This monthly post chronicles and analyzes updates across social platforms popular in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. In an ever-changing global social and economic landscape, it is Dachis Group’s belief that multinational corporations should remain aware of the social opportunities and challenges that await them in some of the world’s most promising emerging markets. Here’s the scoop for March:
- Sending out the ‘Vibes’ – Orkut has launched a new feature enabling users to send out vibes, literally. Users can select one of 11 different emoticons to post to their friends’ profiles and can change the emoticon as their feelings change toward the individual. Even more, the data will not be anonymized–users will be able to see exactly how each participating friend feels about them. This type of data could be useful for brands that are often forced to unearth fan sentiment through tedious manual analysis or through a faulty third party algorithm. As a brand marketer, would you want Orkut to expand Vibes to see how fans feel about your brand? Or would you be to fearful of fan sentiment being public?
- Community Themes – Orkut recently made themes available to community pages. Sadly though, it seems there’s no option for community managers to upload custom themes. Community managers are only able to pick from a pre-selected list of themes that has long been available to Orkut users. If I’m a brand marketer leveraging the platform, I’d be wondering why I don’t have the capability to upload a custom background to support my branding efforts. I’m of the opinion that Orkut could have used this update to enable further brand integration by way of custom themes. Limited brand integration means less brand engagement. This limits the necessity of the channel for brands and reduces investment levels from brand marketers. What do you think?
- Social Ad Spend Rising – According to Microsoft Advertising, social marketers in Brazil are growing more convinced that social ad spend will bring them closer to consumers. 81% of social marketers in Brazil said they planned to “increase their social ad spend” in 2012; in comparison, 64% of U.S. marketers expressed the same intent. In previous posts I’ve discussed Facebook’s rising prominence in the region and forecast this conviction to increase social ad spend will correlate with continued Facebook growth.
- Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom – Check out this Latin Link article detailing how online ad spend, internet penetration, e-commerce, and mobile are poised for serious growth in 2012. These numbers appear fairly appetizing, no? When you combine these numbers with increased social ad spending and the notion that online Brazilians spend 4X more time surfing (the net) than they do watching television, the case for shifting TV dollars to online dollars becomes evermore apparent.
- Rio Social Business Summit – The Rio Summit is less than a month away on May 9th! You can check out the speaker lineup–including Adriana Knackfuss of Coca Cola and Flavio Mendes of IBM–and request an invite here.
- Post Pinning -VK continues to ‘borrow’ features from Twitter and Facebook. In this case they’ve added the ability to pin content to brand pages. It leaves me wondering where is the innovation in Russia? The trend of copying Facebook functionality continues, but mistake no mistake, post pinning functionality is still a good move for the platform. I hypothesize a successful westward expansion will require equal parts familiar Facebook functionality and VK innovation. Without key differentiators, I see the network rising in popularity over the near term, but fear for its long-term survival against Facebook if they stay in copycat mode.
- Uspeak Ukrainian? – A tribute to their westward neighbors, VK has announced a platform news page for Ukrainian users. The page will allow Ukranians to keep up with all the channel’s happenings in their native tongue. Kudos to VK because there’s certainly an audience for this information amongst brand marketers and socialites. Perhaps the move will sway Ukrainian marketers and drive increased brand activity on the channel. What do you think? Could this mark the beginning of a series of language specific VK news pages or is this simply a one-off instance for Ukrainian users on the channel? Perhaps a proliferation of region-specific channels will help VK track foreign interest and help the brand determine market opportunities.
- ‘Crussian’ the World in Social Media use – Russians enjoy spending time on the social web according to a recent Ipsos-Reuters poll. The poll reports that about 75% of Russian Internet users visit social media sites–this compares to a 62% average for 23 other countries surveyed. Internet World Stats claims about 61 million of 139 million Russians use the Internet. Applying this data to the numbers from Ipsos-Reuters supports that about 45 million Russians are using social at the moment. How much headroom is left?
- The two points from the Orkut updates above also affect marketers and users in India.
