Advance Blog

May 31, 2021
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Major Social Media Trends in Southeast Asia

With the COVID-19 crisis slowing down business in Thailand, it might good to have a look around the region and see is going on with our neighbours.

Early each year, Hootsuite and We Are Social join forces and release an authoritative analysis of digital trends all around the world. As with previous years, their main report for 2021 was soon followed by the additional publication of in-depth reports individually covering over 200 countries and territories.

Such a wealth of information on humanity’s digital habits is far too much for the average person to absorb. So, we’re breaking down only the key highlights of the Digital 2021 Report series, focusing on the Southeast Asia region. As we will see, even this thin slice of the report delivers an invaluable snapshot of where we are today – and where we’re likely to go next.

Marketers for every industry would be wise to heed the lessons of this report, particularly in terms of where (and how) to connect with their audiences.

A new digital culture

“People aged 65+ are the fastest growing audience on Facebook.” The Digital 2021 Report begins its analysis with this remarkable statement, which begins to make sense when considering the pandemic. With shopping, travel, and social situations suddenly risky, older internet users turned to social media to keep in touch with the outside world.

Other demographic insights include the fact that Southeast Asia’s online user base increased by 9.6% last year – yet it still makes up only 69% of the total population, leaving plenty of room to grow. 208 million people in Southeast Asia remain offline, including over 25% of the Indonesian population. As economies develop further over the coming years, the region’s digital demographics will come to more closely resemble Western and Northern Europe, which each have well over 90% of their population online.

Southeast Asia is already among the world leaders in certain other aspects of the information age, however. For every 100 people in Southeast Asia, there are 132 mobile connections – more than in any Western region. Marketers should therefore design all of their content with the mobile experience in mind.

Such efforts to improve the customer journey will be richly rewarded, given the soaring popularity of e-commerce across Southeast Asia. The region is home to three of the top four countries in a very important statistic: The percent of internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 who have made an online purchase in the past 30 days via any device.

(Indonesia is in first place, followed by the UK at #2, Thailand at #3, and Malaysia at #4. The Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam also appear in the global top 15. When measuring only the percent of people making purchases via mobile devices, all four of the top countries worldwide are in Southeast Asia.)

Moreover, with e-commerce, as with social media, older people are beginning to adopt new habits. Globally, 75.6% of women and 71.9% of men aged 55-64 have bought something online in the past month. Each of these numbers speaks to the enormous customer base for online goods.

Yet it also speaks to the competitive nature of the industry. With so many e-retailers already marketing their products successfully online, new entrants will need to work hard in order to gain market share. The right communications strategy, user interface, and technical knowhow will be needed to make an e-commerce campaign work.

Cultural understanding is also a core element of any marketing effort, and the growing digital culture has been accompanied by a rise in social consciousness. As the Digital 2021 Report observes: “In 2021, brands will need to be more discerning about who they partner with and why.” Values-driven marketing will be a major theme in corporate communications for the foreseeable future.

Staying connected

The pandemic has had a massive impact on the trends outlined above – and as the world receives its vaccines, another round of adjustments will surely be needed. If marketing is about building a lasting connection with people, then success requires following each twist and turn of the culture, and continuously crafting effective stories that audiences can easily relate to.

Whatever the rest of 2021 has in store for us all, the most effective digital agencies in Thailand will incorporate an up-to-the-minute understanding of people’s thoughts, habits, and interests. From this foundation, experienced storytellers who leverage the right technology and platforms can connect with audiences all across the region, allowing businesses to enter the post-pandemic era with full energy and momentum.

David Norcross, Managing Director at Lexicon Limited
David Norcross is a longtime Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce member and CEO of Lexicon.

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