Niche, integrated support to benefit Twitter rivals

Competitors of microblogging site can boost user adoption in Asia via language support and links with other social networks, note industry watchers.

Twitter may be the most popular microblogging service, but its competitors are targeting a different audience as well as finding markets in other countries through affiliation.

Jeffrey Mann, Gartner's research vice president for collaboration and social software, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that although being a first mover in the microblogging world has benefited Twitter and the site has seen adoption worldwide, its market dominance is concentrated in Europe and North America.

In Asia, Plurk has done well because it made support for local languages a priority, said Mann, adding that Me2Day is popular in Korea, while Zuosa is gaining mindshare in China.

He noted that affiliation with other social networks in each country also plays a part in the popularity of microblogging services, although language and character set support are still "big factors". He said developing games that use virtual currency on the microblogging platform is also a way to gain popularity in Asia.

Springboard Research's senior services research analyst, Sanchit Vir Gogia, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that for microblogging sites, which are also social networking Web sites, to be successful, an important strategy would be their integration with other players in the space.

"It's important to remember that while people are craving to communicate their thoughts and ideas with the world at large, it is both tedious and time consuming for them to maintain a plethora of such accounts and separately update them," Gogia explained.

Affiliation with other social networks worked for Twitter, too.

According to the Springboard analyst, Twitter picked up real pace after linking up with Facebook and LinkedIn. "This [tie-up] has allowed users to air the same view at once across these social networking sites, it also allows them to better manage their posts," he said.

Other factors that can help drive adoption are unique services available on the microblogging sites and the richness of features provided, that is, whether the features integrate with third-party apps or allow the integration of pictures, videos and files for real-time information exchange, Gogia said.

Microblogging for enterprise
Asked if a single microblogging platform will emerge as the sole market leader, Mann said it was unlikely because local differences will remain.

He pointed out that there is already a thriving business for enterprise microblogging services, provided by market players such as Yammer, Present.ly, Socialtext and Blogtronix, which are aimed for internal use within a corporate environment.

Phil Spitzer, spokesperson from Yammer, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that the company's service is different from other microblogging services because it operates within a private network.

"While services like Twitter are about being as public as possible, Yammer is about being as private and secure as possible," Spitzer said. "Because privacy and security are two cornerstones of Yammer, it's a great solution for enterprises."

He explained that Yammer acts as a central platform for users to connect through communication channels such as e-mail, desktop clients and mobile clients. It provides threaded messages and attachments, and stores the information in the cloud with search capabilities, he said.

According to Springboard Research's Gogia, as enterprise microblogging services target a niche market, they might never reach the critical mass as seen by Twitter, and will have to work with bigger players such as Twitter and other social networks, to increase user adoption.

Despite the popularity of dedicated microblogging services, Gartner's Mann said the concept does not seem to have caught on in Japan. "A big reason is that the Japanese have been blogging for years from their mobile phones," he said. "These blog posts are often [already] very short, so that they don't see the point of a dedicated microblogging service."