penetrating their markets in Asia, such as Line and KakaoTalk (South Korean based tech companies).
Below are the breakdown of top social networks used in major Asian/SE Asian countries :
China China’s population is 1,381,588,762 according to United Nations estimates which is equivalent to 18.72% of total world population. Today, it is considered the most populous country in the world. Among those billion plus people, 721,434,547 of them are internet users- nearly 52.2% of the total Chinese population. With the largest population, inevitably China has the most social network users in the world and some of the highest numbers of daily interactions on social networks.
Since the Great Firewall of China, internet censorship policies from the Chinese government, major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are blocked in China. Thus, a China-based tech company, Tencent Group, plays a major role in providing social network platforms for Chinese citizen. In January 2011, the company launched an instant messaging app for mobile phones, called Wechat, which gained instant success. The service not only provides service to send messages, voice text and picture, Wechat also allows the users to share image and text, share articles, and write comments and “like” in the Moments feature. This unique feature only allows friends from the user’s list who are able to view the Moment and comment; once the post has been made, it can be linked to Facebook and Twitter as well.
As the number of users reached 697 million active users in March 2016, Wechat has expanded its features into various services such as banking services, e-commerce, payment services, cab calling, gaming etc. For the banking service, it enables users to transferring money without any additional charge, and not attached to debit or credit card. Its payment feature, WePay, is also popular to pay online shopping transaction and rivals Alibaba’s Alipay, the payment service from largest e-commerce in China, Alibaba.com.
Line, an instant messaging app for mobile phones, tablets and personal computers is the clear winner among social networks platform in Japan. As reported, Line has 50 million monthly active users in Japan, which means that approximately 40% of the total Japanese population uses Line. Line’s main features include private messaging, sharing pictures, music, gaming and posting moments in a timeline. It also has voice and video call service for free. The app itself was launched in 2011 by NHN Japan, part of giant Korena tech company.
Even though the most visited social network in Japan is Facebook, with 22.79 million visitors in 2015, Line has so much more influence in Japan’s culture and every day social communication.
“In Japan, young people often swap Line IDs like only a few years ago they’d swap email addresses or phone numbers,” says Brian Ashcraft, an Osaka-based correspondent for gaming site Kotaku as reported in btrax.com.
As stated in statista.com, the number of Japan internet users currently reach 115 million users, making it the 3rd largest number among Asian countries after China and India. Among those 115 million, 93.1 of them accessing internet through mobile devices.
KakaoTalk is leading the popularity among social network providers in South Korea. Globally it has 48 million users of which 40 million are South Korean. Released in 2010, the app is available for windows, android and blackberry phones. According to reports, the app received 932.2 billion won ($808.5 million) in 2015.
KakaoTalk offers a variety of services such as free video and voice calls, games, emojis and stickers which can replace words when chatting. This product, is, in many ways, similar to Line. Today it is available in 16 languages worldwide. In 2014, the company it was merged with with Daum, the second largest internet portal in South Korea and has been listed in South Korean Stock Exchange.
As the third largest population country in Asia, Indonesia is a prominent market for social network. Indonesia has a population of around 260 million people, but only one third of Indonesians actively use the Internet; about 88 million people. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, consecutively, are the leading social networks which gained wide users in Indonesia.
As of February 2016, it was reported that 80 million Indonesian are using social networks. Facebook is the most popular platform among social network providers; the statistic shows that three in four Indonesians who use the internet also use Facebook. Sources claim that Indonesia has the greatest penetration rates of Facebook around Southeast Asian countries, also 4th largest amount of Facebook users in the world. In terms of demographics, Jakarta is the most urban and busiest city in Indonesia-and has about 11 million Facebook users.
Thailand has around 26 million internet users, making it as 4th largest market in Southeast Asia Countries, while percentage of social network penetration is 74.5%. It is estimated that around 18.9 million people in Thailand are using the most popular social network, Facebook.
In the interview with The Natin Pavan Varma, global business manager of Facebook that there was changing behavior of consumer behavior in Thailand.
“Thai consumers spend more time on Facebook than they do watching television, even during prime time. They use Facebook throughout the day, with usage rising in the early and late evening,” he said. He added that this insight should robust individual marketing using Facebook as the platform.
According to studies, Thai people do indeed spend around 3.5 or more hours a day on social media sites. Furthermore, data suggests that around 28% of Thai people have a facebook account while only 15% are on twitter and less than 11% use Line.
Like Thailand, Facebook is the most popular social network in Singapore. In 2015, it was reported that there are over 2.4 million Facebook daily users in Singapore. However, more recently, other messaging apps have been attracting lots of attention such as Whatsapp which is most popular messaging app, followed Line and WeChat. Those two platforms are preferable to connect with friends and favourite brands such as mcDonalds, which has an official brand channel in those platforms to connect with a growing number of users.
In Hong Kong, Whatsapp is the most widely used social network, consisting of 41% of total population. In 2015, South China Morning Post reported that Whatsapp is one of the tools which are widely used to communicate with remote workers, while Dropbox is in the following list.
“The growth in instant messaging applications and document-sharing services in particular is playing an enormous role in helping more people to work flexibly,” said Michael Ormiston, country manager for Regus in Hong Kong in the interview.