By David Norcross, Managing Director of Lexicon
It feels like only yesterday that people across continents, outraged by the company’s careless use of user data, banded together and in unison declared their intention to #deletefacebook. Articles swept the interwebs with how-to guides for deleting your account, and the brand itself was bruised and bloodied by the reputational costs of mismanagement. How would it ever recover?
As it turns out, all of the noise was just that: noise. Facebook had a sensational first quarter for 2018, beating expectations and adding 70 million new users worldwide. Ad revenue skyrocketed by 49% year over year. Profit rose 63%. Most user growth came from the Asia-Pacific region, with APAC adding 45 million brand new Facebookers since Q4 2017.
All this and plenty more is given ample attention in this April 25 New York Times story – but the numbers are public, and are the source for much awe and head-shaking among those who thought the king was losing its crown. Reports of Facebook’s death have indeed been greatly exaggerated.
Below, we break down an entirely different set of statistics about Facebook and other social networks, and general online activity by country. These were compiled by Hootsuite before Facebook released its first-quarter reports, and illustrate several powerful trends interacting within Thailand and Southeast Asia. As the numbers show, we are living in a period of seismic change in terms of how people are living their daily lives. Many lessons can be drawn from these statistics, and the first is:
Thailand is Addicted to Facebook
With an average of 9h38m online each day, Thais are the most relentlessly connected people in the world. Thailand also leads the world in terms of time spent online via mobile phones: 4h56m. These numbers only show signs of going up; Thailand’s internet-connected population shot up 24% over the previous year, giving it the world’s 6th fastest-growing internet culture.
Thais spend 3h10m daily on social media, making them the third most active population on social networks. As for Facebook itself, Bangkok remains the #1 city in the world for active users, with 22 million. Thailand as a whole has 51 million Facebook users, an incredible number given that the country’s entire population is under 69 million.
These hobbies are ripe for monetization, as 61% of Thailand’s online population actively participates in e-commerce. Thailand ranks #2 in the world for its participation in M (mobile)-commerce, with 52% of its online users making purchases via mobile phone. Thailand is #3 globally at mobile banking (56% market penetration).
With numbers like these, it’s clear how sales will be made in Thailand moving forward. Facebook, however, makes businesses in Thailand work hard to reach such a fertile market. The social network is decidedly ungenerous with its business clients in Thailand, offering the country some of the lowest organic post reach numbers in the world. Posts from commercial pages in Thailand reach on average just 4% of the audience that has ‘liked’ the page (the worldwide average is 8%), forcing companies to spend more money on ads to reach their audience.
These efforts are soon rewarded, however, as Thailand has the second-highest Facebook post engagement rate in the world (6.99%). The lesson for Thailand in particular is that Facebook marketing can be highly lucrative, but it’s worth crafting your posts with care to make each one count.
It Isn’t Just Thailand – Facebook is Booming in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia has embraced internet culture in a big way. Here are the key numbers for various countries in the region:
- Per-person average of 8h27m spent online each day (global rank: #6)
- Per-person average of 3h47m spent on mobile phones each day
- Per-person average of 3h spent on social media each day (global rank: #9)
- 14% annual growth in number of internet users (global rank: #7)
- Facebook post engagement rate: 5.84% (global rank: #6)
- E-commerce penetration: 59%
- M-commerce penetration: 40%
- 25.1 million Malaysians (79% of the population) are now online. 24 million are on social media.
- Per-person average of 7h9m spent online each day
- 4.83 million Singaporeans (84% of the population) are now online. 4.8 million are on social media.
- Per-person average of 8h51m spent online each day (global rank: #4)
- Per-person average of 4h17m spent on mobile phones each day (global rank: #3)
- Per-person average of 3h23m spent on social media each day (global rank: #3)
- Increase of 24 million social media users this year (global rank: #3; 23% increase)
- 130m active Facebook users – 6% of world total (global rank: #4)
- 16 million Facebook users in Jakarta (global city rank: #4)
- Organic Facebook posts reach just 3% of total page likes
- 28 million new users of social media on mobile phones (global rank: #3; a 30% increase in one year)
- 132.7 million Indonesians (50% of the population) are now online. 130 million are on social media.
