Businesses not tapping enough on Web 2.0

Asian enterprises focus online advertising on search engines, but not on other popular platforms such as blogs and social networks, IDC study shows.

Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and social networks may be popular with Internet-savvy users in Asia, but enterprises are still hesitant to advertise on these platforms, according to a new study.

The survey conducted in December is IDC's first study in the Asia-Pacific region on the adoption and usage of Web 2.0-type of technologies. It polled around 780 users of various ages and 220 enterprises from various industries in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.

Seven in 10 enterprise respondents--typically mid- to senior-level managers--indicated that they were familiar with online advertising, while 35 percent said they have advertised online. Another 9 percent said they would do so in the near future.

Most companies (79 percent) count search engines as their advertising platform of choice. Web e-mail applications are a distant second, capturing the advertising budget of 25 percent of businesses while blogs are used by 16 percent of businesses to reach their intended audiences.

Businesses in the region have put their advertising dollars in the right channel, as 99 percent of Web users surveyed use search engines, Claus Mortensen, principal for emerging technologies at IDC Asia-Pacific, said Tuesday.

"There is a pretty good correlation between the number of people on Internet search sites and companies using these sites for advertising," he pointed out.

Hong Kong-based Mortensen noted however, that there is potential for businesses to tap on other popular Web 2.0 platforms, such as instant messaging (IM), blogs and social networking.

About 84 percent of the Internet users surveyed use IM; 73 percent read blogs or create postings and 62 percent engage in social networking sites. But only 8 percent of enterprises advertise in these platforms.

Mortensen told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that the research to-date reveals that advertising strategies in the individual geographic markets do not necessarily reflect user behavior. Citing China as an example, he said that Chinese Internet users showed very high usage in areas such as online games, but the online ad spend of broad consumer brands does not seem to reflect that.

"The emphasis in China seems to be more on just getting the brand 'out there' and promote overall brand awareness," he said.

Korean advertisers, on the other hand, "seem a little more in touch with online consumer habits" and also design online ad campaigns to suit the taste of consumers, added Mortensen.

However, he said that while businesses could consider using alternative Web 2.0 platforms to attract customers and add to the bottom line, not all companies would find channels such as IM and blogs appropriate for advertising their products or services.

The IDC study also revealed that users in the region are inclined to use social networks for work over purely personal reasons. One hundred percent of users who were employed indicated they accessed social networking sites for work-related reasons, such as networking with colleagues. In contrast, only 84 percent said they had a personal agenda for social networking.

While about 47 percent of enterprises view the Web 2.0 space as a business opportunity, 11 percent viewed it as a threat. Some 34 percent took the middle ground--they said Web 2.0 presented both an opportunity and a threat.

The main reasons enterprises feel threatened are the potential security risks associated with Web 2.0, perceived drop in productivity as a result of employees' use of IM or social networks and the loss of control of information.