Adobe Digital Dialogue

September 18, 2012 /Digital Marketing /

Social Business Maturing in South Asia

Will Bosma, APAC Solution Consulting Director, Adobe Australia – LinkedIn, @wbosma


I have been fortunate this week to spend time with a number a larger enterprises in Singapore and Malaysia discussing their current social business situation and their priority needs going into 2013. These meeting were across a number of industries but there were some strong consistencies across all of them.

They have been on a remarkably similar journey. By and large, they all start with an ad hoc approach to social media listening, engagement and moderation. This ‘experimental’ stage see’s social initiatives disconnected and operating in a silo from all other channels. The measures are nearly always the low level ones that focus on ‘how many’. The fixation is on getting more friends, fans and followers.

The history was remarkably similar – at this stage they are using free tools to try to manage the processes – and they are using a lot of them and in a very disconnected way. And as these enterprises are pan regional, in some cases global; the presence grows rapidly and they have a lot of different pages and accounts all over the place. The engagement is almost completely reactive. Its at about this time they begin to discover that social media is far from ‘free’ and that to be effective they need to do something very much more integrated and strategic.

Pretty much during the past few years they have been evolving into social brands. Marketing seems to own all social initiatives and the focus is on brand / reputation management, marketing optimization –  and the KPI’s now turn more to engagement – comments, retweets, customer posts, ‘people talking about this’ metrics are now at the fore. Now, given that Asia has some of the most engaged audiences on the planet  (see figure below) you would expect that engagement rates are high compared to other parts of the world. And its amazing how pretty much every major brand has a sport or famous sporting team connection that features as an important part of the content and engagement strategy. Popular picks are football (soccer) teams from the English leagues; Formula 1 teams and some events like the recent Olympics.

Some of the companies I spoke to had over 1.5M fans on their Facebook pages and hundreds of thousands of twitter followers.

There is a strong emphasis on outbound social campaigns but with so many channels and presences they are struggling to maintain brand consistency; struggling to keep the engaging content flowing and increasingly concerned about governance.  And today, they have evolved from using only free tools to having a real mix of point solutions. Perhaps some freeware for engagement; a paid tool for social listening; a different one for publishing; and perhaps another for moderation.

And whilst social no longer sits in a complete silo; nor is it completely integrated. I saw examples of specific channels set up for customer service which were separated from the outbound marketing channels but if a customer lodges their complaint in another channel it gets ignored. You can literally see customer delight in one channel and customer anger in another

I would argue that many of these enterprises have reached the operational stage of social business, with a focus on marketing. It’s a more embedded part of the business and there is a lot of focus on campaign integration and even some thought on how to utilize social internally.  But they are struggling to get to the next level.  There is even some frustration within businesses that social has gone too far from a marketing perspective. That investments are being made in increasing levels of social campaigns without analysis of results and comparison to other marketing channels. This was pretty surprising to me.

And as the conversation then moved to ‘where now’ there is again a remarkable consistency in what these organisations have as their priorities for social in the coming year. They want order; they want consistency and they want measurable results – in short they want to move to the next level of social business.

Universally, they want to take social out of its remaining silo and make it an integral part of the business – at least from a marketing perspective. They want to centralize some of the governance around key processes to promote consistency of message and brand as well as ensure compliance with increasing regulation. But they didn’t necessarily want to reduce the number of sites they have.

Largely they see the value in having local presence and encouraging the regional / local business to build its own community. This can be difficult to know how far to go – some banks want to have a Facebook page per branch for example whilst others felt a country based approach is enough.

What they did want though was integrated workflows and permissions where they could create a framework which gave them flexibility to decide what could be decentralized and what should be centrally approved.

But over and above all else, they want to be able to close the loop and measure the results of their social efforts. This is really heartening as this truly indicates to me that social business is maturing and organisations are understanding that ROI can and should be measured on social initiatives – after all, that is a primary reason for all forms of digital marketing – its measurable! And of course, there is mounting pressure from the C suite to demonstrate this return as they all know by now that social media is far from free.

A little while ago I wrote a blog piece on the 10 Commandments of Social Business which a few people connected with.  It seems to me that large enterprises in South Asia are doing well on most of those but as yet have not recognized the needs for a social business strategy, not a social media strategy. But they are working hard now on making social measurable.

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