Here are all of the posts tagged ‘digital’.

Here Comes The Future

by Simon Kemp in News

As we saw in our recent round of #SDMW reports, an increasing number of people around the world now live digitally integrated lives.

But what does this mean for the future?

How is ubiquitous connectivity shaping the world in which we live?

We’ve collected ten provocations from around the We Are Social network to explore this very question, as summarised in the SlideShare deck above.

However, these aren’t ‘predictions’; they’re thought-starters, designed to inspire and stimulate more innovative ideas.

Whether these provocations come true is up to people like you.

#1: From Destination To Function
The web turned 25 just a few days ago, but today’s internet is very different to the one we knew back in 1989.

The most profound shift is the move from web pages as destinations, to the internet becoming an all-pervasive connective power – a bit like the communication equivalent of electricity.

Digital is now all about facilitation – connecting people and devices in ways that add value to everyday contexts, rather than offering standalone media experiences.

From wearable technology to the internet of things, digital connectivity now adds an extra layer of utility to our everyday experiences.

The task for marketers is to embrace this opportunity – to add usefulness to their digital marketing, and offer distinct audience value instead of mere short-term distraction.

#2: The Evolution Of Brand Content
Until recently, most marketing was shaped by a costly media environment that required brands to distil messages down into the shortest possible soundbites.

But ubiquitous connectivity has changed this reality; mobile devices mean people are consuming content wherever and whenever they choose, and any time can be primetime.

Consequently, our paradigm needs to shift from maximum media efficiency, to an approach defined by maximum marketing effectiveness.

Instead of ‘matching luggage’ campaigns disseminating the same message across TV spots, press and billboards, brands can now offer more complex narratives that build and evolve across contexts and time.

These ‘content rabbit warrens’ allow brands to tell more engaging stories and keep audiences interested for far longer than was feasible in a broadcast-only world.

What’s more, we can now actively involve audiences too. Digital connectivity enables us to bring audiences to the very centre of our experiences, making them protagonists instead of passive spectators.

As a result, brands are no longer constrained by standard media units, and can now plan for the best possible content experience.

Taking this further, brands could assume the role of modern-day Medici – the Florentine family that championed the art and architecture of The Renaissance.

Ultimately, each brand’s marketing should become a central part of its value proposition.

This means we need to stop merely advertising our products, and instead start ‘productising’ our adverts.

We need to create communications that are so compelling, people will actively seek them out, and in some cases even pay to become a part of them.

#3: An End To Egocentric Interruption
These new opportunities don’t come without their challenges though; the wealth of new media options mean people have far more choice, and it’s easier than ever for people to ignore brands’ messages.

People are no longer willing to allow brands to interrupt their content.

As a result, the media model needs to change.

Pioneering content brands have already worked this out, with the likes of Netflix and Spotify exploring approaches that don’t rely on diluting their core proposition to make money.

If brands are to survive in this world, they need to change their approach too.

We need to move from a sales-oriented model to a more integrated approach. Instead of the 4Ps, there will be one P to rule them all: the integrated Proposition.

In this model, Product, Promotion and Place are all inherent within the broader brand experience.

Consequently, ‘Price’ becomes less about payment for products, and more about mutual value exchange.

The only brands that will survive are those that people choose to talk about and share.

This isn’t just about comms, though; brands will need to rethink their business models too.

The secret to success lies in identifying which elements of your brand’s proposition people are willing to pay for – not how much you can charge for your product.

#4: From Listening To Learning
In order to identify these elements, brands need to get much better at understanding their audiences.

We need to turn big data into big insights.

We need to get better at understanding people’s desires and motivations, not just their past behaviour.

In the words of John Willshire, we need to make things people want, instead of trying to make people want things.

The answer to this isn’t about investing in better tools though; it’s about investing in better understanding.

We need to analyse people, not just data.

#5: Meaningful Measurement
The best place to start is to end our fascination with vanity metrics.

Real engagement isn’t just about attention: it’s about a change in beliefs and behaviour. We need to influence people’s interest, desire, and action:

Cyclical Attribution

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We need to measure things that actually make a difference, not just things that are different.

#6: Connected Wellbeing
Interestingly, many people in our audiences have already taken to collecting data about themselves too.

From activity trackers like NikeFuel and FitBit, to connected heart implants, digital connectivity is changing the way we look after ourselves.

As a result, we’re likely to see a rising demand for services that make better sense of this data.

Personal trainers won’t just be people we meet at the gym; they’ll be people who guide us through all aspects of our health and wellbeing, supported by data from a variety of sensors tracking everything from calories burned to the state of our immune system.

