Thailand’s Love Affair with Instagram


A country inhabited by 67 million souls, Thailand has over 24 million Facebook and 1.5 million Instagram users. Not surprisingly, in 2013 there was a total of 36,443,398 photos and videos uploaded on Instagram from stunning Thailand. The natural and architectural beauty of the country lends itself to an Instagram frenzy, with people seeking a photo opportunity everywhere they go.In 2012 the top two most photographed locations were in the Thai capital, Bangkok. Interestingly though, surpassing all major world landmarks and attractions, including Disneyland, Times Square and the Eiffel Tower by far, the most popular location was Survarnabhumi Airport. The second was Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok’s more prolific shopping complexes. In 2011, both these two locations made the top 5.  As Tech in Asia commented on its 2012 report, ” if there are three things Bangkokians love to do most, it’s to travel, shop, and take silly self-pics whilst doing so.”However, there’s more to it than new airports, mega malls, perfectly reclining Budhas, vibrant temples and sandy beaches. Thai celebrities are also a key part of Instagram’s success in the country. Nine out of 10 of the most followed Thais on Instagram are (very attractive showbiz) females with the most watched being Chermarn Boonyasak and fellow actress Pachrapa Chaichua in a close second position. ZocialRank, the company that monitors social media trends in the country explains that celebrities make up 0.26 percent of the app’s user-base in Thailand. They have an average of 172,013 followers. Meanwhile, 10.48 percent are ‘influencers’ who have an average of 5,636 followers. This is a reflection of modern Thai culture’s infatuation with celebrities and everything ‘HiSo‘ (high society).Add the 10.2 million tourists passing through the country annually and you’ve got all the ingredients for thriving participation in a mobile image sharing platform like Instagram.

If you are keen to find out more about Thailand’s self-reflection in Instagram,  Zocial Inc’s nifty little Infographic can help:

Thailand loves instagram

Establishing your online presence in South Korea – Gangnam style, or not

Since the infectious single by Korean pop star PSY appeared in July, the Gangnam Style engineered dance routines, over-the-top styling, and the Technicolor production that captivated over 350 million viewers in YouTube, repositioned South Korea in the digital world and made us pay attention to a country we had left in the backburner for quite a while.

A subtle commentary on class in South Korea, PSY uses the repetitive tunes and somewhat quirky dance moves to paint a caricature of the ostentatious culture of people who frequent the wealthy Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam, where young people go to party.

If PSY has put Korea back in the map for you, it might be time to dig a little deeper and understand the state of digital communications and marketing in South Korea.

Here are some facts:

• South Korea is a top 10 trader in world markets and the home of household brands such a Samsung, LG and Hyundai.
• The South Korean economy in 2011 was the third largest in Asia and the thirteenth largest in the world.
• According to a June 2010 International Telecommunications Union (ITU) report, SK has some 48.6 milllion internet users, which represents 81.1 percent of the population. This makes SK the eleventh largest Internet population in the world.
• By 2012, a majority of Korean internet users will have access to 1 Gbps services, which is 10 times faster than they had in 2010.
• The Korean language ranks tenth among languages used on he Web.
• Men and women appear to be online in equal number, and almost 100 percent of all Korean under the age of 30 are online, including students, professionals, managers and office workers.
• Internet subscriptions are among the cheapest in the world. Most homes can get a 100 Mbps connection for KRW33000 ($30 US) per month.
• The Digital Economic Daily estimated two million web visitors in South Korea (about 8.5% of all Internet users) could be described as Internet addicts because they spend most of their non-work time online.
• More than 75% of Koreans have mobile phones and many are adopting smartphones as their way of connecting online, with the number of smartphones expected to reach 20 million in 2011.
• South Koreans have a passion for blogging, with nearly 40% of web users having had written their own blogs, second only to Chinese bloggers.

The Hangeul series - XII

It sounds promising, I know. But here is where business owners trying to penetrate this market need to hold their excitement and ponder about local preferences and idyosincracies.

South Korean preferred search engines

If we look at search engines as we know them, things start to get a little unfamiliar- not only do Google and Yahoo! Online have a market share in Korea of only about 10%, but also, Korean content is largely favoured over international content.

In 2010 local search engine Naver lead with a 62% share while Daum was number two at 21%. In third place came newcomer Nate, launched in 2009 by the popular Korean social network Cyworld.

