SINGAPORE--Social media may be the hottest platform in digital marketing, but marketers still need to understand how their customers want to receive messages before reaching out to them, said a panel of experts.
Speaking at the ad:tech Singapore media briefing Thursday, Francesco Lagutaine, chief marketing officer for Citigroup Asia-Pacific, said social media is "super hyped". However, he added that he is an avid user and the company's employees are experimenting with and adopting the technology.
He believes successful marketing is not by participating in online conversations as it can disrupt the ongoing conversation, but by understanding who the customers are and how they want to receive messages.
At the digital marketing conference, Ruth Stubbs, president of Mediabrands Asia-Pacific, added that by having data, marketers can have an insight into consumers' requirements and be more valuable to their clients.
However, there has been a lack of good insights on the Internet habits of users in emerging markets, even though Internet adoption is growing rapidly, said Ken Mandel, regional vice president of advertising sales and marketplace at Yahoo.
He noted that the region's digital arena is still new and that companies are questioning how they can drive their ROI (return on investment).
He went on to present findings from The Next Index study commissioned by Yahoo, which aims to gleam insights by examining Internet usage trends across Southeast Asia.
The study found four major trends:
1. Internet access through mobile is gaining momentum.
Mandel explained that attractive tariffs and the expansion of 3G are the key factors driving this trend.
The study found that Indonesia is the largest and fastest-growing online market in Southeast Asia, jumping from 22 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2010. Mobile Internet access in Vietnam nearly doubled from 10 percent in 2008 to 19 percent in 2009.
2. Online games are developing into a dominant activity.
The growth of online games is led by young males, and the audience segment prefers games which are focused on action, fighting and role playing, according to the study.
3. Social media is changing how users interact online.
"People want to be connected to people they care about," said Mandel, adding that social media is not a destination but a dimension. Indonesia is also top in social media use.
4. The popularity of online news has reached new heights.
Online news has gained in popularity because of its frequent updates, compared with newspapers, and the availability of multiple online sources for cross-referencing of news, said the study.
Vietnam topped in online news consumption growth, noted Mandel.
Asia is still a challenge for marketers due to the differences in culture and language, as well as the level of technological sophistication, noted the panel.