Carol Ong

When Social Went Global

A repost of one of our monthly tech columns for Marketing Magazine, this one on the globalisation of social media and what it means for, well, all of us. This article first appeared on 04.03.14. It sets the scene for a regular round-up here on technology in China and Asia Pacific by Carol Ong (based on her own newsletter), the first one of which is here.

Via nasa.gov, the recreation of "Earthrise"

Via nasa.gov, the recreation of “Earthrise”

The comforting phrase “social is local” has echoed through marketing departments for a while now. Comforting because it suggests it’s enough to have experienced, tech-savvy people representing the brand on the ground who know their own community backyard. No question, local intelligence is vitally important. But as this year unfolds, I think we’re going to see some shifts in how social media marketing operates around the globe. Call it a new form of ‘social migration’ that global marketers in particular should pay attention to.

I say this for a few reasons:

1. The growth of the largest social networks now depends on new geographic territories

If you’re Facebook, what do you do once you have 1.23 billion monthly active users on your platform (813 million of which are on mobile, 60% of whom are returning daily)? You take your now mobile-first platform, commit to making it more efficient so that it uses less bandwidth in  markets where that really matters and simultaneously set about putting the technological infrastructure on the ground to accelerate providing Internet connectivity “for the next 5 billion”; which is exactly what Zuckerberg is doing via Internet.org, announced last year. This is clearly a philanthropic and a commercial move: two thirds of the world without access to the Internet represents a giant growth opportunity. And Facebook aren’t alone in turning their attention to the rest of the world. Aside from Facebook’s partners in Internet.org (Samsung, MediaTek, Ericsson, Nokia, Opera and Qualcomm), Twitter’s IPO last year revealed it was targetting Argentina, France, Japan, Russia, Saudia Arabia and South Africa for faster growth than the United States.

2. Mobile powers the pace of the shift

New behaviours often make existing services redundant, but the explosion in mobile penetration and usage worldwide*, creating what the World Economic Forum describes as a “dramatically altered business environment” across Africa for example, has allowed the leading social platforms to continue to grow, despite newer players arriving and scaling at vertigo-inducing pace: China’s WeChat, plus WhatsApp, SnapChat and Instagram being amongst the most salient. With social media, if your service is mobile first, a rising tide really does float all boats.

3. Cultural importers can export too

This time last year I was sitting in Beijing, listening to the CMO of Alfred Dunhill, Jason Beckley, speak about bringing a luxury British brand to the world. His words were refreshingly open-minded:

“Our market is in migration,” he summised, “…and we’d be naive if we thought luxury will always be an imported idea.”

The same is true of technology. If you want to predict the future of social and mobile, you’d do worse than watch China. It’s not just about the giant data pool. Historically dismissed for copycat innovation, the market is now home to some trail-blazing companies like the mobile company XiaoMi, with their eyes set on a global marketplace. By way of another example, take WeChat’s early rebranding for global rollout and their omnivorous approach to development (originally a messaging service, they added photo sharing & filters, games and now taxi bookings, with deeper mcommerce on the near horizon). Burberry announced a ‘digital innovation partnership’ with WeChat in February.

In short, I’d suggest we get used to the idea of ‘guanxi’, a Chinese term meaning both personal and business networks or connections, extending into Europe and the US this year. Taobao, Jack Ma’s equivalent of eBay but several times’ the size, recently shared a list of the hottest shopping keywords used in 2013. You may think it’s too early to get excited about keeping up with the rise of tuhao, buying yellow ducks and avoiding peng ci, but as technology businesses go about smashing geographic barriers and consumption get more collaborative, I wouldn’t bet on it.

*According to the content marketing service, Percolate, ‘pull to refresh’ is the most used gesture in the world – for more stats and analysis, check out their excellent The State of Content Marketing piece last year and more recently ‘Weibo, WeChat and the Future of Chinese Social Media‘.

Update: check out more on XiaoMi’s international expansion roadmap here, (via Benedict Evans).

Digital Digest, Asia Pacific – February edition

We’ve enjoyed our friend Carol Ong’s digital digest out of BBH China for a good while now and it feels long overdue to share it. She has kindly agreed to cross-publish a monthly round-up of the best digital and technology stories coming out of China and Asia Pacific that she gathers at her blog. More on some broader implications to follow next month. For now, the February edition.

Author: Carol Ong, Associate Creative Director, BBH China (@cbongga)

Hi everyone,

I started a Digital Digest email group last year to curate some cool stuff I find in the digital space, particularly in China and Asia. A personal project originally intended for colleagues and clients, it got good feedback, and when other people asked to be in the mailing list…. I decided to post the newer Digital Digest to a more public space, on my personal blog (warning, lots of baby pictures!).

Mel also asked me to do a “Best of Digital Digest” on a monthly basis for BBH Labs. So here it is for this month. Happy Chinese New Year!

Just tap this link to go directly to the Digital Digests.

A peek into what the Chinease technology industry is like

Last year, upcoming Chinese mobile XiaoMi made the global tech geeks sit up and notice when Android star Hugo Barra joined them. He made a presentation in Paris on the amazing potential of China. Such as: disposable income triples in the last 8 years. 122+ billionaires and lots of them in the their 40s and 50s. Ecommerce, mcommerce, mobile social media and China’s version of Pay Pal are much bigger and better than their US counterparts.

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Have you tried hailing cabs in China and none would stop even if they’re all empty? Taxi booking apps exploded in 2013. People started “bidding” for cabs, by guaranteeing tips. The biggest ones, Kuaide and Didi, are backed by Alibaba and Tencent respectively.  In 2014, you can now use WeChat to book, bid, and pay Didi!

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With the rise of mobile came the rise of GIFs. But it’s so hard to search for the right GIFs, isn’t it? Not anymore. Enter frame Giphy (pronounced as Jiffy). It’s the search engine for GIFs. Try it, search “puppies”. You’re welcome.
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Very good tips for online films and TVCs.

Wechat evolves faster than a newborn baby! I believe this is the Chinese social platform with the most potential to become global (not Sina Weibo). Wechat’s reached 270million active users last November 2013, and 600 registered users. It’s the new marketing favorite and the uses seems endless. Here are some interesting ways brands used Wechat.

See all public Digital Digests:  http://trevorxfiles.com/category/digital-digest/

That’s all folks! See you next month!

Carol