Besides, while South Koreans have very successfully integrated the Internet into their daily lives in many ways, their expectations of what search engines should do for them are fairly complex for international newcomers – South Koreans want search engines to solve their problems for them and so the task of these providers is a lot more complex than simply producing a choice of links to click through.

As such, results pages on popular South Korean search engines Naver and Daum appear to Western eyes to look more like portals instead of the compilation of organic links on the left and sponsored links on the top and along the right side that we are so accustomed to. But most interestingly, these sites aggregate a lot of different kinds of content , combining paid content with news, blogs, academic articles, real time results, shopping comparisons and a lot of User Generated Content in very different formats like videos, images, special boxes for real time results and a continuously updated box of most popular searches.

Preferred content in South Korean search engines

If you search for a particular product in one of the most popular Korean search engines, you will get organic results well below the fold, leaving the top 15 to 20 spots for paid links. In fact, Korean users seem to expect both Naver and Daum to push traffic to other properties in their networks or paid listings.

Paid per click

The only really effective way to penetrate pay-per-click advertising in SK is via Yahoo! Korea’s Overture because it partners with both Naver and Nate and also shows ads on Yahoo! Korea, Paran, MSN, HanaFos and DreamWiz.

But even using these tools,  opportunities for foreign sites to advertise on Naver and Daun are limited to one or two listings from Yahoo! Korea, among as many as 50 on a typical results page.  Furthermore, in order to use Yahoo!Korea and manage your campaign successfully, you need to be use a native speaker of the language, preferably familiar with keyword optimization strategies who can manage it.

Your best bet is to translate your site to Korean and use  a Korean top-level domain such as co.kr and .kr

Social media

According to the South Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a stuggering 30% of online users in this country report to belong to some kind of a social media network, and 60% of youngsters in their twenties claim to purchase products or services using social media.

The top South Korean social network Cyworld had more than 25 million members in 2010 – more than six times the number of users than Facebook has in the country. Thanks to the partnership between the second largest search engine in the country, Daum and Twitter, South Koreans can now microblog from inside the portal, producing a twitter usage rate twice the global average.

Online PR

Online Press releases are an important tool to socialise your news in South Korea. This, can in turn, become an effective way to bring your news and your company to the attention of searchers there via their user-generated content. Both PR Newswire and Business wire translate and distribute PRs there. Plus PR Week reported in August 2010 there are over 600 public relations agencies in South Korea.

Korean digital language, culture and website aesthetics

Koreans are accustomed and expect high digital standards and user-friendly, fast websites that adapt to their tastes and preferences. The widespread broadband created a stimulus for web developers to write overly complex and rich web-pages. So, South Koreans now embrace visually rich, highly interactive websites that incorporate flash and images, preferably animated, like so:

Another element to take into account is censorship. Remember that all South Korean who publish content on the internet are required by law to verify their identity with their citizen identity number. The most common form of censorship at present involves ordering internet service providers to block the IP address of disfavored websites. Because of this, and all the above reasons, I think it is wise to establish a sound relationship with the digital agency in South Korea to help you pave your approach to this country’s Internet culture.  This is a market that is certainly worth becoming part of but not without having done a very solid research prior and having understood its obstacles and peculiarities.

Don’ts of South Korean digital marketing

Apply your common sense and don’t expect conventional western search marketing strategies to apply to the South Korean market.

• Remember that access for business located outside South Korea is limited to one or two listings on a results page.
• Even if you think that relevant, timely content and links are going to help you achieve results, think twice. You will still have to fight for visibility with other 50 something paid listings and links to UGC.
• Don’t expect to focus your search strategy on Google Korean and receive the visibility you are hoping for. Yes, you can geo-target this market from inside your AdWords account, but keep in mind Google and Yahoo! Together hold less than one-tenth of the market.
• And if you are familiar with other Asian countries like China or Japan, don’t expect South Korea to automatically function like them. SK is very unique and a very lively internet market with its own preferences and rules of play.

Creating a website for Chinese audiences – Optimising, linking and sharing

If I discouraged you with my earlier post on setting up a properly localised website in China, it wasn’t my intention. Although there is no denying that the language, cultural and bureaucratic barriers in China may seem to outweigh the final benefits for you and your business, the nature of the Chinese audience as it is now and as it is evolving towards the future, could very well be a deal breaker for your online business.