- Per-person average of 9h29m spent online each day (global rank: #2)
- Per-person average of 4h5m spent on mobile phones each day (global rank: #4)
- Per-person average of 3h57m spent on social media each day (global rank: #1)
- 67m active Facebook users – 3% of world total (global rank: #6)
- Organic Facebook posts reach just 3% of total page likes
- Facebook post engagement rate: 5.9% (global rank: #5)
- 8 million new users of social media on mobile phones (global rank: #10; a 15% increase in one year)
- Per-person average of 6h45m spent online each day
- 28% annual growth in number of internet users (global rank: #4)
- Increase of 9 million social media users this year (global rank: #6; 20% increase)
- 55m active Facebook users – 3% of world total (global rank: #7)
- 13 million Facebook users in Ho Chi Minh City (global city rank: #10)
- 9 million new users of social media on mobile phones (global rank: #9; a 22% increase in one year)
- 64 million Vietnamese (67% of the population) are now online. 55 million are on social media.
- 43% growth in the number of new social media users this year (global rank: #10; increase in users: 2.1 million)
- 1.9 million new users of social media on mobile phones (global rank: #10 in percentage; a 43% increase in one year)
- 8 million Cambodians (50% of the population) are now online. 7 million are on social media.
- 2.4 million Laotians (35% of the population) are now online. 2.4 million are on social media.
- 18 million Burmese (34% of the population) are now online. 18 million are on social media.
- Entire Asia-Pacific region
- Total population: 4.21 billion
- Mobile connections: 4.32 billion
- Internet users: 2.01 billion (48%)
- This year alone: 98 million new internet users (+5%)
- 224 million new social media users (+14%)
- 319 million new mobile phone users (+8%)
The New Marketing Landscape in Asia
69% of web traffic in Thailand comes via mobile phones. In Indonesia, the figure is 72%. Southeast Asia has embraced mobile phones with astonishing speed – using them for data at rates far above the world average of 52%. Marketers need to meet there customers where they are, and as a quick glance on any street, bus, café or restaurant in Asia will quickly reveal, people are on their phones.
It wasn’t always this way. Worldwide mobile phone use accounted for only 0.7% of web traffic in 2009, rising to 10.7% in 2012 and 27% as recently as 2014. It’s unclear how high these numbers will go on the future, but the trends are all pointing in one direction.
Another quickly-rising statistic relates to internet penetration. With 673 million total internet users, Southeast Asia trails only East Asia (including China) as the world’s most populated online regional demographic. Its totals will surely increase in the coming years, however, as internet penetration is just 58% across the Southeast Asian region as a whole. Incidentally, mobile phone connectivity for the same region is at an amazing 141% of the total population.
Most of Southeast Asia uses Whatsapp as its primary messaging platform. Thailand’s embrace of LINE is an exception, while Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines each prefer Facebook Messenger to stay in touch with friends and family.
By contrast, Facebook (which owns Instagram anyway) has around 2.2 billion active monthly users, a 15% increase over a year ago. Its users are 56% male, and 88% of the global user base accesses the site via mobile phone (32% use desktop computers, while some, naturally, use both).
This gargantuan user base is home to an equally powerful vehicle for industry. 1.77 billion people use e-commerce (an increase of 8% over last year), spending an incredible US$1.474 trillion on their purchases. This means that, for active e-commerce users, an average of $833 is spent per person per year.
Apart from video games, all of the main e-commerce sectors are experiencing double-digit growth year over year:
- Fashion/beauty +18%
- Toys, DIY & hobbies +17%
- Travel +13%
- Electronics & physical media +12%
- Food & personal care +20%
- Digital music +13%
- Furniture & appliances +16%
Although competition in these areas increases with each passing year, the market is more than big enough to provide excellent profits for those who enter the realm of e-commerce with an effective business strategy.
The Wider View
Of a world population totaling 7.59 billion people, just over half (4.02 billion) are online. Fully 3.2 billion are on social media.
In the last 12 months alone, the total number of internet users increased by 248 million – a rise of 7% worldwide. 362 million new people joined social media, representing an increase of 13%. The number of people with mobile phones rose by 218 million (a 4% global rise). These numbers are so extraordinary that historical parallels in any sector of life are hard to find.
At Lexicon, we have long argued that the future of business is online, and that the future of marketing is through social media. Statistics like these are the clearest indication we’ve ever seen that the old way of connecting with audiences is fast disappearing, to be replaced by innovative and precisely targeted efforts that meet customers exactly where they are: On social networks like Facebook, the hub for the new global culture.