- Bridging the Facebook Divide – In previous posts I’ve discussed how the growth of mobile in India will help bridge the digital divide in the region. Fonetwish is looking to bridge both the digital and social divide in one fell swoop. Self-described as a new “USSD based interactive service which brings the power of internet to every mobile phone. Fonetwish provides access to Facebook from any mobile phone without the requirement of any data connection.” Perusing their website, it seems the service is either (a) solely dedicated to connecting users with Facebook or (b) highly informed about what appeals (i.e. “Free access to Facebook!”) will drive users to their service. Without having to pay for a data plan, the financial barrier to entry for lower income individuals is lessened and opens the Facebook platform to tens of millions of people. For brand marketers, a couple of questions that may come to mind include (a) what is the value of a Fonetwish user to my brand and (b) how does consumer engagement vary between mobile and desktop? It’s a given that the value of these consumers will vary by brand and I’d hypothesize that desktop figures are more encouraging at the moment, but as mobile evolves I envision both consumers and brands will be forced to adapt to the new marketplace conditions. Thoughts?
- Spend More Time on Social than emails – Norton has released a report outlining the online activities of Internet users in India. Among the findings, it’s reported that Indians spend an average of 9.7 hours a week on social networking sites, making it the second most popular online activity behind general web browsing. Juxtaposed against recent reports (see chart), this figure feels a little high, but should at least provide for a ranking of how Indian web users behave online. If the figure is indeed accurate, then I’d be moving quickly to devise a plan on how best to engage this increasingly active and widening audience.
- Brands on Sina Weibo – The folks at CIC Data and Sina Weibo teamed up to produce a report outlining the “Overall development of enterprise application of weibo, the first industry benchmarks and examples of successful operating strateg[ies].” Thus far, the report is only available in Chinese, but they’ve promised an English version in the near future. Among the key findings: (1) a wide-range of consumer segments show considerable excitement about the prospect of receiving personalized brand recommendations and (2) American companies are forging the way in terms of foreign representation on the platform. This activity suggests American brands are paying heed to the emerging market and its social viability. Looking ahead, consumer receptivity to personalized brand messages will give way to a considerable spike of American brand activity over the next year. It’s encouraging to see this kind of activity from American brands. Foreign channel adoption signifies that brand marketers the world over are realizing the tremendous gains they can make through social.
- Instagram Adds Support for Sina Weibo – Just before the $1 Billion Dollar acquisition that blew up the social web, Instagram integrated Sina Weibo into their popular photo-sharing app. I’ll step back from analyzing and let Tech in Asia own the discussion.
- Competing Video Channels Merge – In big news, Chinese video giants Youku and Tudou merged, forming China’s largest online video sharing company. Tech in Asia is reporting “The merger is mostly taking place at [the] boardroom level – the two respective sites will continue as normal, and for some time will still have competing and overlapping interests.” As we discussed in last month’s post, Sina Weibo announced plans to integrate Tudou functionality within the microblogging platform. The merger represents another momentous shift in the online video landscape and its growing prevalence in the region. The merger will likely give rise to increased interests from brand marketers as a leading video site materializes and gives way to a wider audience base. In the song ‘Power’, Kanye West raps that “No one man should have all that power” and I’d be singing a much similar tune if I were a Youku competitor (e.g. 56).
- China Second Behind U.S. in Social Channel Brand Value – Check out this report from BV4 which ranks the world’s most valuable social media brands. U.S. brands Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter lead the pack, but Chinese brands QZone, Sina Weibo, and Tencent Weibo help make China the world’s second most valuable social brand market. As the digital and social divide narrows in China, watch for the value of these Chinese social brands to continue along an upward trajectory (barring government interference).
- Zuckerberg visits China – Mark Zuckerberg took a trip to China in March. I’m going to keep speculation to a minimum, but I can think of about 1.3 Billion reasons for his visit.
- Shanghai Social Business Summit – It happens tomorrow (April 18th)! Speakers include Sam Flemming of CIC, Donna Li of Renren, and Alistair Rennie of IBM. If you’re not going, you can follow attendees’ key takeaways and weigh-in on Twitter here.
- The Rise of Facebook in BRIC Nations – Check out this article to learn of Facebook’s rise and adoption in BRIC economies. Obvious obstacles remain in China and VKontakte holds a slight lead in Russia, but the articles hypothesizes that Brazilians and Indians are swarming to the channel because of key platform differentiators and FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out effect. It continues by claiming that Russian domination may not be far off and that growth in China is difficult, but plausible–Zuckerberg’s recent visit may support this hypothesis. What do you think?