Why?

Because of the power of viral reaction in China.

Packed like Runners in a Subway Car

Similarly to many Asian countries, Chinese online users love highly interactive websites and web 2.0 functionality that allows them to directly participate in the site. As such, blogs, forums, comments, ratings and similar features are very popular. Besides, Chinese audiences tend to be very brand driven and focused viral campaigns seem to work particularly well in this vast country.

This could very well be result of the long term orientation ingrained in Chinese consciousness, also known in this society as 关系 (guānxì). The strength of the community and the past links that bind them together result in relationships where they invest a good deal of effort to ensure they remain harmonious and reciprocal for life. An emphasis on long-term relationships is key to the development of trust, another very important component in the development of a solid network.

Search Engine Optimisation
MKT China estimates that in the last quarter of 2010 there were 4.02 billion search queries in China of which local search engine Baidu had a market share of 56.6%. So, it is very important for your newly arrived business to consistently achieve high rankings in this search engine primarily, as well as in Google.com.hk and Yahoo.cn.

How?
1. Keyword Research
If language limitations prevent you from doing the appropriate research to make sure you use the most effective keywords for your site in China, try to find a reputable Chinese online marketer to help you:
• define those keywords
• submit them to major international and Chinese search engines,
• submit them to relevant Chinese online business directories
• develop an efficient link strategy.

A good translator can also help you integrate your keywords into the copy as part of the translation process.

2. SEO Optimised copy
But remember that your marketing messaging needs to be equally compelling and persuasive and cause the initially intended emotive messaging. This time, however, the message needs to be conveyed in the Chinese language, to Chinese audiences. For this purpose, you would be better off engaging the assistance of a professional SEO copywriter to help you place the right keyword phrases in the right density in the right places. This person should be well informed about search engines guidelines in order to avoid penalties incurred by keyword stuffing and spamming. But equally important, he/she should deliver quality SEO copywriting that entices visitors to respond to the various Calls-to-Action proposed by the company.

Link and pay-per-click
A simple pay-per-click campaign, which works the same way in China as everywhere else, will help you gain an initial stronghold in the Chinese online market while your website is waiting submission in the local search engines. Your traffic will receive an early traffic boost and get important information on the performance and potential profitability of your website. Again, the advice and assistance of local online marketing experts will be invaluable to help you approach the main pay-per-click platforms in china (Baidu, Google, Soso.com, Sogou.com and Bing), because, although the process is fairly similar for English and Chinese pay-per-click campaigns, the language and cultural barriers could be far too overwhelming and slow if not halt your attempt altogether.

Remember that, ideally, your Chinese marketing campaign should not be ‘translated’ from English, but developed from scratch and supervised by linguistic and market experts. Use your successful English online marketing strategy simply as a reference point but try to develop a local presence that make logic to the Chinese audience. Besides, the focus of your website and pay per click campaign, when handled by capable local professional, can be tailored towards the products that will be most profitable in China. A good pay-per-click manager may be able to find less competitive keywords and niches to increase your ROI.

When choosing potential working partners in China, try to find somebody you can rely on, trust and communicate with.

Your share strategy in China
As impenetrable as it seems, the notorious Great Firewall of China, has succeeded at blocking some international high social media profile sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter but it has not managed to keep this vast community from diving into social networking. Today, more than 500 million Chinese citizens are online reviewing, complaining, raving and overall, sharing what’s there to share with whomever is there to share it with. Of all of these users, 30% log into at least one of their favourite social media sites and most of them spend an average of  2.7 hours online per day — second to only the Japanese.

Cleverly enough, Chinese nationals have found a way to imitate the international social networks that are not allowed in China: Renren and Kaixin001 replace Facebook and Weibo replaces Twitter.
Youku is a video hosting platform, which only vaguely enforces copyright laws, while Jiepang is the most popular location-based mobile app, with Foursquare-style checkins.

The much talked about potential for foreign entrepreneurs breaking into the massive Chinese online market is certainly there. But the entry strategy needs to be carefully planned, researched and respectful of local customs, language and culture.

If you have relevant experience and want to share with those who are thinking about entering China but not daring to give the first step, let us know your thoughts.

Thanks,

Teresa