Facebook aims to plug Asia's digital marketing gap

Region may be home to the largest number of Facebook users, but few marketers have the tools or knowledge to capitalize on the opportunity.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Asian cities have among the highest social media adoption worldwide, and yet few marketers in the region have the knowledge or tools to tap digital tools and capitalize on the potential market opportunity.

Asia houses the largest number of Facebook users, but only one third of marketers here are familiar with the use of digital marketing tools, noted Kiran Raghavan, Facebook's head of Asia-Pacific market development and PMD program, citing findings from the Digital Knowledge Survey 2014.

To address this gap, the social media giant embarked on its Preferred Marketing Developer (PMD) initiative to grow the local ecosystem in this region and encourage more digital marketing tools to be built.

Part of its efforts included enticing international PMDs to expand their operations to this part of the world. In the past three months, 12 global PMDs have set up shop in Singapore while 20 more have done likewise across the Asia-Pacific region including India, Australia, and Hong Kong.

These include Socialbakers and AdParlor, which have begun operating in Singapore, Raghavan said in a phone interview Wednesday with ZDNet. About 10 of the PMDs are focused on digital advertising, he added. Facebook offers marketing tools across three key areas: Ads, Insights, and Pages.  

There is, however, also concerted effort to nurture local PMDs in the region since these developers would better understand local nuances and able to scale projects faster, Raghavan said. Three local marketing developers have been signed in Tokyo, Seoul, and Sydney, with another nine in various stages of onboarding, he said.

Facebook is focusing its PMD efforts in Southeast Asia, Greater China, and Australia over the next 12 to 24 months, he added.

PMDs are mostly technology providers that work in tandem with advertising and media agencies to create campaigns for customers, he explained. A number of PMDs, for instance, have specialized in online search, statistical analysis, as well as data analytics, and expanded these capabilities to become PMDs.

He declined to reveal customer names, saying Facebook is currently building its case study portfolio, but said most PMD projects are focused on analytics and improving efficiencies, so agencies can save on manpower to manage campaigns.

One agency, for instance, used to spend 100 to 200 hours on setting up, monitoring, tweaking, and optimizing campaigns for their clients. Through the use of PMD tools, which automate and take action on campaigns based on preset rules, the agency reduced the time to 15 percent of what it used to take, he said. He added that agencies can also view a single dashboard detailing all necessary metrics and campaign costs.

Raghavan cited another example where a PMD was able to tap real-time weather information to decide what items should be promoted to customers of an e-commerce site. "This allowed the client to take real-time information the PMD tool was generating from weather, to more accurately target customers. [Sales] conversion rate was 40 percent higher than a normal day as a result of the tool," he said.

He added that at a hackathon hosted by Facebook last October, which shortlisted six candidates shortlisted from India, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore, one Indian candidate featured a momentum-based advertising tool. It collated data from various online sources including RSS feeds and Twitter to capture issues that were trending in real-time and that advertisers could tap. For example, the tool identified that large-loop earrings were trending and people online were talking about earrings in the context of celebrities. Based on this, the Indian candidate worked with advertisers that carried large-loop earrings their inventory and promoted these products in markets across the region where there were trending more than others.

Raghavan pointed to e-commerce, travel, online retail, and online games as potential segments that PMD tools have the most potential, because advertisers in these markets typically have to target large numbers of potential customers and have more need for optimization and targeted marketing.

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