Asian Companies Slow On The Uptake?


Burson-Marsteller’s Second Annual Global Social Media Check-up looks at how Fortune 100 companies use social media, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs

Twitter has emerged as the most popular. Seventy-seven percent of companies now have accounts, up from 65 percent the previous year.

Burson-Marsteller found that social media has very quickly gone from an interesting emerging communications trend to a critical part of the media landscape, and companies are reacting to that change. “Last year, our Global Social Media Check-up found that 79 percent of the largest 100 companies in the Fortune Global 500 index are using at least one of the most popular social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or corporate blog, but companies were mainly using these channels for one-way communication to broadcast corporate messages.

This year, the study found that the Fortune Global 100 are now more likely to directly engage users on social media, and companies are increasingly “@” mentioning and retweeting on Twitter and allowing and answering posts on Facebook pages. This is a clear indication that companies are now putting resources behind social media monitoring and engagement in a way that they were not 12 months prior. ”

So overall the understanding of what social media actually is and its potential has vastly increased in the short space of 12 months.

However there are cultural considerations that have shone through these results.  Asian firms are far more reticent to embrace social media

Aude Lagorce of MarketWatch believes that the reasons behind Asian firms’ slow digital adoption are numerous, complex and vary by geography and industry, but at the root, they are cultural.

Setting up a page on Facebook or launching a corporate blog gives a firm a “face” with its stakeholders, helping to make it seem more approachable, caring and responsive.

This is a paradox given that Asians are early and passionate adopters of digital technology and social media platforms, particularly the home-grown variety.

But as  Kenneth Hong, LG’s global communications director explains: “The mentality in many Asian cultures is that you want to be in control, and taking risks, such as changing your communication strategy, using digital more is, well, risky.”

The hierarchical organisation of many Asian companies is based mainly on seniority and experience. As a result youthful enthusiasm and creativity find it difficult to flourish in such a conservative environment, which in turn hinders the adoption of social media in business.

To put it more bluntly, many of the senior executives are out of touch but do not wish to lose face in the boardroom by broaching a topic which they are not fully conversant with. And if  this digital leadership does not come from the top the lesser ranks are unlikely to blight their careers by raising the possibilities.

Similarly, online advertising spend in Asia lags behind the global trends although a primary reason is a doubt on the return on investment.

However there is a silver lining to the recent recession; it kick started a major advance in online advertising as it proved to be a low cost alternative to other more traditional media such as television. Asian companies were therefore more will to try it out.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Singapore’s digital advertising spend jumped 26% in 2010 when compared to the previous year.

Burson-Marsteller’s study showed there was a 6 percent increase overall  in Fortune 100 companies using at least one social media platform. Among Asian companies the increase was 34 percent.

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About thedigitalconsultant

Roger Smith is an international, digital consultant and former British Council Director of Online Operations within the East Asia region. http://thedigitalconsultant.blogspot.com
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