We’ll also see a rise in socially-connected healthcare, with areas like blood and organ donation benefitting from connectivity to specialist groups.

Aggregating such data will also allow us to better monitor and predict the spread of diseases, ensuring earlier treatment and prevention for those at risk.

Savvy marketers will also be able to harness people’s personal data to offer improved audience value.

While privacy concerns will inevitably be an issue, those brands that succeed in establishing sufficient trust stand to gain incredibly detailed insights into their audiences’ lives.

#7: Digital Decay
We’ve not cracked the problem of privacy though, with marketers often responsible for some of the worst transgressions.

As a result, people are increasingly wary of their ‘digital footprints’.

Perhaps ironically, though, such concerns have led to new opportunities.

At the simplest levels, ephemeral and anonymous platforms like Snapchat and Secret have been gaining considerable interest amongst social media users.

This prompts an interesting question: can marketers actually add more value to their audiences by not collecting personal information?

As revelations about government and corporate tracking continue to capture headlines around the world, brands that offer a more sensitive, ‘little sister’ alternative to Big Brother practices are likely to gain in popularity.

#8: Data As Individual Value
People are aware of the advantages of sharing certain aspects of their data though, especially where it helps them reduce effort or complexity.

One potential opportunity here is the concept of a ‘life operating system’ – a common OS that allows us to sign on across every device and appliance we use to access our preferences and settings.

This could be as simple as moving seamlessly from desktop to tablet to mobile phone to TV as we move through the day, but it gets more interesting when it helps us move to and from environments.

For example, a system that remembers how different members of a household prefer the temperature of the shower, or the ‘doneness’ of their toast.

Taking that further, a system that tracks our activities and controls appliances accordingly; for example, turning on the oven and central heating as we near home, or automatically turning off the iron and the TV if we’re more than 100m away.

Such systems could also provide useful ‘memory’ references too, providing ‘life history’ in a similar way to today’s internet browser history.

However, such systems would require access to considerable volumes of personal data, and this would inevitably raise concerns.

One answer to this might be to shift the ownership of personal data back to the individual, rather than it sitting with organisations like Google, Apple and Facebook.

This raises the concept of the personal ‘data bank’: a large repository of personal information – owned and controlled by the individual – that we ‘license’ to brands.

Brands would need to offer something valuable in exchange for this data, whether that’s a financial payment or specific value-added utility.

#9: Networked Economies
As Wikipedia has proven time and again, none of us knows as much as all of us combined.

By bringing all of this collective knowledge together, we not only have access to information wherever and whenever we need it; we’re also able to accelerate progress.

Beyond straightforward Search, internet indexing algorithms will start to create new connections between content, resulting in the rise of Discovery Engines. We’ll n longer need to know what we’re looking for in order to find things of value.

Internet-powered education will offer people all over the planet equal access to learning resources, while online classes will bring the best teachers to students in even the smallest of remote villages.

Meanwhile, global e-commerce and greater price transparency will change the way people shop. Increased competition will result in ‘personal procurement’, with companies bidding to fulfil individual consumers’ orders at the lowest possible price.

At the same time, we’ll see a rise in collaborative fulfilment, with individuals coming together to create, source and share goods and services in more efficient ways.

Brands across all categories will harness the peer-to-peer model already employed by pioneering brands like Airbnb and NeighborGoods.

Business models will evolve to focus more on shared access and on-going licenses instead of one-off sales, ensuring more sustainable benefits for businesses and for the environment.

#10: Currencies For A Connected Age
This increased global interaction will change the way we pay for things too, bringing radical changes to money itself.

In the short term, we’ll see the rise of payments systems made specifically for mobile, instead of mobile payments systems that access existing infrastructure.

Meanwhile, financing systems already common in emerging economies will spread back to more developed nations, with peer-to-peer financing and micro-payments accounting for an increasing share of transactions.

Stretching this further, there’s a real possibility that the connected population will embrace a global, non-sovereign digital currency.

Phenomena like Bitcoin will become more widespread, removing many of the inefficiencies associated with currency exchange, and fundamentally changing the role of banks and financial institutions in our societies.

On the more extreme end of this spectrum, money could be replaced completely. There is a real possibility that digital connectivity will facilitate the return of barter-based transactions, where people exchange goods and services directly, without the need for an intermediary form of payment.

However, such a scenario would require a radical redefinition of corporate success. The accumulation of financial ‘wealth’ would become neither possible nor meaningful, and business would need to fundamentally rethink the concept of ‘shareholder returns’.

