Most Asian firms lack social media presence

Top Asian businesses are not taking advantage of social media dominance in region to build corporate presence online compared with global companies, notes new Burson-Marsteller report.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Asian firms can do more on their part to tap social media channels to build their corporate social media presence, states a new report released Thursday by Burson-Marsteller. The global communications firm found that only 40 percent of top Asian companies listed on the Wall Street Journal's (WSJ) Asia 200 index have a corporate social media presence. Of that, more than 55 percent have inactive social media profiles.

Burson-Marsteller's "Asia-Pacific Social Media" study also discovered that only 18 percent of companies surveyed had integrated their social media profiles into their corporate Web sites.

In the report, Bob Pickard, president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific, emphasized: "Asian companies need to take bolder steps to leverage the exploding use of social media channels in the region."

Likewise, Steve Bowen, managing director of marketing at BM Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that "social media use across Asia is mainstream, but companies have been slow to take advantage of this".

The results of the survey also showed that firms in this region are falling behind their global counterparts in the utilization of social media. According to Burson-Marsteller's "Fortune Global 100 Social Media Check-Up" report conducted earlier in February, 79 percent of major global companies use social media platforms as part of their corporate communications strategy to actively engage stakeholders.

Other disparities were identified between the statistics from the October Asia-Pacific study and the February global survey, such as how just 12 percent of Asian companies maintained a corporate blog compared with 33 percent of global firms.

Pickard noted that only a handful of companies in the region look at social media strategically. The majority of Asian firms are driven instead by short-term marketing considerations, and many also have concerns about resources, cost and lack of control over the content and message, he added.

The study gathered that the Asian organizations which had a more assertive approach to social media were mainly intent on international expansion.

But overall, the degree of engagement still remained low compared with global companies, particularly regarding the use of video and multimedia to support digital storytelling, the report pointed out.

It was also revealed that just 8 percent of Asian firms set up dedicated channels on video-sharing channels such as YouTube, Youku (China) and Nico Nico Douga (Japan), unlike 50 percent of global companies surveyed who had their own online corporate video channels.

Pickard said that corporate use of social media channels among Asian companies tended to focus on pushing information out rather than engaging stakeholders, such as when it came to communicating corporate responsibility initiatives (CSR).

Bowen stated that when companies focus exclusively on CSR and marketing initiatives, they "miss out on opportunities to build deeper relationships with their stakeholders and customers through two-way engagement".

Charlie Pownall, lead digital strategist for Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific, said in the report that engagement involving two-way dialog--which is measured by the average number of third-party posts and corporate responses to their followers--remains limited for Asian firms.

"Instead, [Asian] companies are using social media to portray a 'softer' corporate image in a way that is less likely to invoke interaction or negative commentary," Pownall pointed out.

In his e-mail, Bowen said the challenge of Asian firms is to "develop social media outreach with a clear return on investment (ROI) in mind from the outset". Too often, the focus of the initiative is skewed, he pointed out. For instance, having a million fans on Facebook is not ROI; how a company mobilizes that user base to generate tangible results for its business is, he explained.

Nonetheless, Bowen predicted that business in the region will start to become more socially engaged within the next few years. They are increasingly monitoring online conversations about their corporate brands, which is an essential precursor to engagement, he noted, adding that companies with an extensive overseas presence are also more engaged in this space than the large domestic firms.

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