When entering the Asia Pacific market, a solid social media presence is crucial. The region’s ever-increasing usage of platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp offer companies prime opportunities for engaging with consumers in the diverse segment. In this INSIDER Q&A, Martin Pasquier, managing director and founder of Agence Tesla, a social media agency based in Singapore and Paris, helps paint a clearer picture of Asia’s social media climate, and he offers insight on how to develop a strong brand in the online social world. Pasquier is also speaking on this topic at the Vitafoods Asia Conference, taking place alongside the expo Sept. 2 and 3 in Hong Kong; for more information on the conference, visit vitafoodsasia.com/confprog.
INSIDER: What are the top social media outlets being used by consumers in Asia, and does it change on a country-by-country basis?
Pasquier: Usages are indeed very different according to the country. For example, Singapore's top social media is Facebook, and the top messaging app is WhatsApp, whilst China's favorite social media and messaging app amongst users is WeChat.
There is a general trend among young users who are increasingly switching from the traditional social media platforms such as Facebook to mobile native apps, especially messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat or LINE, and to pictures-based apps such as Instagram.
Facebook and WhatsApp are the top social media platforms in many Asian countries, including Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. On the other hand, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand are intensive users of Twitter. Jakarta is even known as the capital of tweets as the city registered the highest number of tweets in the world.
INSIDER: Are companies in Asia using content to engage with consumers and, if so, are they doing it appropriately?
Pasquier: Content is the only way to engage with consumers in social media marketing, but this is not yet clear for many companies in Asia.
While conducting a case study on the infant formula industry in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, we came across Facebook posts from one of the leading infant formula brands in Malaysia, which was just pure advertising of the products. These posts generated a lot of negative comments about the price of that specific baby formula, especially because the campaign took place at the same time as the tax increase that was implemented in Malaysia.
A great example of content is another brand in Indonesia that created an interesting live chat on Facebook, allowing mothers to interact with and get answers from a nutrition specialist. This was highly appreciated by their community.
INSIDER: How closely calendared does a social media strategy need to be; is it more reasonable to stay flexible to accommodate changing priorities from the company or consumers?
Pasquier: Planning ahead on the strategic topics for a brand, for the next year, is important. This is to make sure that the social media content is aligned with the brand’s strategy and to embrace the important national or international events of the calendar. But brands need to stay flexible and adapt their strategy according to the market sentiment, popular trends or their competitors’ moves; case in point, the bad timing of that infant formula brand in Malaysia.
Flexibility is especially important in a situation beyond your control, as I will illustrate. In March this year, in Singapore, the young telecommunication brand MyRepublic announced the promise of an unlimited data plan. However, it was lost in the noise of its competitor, SingTel, which had created bad buzz because of its bloggers’ smear campaign. If MyRepublic had only waited a little bit more or waited out the situation, this announcement would have had higher visibility. On the flipside, with the recent U.S. legalization of gay marriage, many brands created specific content to embrace the public enthusiasm of this announcement, generating positive reactions from consumers.
INSIDER: What are the three key things a company should do if they are responding to a negative post on a social media channel?
Pasquier: First of all, companies need to anticipate and be able to answer these negative posts as fast as possible when they happen, before the word spreads out. It’s easy to predict what kind of negative comments the brand can expect and prepare answer templates.
The community manager must know who exactly in the company he can refer to for an answer on the unexpected complaints, and these experts must understand the importance of giving a fast answer. Overall, the community managers must always show they care about the opinion of the customer and take their negative comments into consideration.
A third tip is to move the conversation to private channels such as emails or phone, to avoid more damage of the brand image on the public sphere.
Vitafoods Asia is organized by the experienced team from Informa Exhibitions who are behind the well-established, world-leading Vitafoods Europe event. Since its launch in 2011, Vitafoods Asia has shown year-on-year growth and is proving itself as the hub in Asia for nutraceuticals, functional food and drink ingredients, raw materials and dietary supplements. To register for Vitafoods Asia 2015, visit vitafoodsasia.com/register.