Even if this view seems extreme, it’s worth exploring this redefinition now, as it can help brand to gain a tangible advantage today. Start by asking yourself two simple questions:

What is the core human value that my brand offers to people, society and the world?

If people didn’t pay us in money, what other forms of enduring value exchange might we ask from them in order to achieve our objectives?

Those brands that can clearly articulate an answer to this second questions are the brands that are best placed to succeed in the long term.

#Bonus: Defining Your Own Future
Predicting the future is never easy, but the surest way to succeed is to take an active role in bringing your vision of the future to life.

Begin by challenging today’s accepted wisdom, and questioning everything you take for granted. Use your ‘ubiquitous connectivity’ to explore alternative perspectives from around the world, and share your own provocations with the world too.

The future will be what we make it.

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Social, Digital & Mobile in Europe in 2014

by Simon Kemp in News

We’re delighted to announce the latest in We Are Social’s series of Social, Digital & Mobile Worldwide reports, this time with more than 250 pages of stats and behavioural indicators for 40 countries across Europe.

We featured a number of these countries in our global report just a month ago, but as you’ll see in this new report, many of the data points have already changed.

The critical changes are to the Social Media figures, with many countries seeing increases in monthly active user bases in the past couple of weeks.

The lovely folks at GlobalWebIndex have also given us permission to share figures from their fresh new Wave 12 study, released just last week. This new wave of GWI data brings us up to Q4 2013, and provides a hugely informative perspective on the freshest numbers and behaviours for the region’s biggest economies.

The Global Picture
As we saw in the APAC report, online landscapes never stay the same, so we start this report with another fresh look at the global landscape.

The main difference in this report is the number of active social media users, which has grown by almost 2 million active users since our APAC report just 2 weeks ago:

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Internet in Europe
Europe has impressively high levels of internet usage, with 7 countries around the region registering penetration of more than 90%.

Iceland and Norway lead the way, with 95% each.

Penetration in the Ukraine lags the rest of the region by some way, but is still on a par with the global average of 34%.

On a regional basis though, more than two thirds of Europe’s population is now online:

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The total number of internet users around the region is also impressive, with Europe now counting more than half a billion people online:

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In terms of time spent online, it’s the Eastern side of Europe that leads the way, with internet users in Poland and Russia spending an average of 4.8 hours on the net each day.

Italy leads the way when it comes to mobile internet usage at an average of 2.2 hours per day, while Irish, Spanish and Polish internet users all spend an average of almost 2 hours per day connected via mobile devices:

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Social Media in Europe
At the start of 2014, Europe boasts almost 300 million active social media users, accounting for 40% of the region’s population:

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However, when it comes to platforms of choice, the social media landscape in Europe is split in two.

Facebook dominates in Western Europe, with 37 countries around the region accounting for a total of 232.2 million active users – roughly 19% of the platform’s total global user base.

To put that in perspective, these countries account for less than 8% of the total world population.

Eastern Europe is still a VKontakte stronghold though, with users in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus accounting for more than 60 million active accounts.

Facebook is present here too, and its user base continues to grow in these countries, but the world’s favourite social network currently only claims 12.4 million monthly active users across these 3 countries combined.

As with internet penetration, Iceland also leads the way in terms of social media penetration, with 70% of the country’s population using Facebook in the past month.

Malta puts in an impressive showing at 58% penetration, with Scandinavian countries rounding out the rest of the top 5:

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Time spent on social media continues to account for a large part of overall online activity too, with Italy and Russia – the most ‘socially active’ nations in Europe – spending more than 40% of their connected time on social media:

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Meanwhile, mobile social continues to grow in importance around the region, with two thirds of the region’s social media users regularly accessing via mobile devices:

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This is still considerably lower than the same proportion in APAC though, and accounts for a penetration rate of barely 26% of the total regional population.

The figures vary considerably between countries, with more than half of the populations of Norway and Iceland connecting to Facebook via a mobile device in the past month:

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At 30 million active mobile social users, the UK leads the way in terms of absolute numbers, while Germany, France and Italy all register 20 million active users each:

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Sub-Regional Pictures
We’re pleased to include overviews for each of Europe’s sub-regions too, with 7 distinct analyses showing how the online landscape varies across the ‘continent’:

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Each of these sub-regional analyses provides a top-level picture of key stats, helping marketers to plan multi-market activities with greater ease.

For illustration, here’s the overview for Northern Europe, which covers Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden:

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In-Depth Country Analysis
We’ve included an in-depth analysis of the local picture for 40 countries in this report, with a wealth of stats and behavioural indicators for each nation.

