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Asia's Social Media Boom

A macro-economic expert could view social media as a good economic development indicator. Social media fever is fading a bit in the US after the mini-bubble, encouraged by the highly criticized purchase of Involver by Oracle, and the unfortunately premature acquisition - according to WWP's CEO - of SalesForce by Buddy Media. But, on the other side of the Pacific, social media is booming in a way few could have predicted.

Social media is not only for developed countries

With an increasing urban population and an Internet penetration level close to the 34%, there are well over 30 million Vietnamese online and almost 50% of them are already on Facebook.

Vietnam is still lagging a bit compared to its ASEAN pals as these other markets are more mature in terms of social media: 80% of netizens in the Phillipines, Indonesia and Thailand are active on social networks. However, to understand the importance of this data, it is important to remember that Facebook was "officially" an enemy of the Vietnamese Government. Mark Zuckerbeng was able to change that during his holidays in Vietnam, orchestrating Facebook's agreement with FPT, making the state IT corporation the first "Preferred Developer Program Consultant" in the region.

Linkedin has seen great results in Indonesia and India, but Singapore offers the most impressive symbol of social media's key role in economic hubs - in a country of 5 million people, more than 1 million have signed up for the professional networking service.

India and Vietnam see highest rates of Facebook penetration

According to the free Facebook statistics operator, Quintly data, following Brazil, the countries with the highest increase of Facebook users are Vietnam and India. Over the last three months, Vietnam (+2.8 million), India (+2 million) and Thailand (+0.3 million) have shown that Facebook is playing an increasingly important role in the lives of thier citizens.

Qzone and the state of Chinese Social Media

Facebook is far from the only name in Asia's social media scene. Leading the way is Qzone, with more than 500 million users and Sina Weibo, with more than 300 million. Korean-based Cyworld, checks in with 33 million users followed by local player, Zing, to round out the top four Asia-based social networks.

Twitter and Japan

This year, many expect Twitter to be the primary social network in terms of growth in most Asian countries. In Japan, it already is.

Once living in the shadows of social networks like Mixi and Gree, Twitter has become the default in Japan, having more than 30% more users than Facebook. Other social media experts like VentureBreakp confirm that this trend will continue. After the Tsunami disaster in 2011, the Japanese turned to social media, especially Twitter. The number of tweets spiked to more than 5,000 per second five separate times after the quake and tsunami, a 500 percent increase that was even compared with the ancient Japanese tradition of Haiku by ViralBlog.

There seems to be a bit of an anomaly here given Twitter’s domination amongst Vietnam’s neighbors. I asked local friends, some of which told me that Twitter is as an unnecessary social network, or that it will never work. While this may be the case, it might also highlight the fact that Vietnam is going through internet puberty.

As some have said, Twitter is for people you want to meet, and Facebook is for people you already know. Is it too soon for Vietnam? Or are other social networks coming down the pipe with more consideration of Asian cultural factors?

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