Three reasons Asia is the place to be for digital

Social networking is no longer a niche market says comScore’s Joe Nugyen in this must-read post (here). Yet despite all the headlines generated around social media growth in Asia, whether it be Facebook’s growth and dominance in previously uncharted Asian territory – like India – or Twitter’s huge adoption in markets like Japan, Indonesia, India and others, the message is clear that Asia is the place where the internet and digital media is growing fastest.

With that in mind, three of the (four) key findings from TNS’ Digital Life report neatly summarise why I believe Asia is the place to be for digital and tech right now. 

Of course Asia is not the world’s only ‘developing markets’, but few others boast the cultural and technologogical diversity that the continent enjoys.

1. Those in online markets in Asia engage more (Malaysia, for example, is thought to be the world’s biggest social networking addict)

Online consumers in rapid growth markets have overtaken mature markets in terms of engaging with digital activities.  

When looking at behaviour online, rapid growth markets such as Egypt (56%) and China (54%) have much higher levels of digital engagement than mature markets such as Japan (20%), Denmark (25%) or Finland (26%).  

This is despite mature markets usually having a more advanced internet infrastructure.

2. Knowledge and usage of new media continues to grow across Asia.

Activities such as blogging and social networking are gaining momentum at huge speed in rapid growth markets. The research shows four out of five online users in China (88%) and over half of those in Brazil (51%) have written their own blog or forum entry, compared to only 32% in the US.  

The Internet has also become the default option for photo sharing among online users in rapid growth markets, particularly in Asia.

The number of online consumers who have ever uploaded photos to social networks or photo sharing sites is 92% in Thailand, 88% in Malaysia and 87% in Vietnam, whilst developed markets are more conservative. Less than a third of online consumers in Japan (28%) and under half of those in Germany (48%) have uploaded photos to such sites.

3. Mobile is crucial across Asia, giving internet access to those who might otherwise be without it, and creating a vast range of possibilities and usage cases for internet and online services on the go.

Growth in social networking has been fuelled by the transition from PC to mobile.  

Mobile users spend on average 3.1 hours per week on social networking sites compared to just 2.2 hours on email. The drive to mobile is driven by the increased need for instant gratification and the ability of social networks to offer multiple messaging formats, including the instant message or update function.

When looking at how the digital landscape will change in the future, research shows that consumers expect their use of social networking on mobiles to increase more than use through PC.  

In the US, for example, a quarter (26%) of online consumers expect their use of social networking on a PC to increase in the next 12 months compared to over a third (36%) who will be looking to their mobile to increase usage. In Australia the figures are 26% and 44% respectively, and in Sweden they are 28% and 53%.

Okay, so there are less statistics to show the prevalence of mobile in Asia (point three), but when we consider that the continent lags behind the west in terms of infrastructure and, generally speaking, investment in technology mobile has huge potential for connecting the ‘mass markets’ to the internet, and the many benefits it can provide.

Though it may be considered a laggard by western markets, for me Asia is in the early stages of an exciting new internet era.

Whether it be the excitement and buzz around Twitter in Indonesia or Japan, the Facebookisation of Southeast Asia, the growth of new communications in India, China’s mobile internet masses or the growth of new media reporting (for example during the Bangkok protests earlier this year), Asia is the place to be for anyone interested in technology and its affect on people, everyday life and communications.