Facebook has given a clear indication of its intent to monetize its vast popularity in Southeast Asia after agreeing to a deal which sees Admax Network, one of the region's most prominent online ad networks, appointed "Official Advertising Sales Representative in Southeast Asian Countries" tasked with helping brands "engage with their customers on Facebook across the region".
As a region, Southeast Asia has gained recognition as a core market for Facebook, and other social networks, both in terms of current usage and potential as a future growth market. With Indonesia's 35 million plus userbase recently leapfrogging beyond the U.K. as Facebook's second largest global market (beyond the U.S., inevitably) and the Philippines (8th with 21.8 million users) and Thailand (18th with 8.75 million) both highly ranked, there are large numbers of potentially engaged customers already on the service.
While Asian consumers are well known for their interest in social-buying, particularly around games and virtual presents, business audiences remain the highest yielding, more prolific spending option when it comes to potential revenue generation--although Facebook has already introduced offline Facebook credits in the region too.
But monetization is no easy task in Asia where corporate social media usage is lower in comparison to western markets where Facebook, and other social networks, make the bulk of their advertising income.
Compared to its contemporaries and rivals, Facebook is well placed to appeal to businesses looking to reach an audiences thanks, not only to its huge popularity--with more than 666 million users worldwide--but also its business-focused services. Businesses can utilize a range of different features from customizable ads, which can be highly targeted based on a range of demographic, location and keywords, to Fan Pages and Groups which act as communication platforms with potential customers and fans.
For businesses already using Facebook and social media, Facebook ads and investment are obvious, but key to Admax's success will be bringing across new leads and business, which may require some serious educating and hand-holding.
Consumer-facing business are likely to be all the more compelled when location-based service Facebook Places and buying-service Facebook Deals roll out across the region beyond Singapore, providing more opportunities to attract new customers and grow relationships through the social network.
On the operations side of things, the move deal mirrors Facebook's continuing commitment to Southeast Asia which, over the last twelve months, has seen the opening of its regional HQ in Singapore last year and the arrival of a Hong-Kong based office earlier this year. Given the region's growing usage and significance the social network giant is likely to continue its Asian recruitment drive.
For Admax, which offers advertising spots and packages across more than 3,300 Web sites in the region, the news is a major coup. Though the deal names the company as Facebook's 'official' advertising sales partner, it may not be exclusive as--from Facebook's perspective--more partners is likely to mean greater exposure, dialogue and potential income from businesses in the region. While lesser, yet potentially prolific markets, like Vietnam do not fall under this agreement which covers Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
It's a given to predict that Facebook will continue to grow its membership across Southeast Asia in 2011 with more users coming online, thanks primarily to the growth in smartphone ownership, but could this be the year that the region, and APAC in general, becomes a key revenue generating market for the company?