In particular, we’re delighted to include data for Spain, which was the most-requested country following our global report a few weeks ago.

You’ll find all the numbers you need for each country in the full SlideShare presentation (as featured at the top of this post), but just to whet your appetite, here are the numbers for Spain:

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And there we have it – another bumper collection of online facts and stats.

Do get in touch if you’d like some help making sense of these numbers, or if you’d like us to work with you to turn these insights into an actionable strategy.

And don’t forget we have offices all across Europe, so if you’re looking for on-ground support, be sure to get in touch with our teams in London, Paris, Milan and Munich:

Europe Contacts

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Sources for all the above data are listed in the full report. We’d especially like to thank GlobalWebIndex and GSMA Intelligence for their help in providing data for these reports, and for allowing us to publish their valuable data.

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Social, Digital & Mobile in APAC in 2014

by Simon Kemp in News

Following on from We Are Social’s hugely popular Social, Digital and Mobile Worldwide in 2014 report from earlier this month, we’re very pleased to share an even more detailed look at the online landscape around the Asia-Pacific region.

It also turns out that two weeks can make a big difference when it comes to online data; in the past 14 days, and with the help of some of the 200,000 people who’ve viewed our Global report, we’ve found some even fresher stats to the ones we published in our last report.

These new discoveries have had a particular impact on India’s stats, where figures for internet users have changed from 151 million to 213 million. Internet figures for Indonesia have also almost doubled, to 72.7 million.

These changes have had a significant impact on the regional and global totals too, so we’ll begin with a refreshed look at the stats from the very top.

The Global Picture
Following revisions to a number of countries, the number of worldwide internet users now exceeds 2.64 billion, representing global penetration of 37%:

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Following our last report, we also received a number of queries regarding the difference between mobile subscriptions and actual mobile users, so we’re delighted to be able include a new chart comparing the two in this report.

We’ve teamed up with the wonderful team at GSMA Intelligence for this, and they’ve been kind enough to let us share this valuable data in the report – here’s the APAC picture:

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In order to understand the context in which people use mobile devices, it’s also important to understand how people pay for their subscriptions (contracts), and whether they have access to potentially faster mobile data connections.

The chart below offers more detail on both these areas, detailing how many people have pre- vs post-paid contracts, and using 3G as a proxy for the likelihood people could access faster internet if they chose to take out a relevant mobile data plan:

APAC mobile contract type

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Asia-Pacific In Context
APAC is home to almost 3.9 billion people, accounting for just under 55% of the total world population. The region hosts just under half the world’s Internet users, and 52.2% of the world’s active social media users:

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apac global share

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Internet
Although internet user data for a number of countries around the region hasn’t been updated as recently as we’d hoped, APAC has still shown impressive growth in recent months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 150 million new users since our previous report in October 2012 – many of which were in India and Indonesia:

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However, internet access is still far from a universal reality around APAC, and penetration rates in some countries remain surprisingly low:

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It’s interesting to see how the average number of hours spent on the internet varies around the region too, both in terms of desktop / laptop access, as well as the time spent on the mobile web:

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It’s important to note that the figures in the chart above are based on claimed time spent on the internet, rather than on actual traffic. This has two important consequences:

  • The data will, in part, reveal the story that people choose to tell about their internet use, rather than the exact number of minutes they spend connected
  • However, in a similar way, this ‘claimed’ data helps to avoid over-counting internet usage when someone is connected to the internet, but not actually making use of it (e.g. the browser is open in the background while someone works on another, non-internet related application).
  • There may also be some variations across cultures in what people consider ‘internet’ access. For example, someone who streams music through a service like Spotify for the whole day may not consider this ‘time spent on the internet’, even if we could argue the opposite is also true.

Social Media
2013 was an impressive year of growth across almost every aspect of the social media world in APAC, with chat apps in particular seeing stunning growth thanks to platforms like WeChat, LINE, and Kakaotalk.

We’ve chose to focus on social networks for this report’s data though, as they continue to offer the greater opportunity for marketers.

User figures and penetration rates for social networks still vary hugely around the region, but the overall trend is definitely upwards (note that MAU stands for Monthly Active Users):

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It’s worth highlighting that the figures for social media penetration often exceed those for internet penetration, especially in fast-evolving markets. There may be a number of reasons for this:

  • Social media stats are almost always more up to date than those for internet usage, largely because they are collected by a commercial entity on an on-going basis and published at least quarterly to help with advertising sales. In Facebook’s case, the monthly active user figures are available in almost real-time.
  • Many reports on internet usage and penetration omit mobile internet usage, meaning many mobile-only users aren’t included in the figures (partly because they’re more difficult to identify). In many emerging markets – particularly places like Indonesia or Myanmar – mobile-only use can account for a significant proportion of internet use. People accessing social media through mobile devices will be counted, however, meaning social media numbers are often a more accurate indication of actual internet use and penetration in these markets.
  • On the other hand, some people may have multiple social media accounts on the same platform, leading to a slight skew in the data, although we don’t anticipate this is the main cause for the difference between internet and social media usage numbers.

