Hong Kong turn on social media to stay connected

Social media use, particularly via blogs and Facebook, lead markets such as United States and Germany as Hong Kong people use platforms to interact with friends and share experiences, new survey reveals.

Hong Kong citizens are spending more time than their American counterparts on social media sites such as Facebook and blog sites, turning to these platforms to keep in touch with family and friends as well as purchase products online, according to a new survey.

Released Monday, the BlogHer 2011 Social Media Matters Study revealed that people in Hong Kong were spending an increasing amount of time watching videos, playing games, shopping and sharing online. Besides the continuing importance of traditional media, nearly half of the respondents indicated that social media "has had a positive impact on their lives".

The study, co-sponsored by communications agency Ketchum, polled 387 people based in Hong Kong and over the age of 18 in an online survey conducted in March 2011. It also received responses from people in the U.S., Brazil and Germany, but did not specify the number of respondents it polled in these economies.

Some 77 percent of Hong Kong citizens surveyed said they read blogs on a weekly basis, while 52 percent wrote blogs and 92 percent signed in to use their Facebook accounts. Comparatively, only 87 percent of those in the U.S. indicated they used Facebook weekly, while Brazil registered 72 percent and Germany with 58 percent.

According to the study, social media played a role in helping people address the challenge of having work-life balance. Some 68 percent of those surveyed spent the same or more time with friends online than they did in person, it noted.

Elaborating, Simeon Mellalieu, general manager of Ketchum Hong Kong, said in the report that when people's schedules were tight and time became an issue, they would switch to the online arena to share stories, gossip, tips and advice.

"Supporting this trend is smartphone penetration, which in Hong Kong is double that of the global average," he said. "Teenagers, businessmen and grandparent are using even two minutes of downtime to stay connected and share experiences with friends and loved ones."

Crafting digital communications strategies
Besides sharing their lives online, Hong Kong respondents used social networking sites as a point of reference for potential purchases, the study noted. About 50 percent made a purchase based on a blog recommendation while blogs, message boards and social networks, at 52 percent, ranked only a few percentage points behind television's 58 percent score in the influence of media formats on purchasing decisions.

With these findings, the report noted there was a "huge opportunity" among Hong Kong-based companies to spark influential conversation and win vocal advocates in the online space.

That said, Mellalieu noted that one of the barriers for initiating digital communications strategies among Hong Kong marketers was the lack of sufficient quantitative data to provide a deeper understanding of online behavior and the influence social media had on target audience. The study was initiated to plug this particular gap, he added.

In a previous report, experts told ZDNet Asia that while measuring returns on investment (ROI) had its challenges, this was a necessary step for businesses to justify expenditure and efforts spent on the technology. They noted, however, that ROI metrics should not be based solely on hard dollar figures and could include parameters on customer engagement and brand equity.