We’ve also changed the way we report user numbers in this year’s report compared to our previous report in 2012, and we now only report monthly active user numbers (MAUs) for any given platform. This ensures a more reliable and actionable data set, and ensures organisations using the data have the most up-to-date picture of people’s preferences and behaviour throughout the region.

Facebook’s MAUs continued to grow across the region over the past year, adding 54 million by January 2014 in Asian countries alone (excluding countries in Oceania like Australia and New Zealand).

China’s Qzone added 25 million MAUs too, meaning that overall growth around the region is somewhere in the region of 80 million new active users – almost 10% growth year-on-year.

We opted not to include chat apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, LINE and Kakaotalk in this year’s analysis for a couple of reasons:

  • The way that people use these platforms remains largely one-to-one, so they offer less of an obvious mass engagement channel for brands compared to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Weibo (although we recongise that this is changing, especially with tweaks to WeChat’s platform);
  • The companies who operate these platforms tend not to publish monthly active user figures, and where they do, they aren’t broken down by country, making it very difficult for us to attribute usage by country.

However, for handy reference, the global user figures for each of the region’s largest chat apps are as follows:

  • WhatsApp: 400 million monthly active users worldwide
  • WeChat (Weixin): 270 million monthly active users worldwide
  • LINE: 300 million total registered users worldwide
  • Kakaotalk: 130 million total registered users worldwide

We’re pleased to offer time spent on social media for many of the region’s larger economies too, thanks to some great data from GlobalWebIndex’s Active Usage: Time Spent study, which they’ve kindly allowed us to share. You can find out more about this study here.

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As with the time spent on the internet chart above, this data is based on claimed usage rather than actual traffic information. This again means that data may be coloured by the story people wish to tell about themselves, but at the same time, it also helps to avoid over-counting time where people have social media open in the background.

Based on our qualitative research, many people keep social networks open throughout the day in a distinct browser tab or tool like Tweetdeck, but do not necessarily spend all that time actively engaging with the platform itself, so the data above should be used in conjunction with traffic-based numbers (where available) to paint a multi-dimensional picture of people’s behaviour.

It’s interesting to explore the above chart in the context of the societal norms of each country too; it appears that the time spent on social media is determined as much by a nation’s culture as it is by the speed or ease of internet access. In many countries where fast internet access is still a luxury, people still spend many hours engaging with social media, highlighting once again that social media are playing a huge part in the growth and evolution of the online landscape in APAC.

However, to enrich this story, it’s worth looking at the infrastructural elements too. Mobile devices play a huge role in Asia’s social media scene, so we’ve added an extra data set to this report to illustrate mobile social access in more detail:

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Mobile
The number of mobile subscriptions in APAC continue to grow steadily in the past 15 months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 200 million new subscriptions since our previous report in October 2012.

Although it’s likely that some of these new subscriptions constitute second subscriptions (e.g. an additional contract for work or personal use), the importance of mobile devices even in the region’s less developed nations highlights the critical role mobile plays in people’s daily lives in APAC.

While it can be tricky to identify the exact number of people accessing the internet through mobile devices, we have identified reliable data for two important indicators that offer valuable insights: mobile broadband subscriptions, and people accessing social media through mobile devices:

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It’s particularly interesting to note that the proportion of the population accessing social media through a mobile device is much higher than the penetration of mobile broadband, suggesting that many people continue to access social media through slower mobile connections.

You’ll find this data broken down for each country around the region in the full report.

The Individual Country Story
We’re delighted to announce that we now have social media and mobile data for every Asian country, as well as 4 key nations in Oceania.

Major additions to this year’s report are North Korea and Myanmar, and although the numbers aren’t likely to challenge China’s position as the dominant digital player in the region, it’s very exciting to see how online media are helping to open up some of the world’s most secretive nations.

In particular, Myanmar – or Burma, if you prefer – has surprised us with the sheer speed of growth, particularly when it comes to social media. From a country where Facebook was technically blocked barely 12 months ago, this Southeast Asian country now boasts well over 1 million Facebook users, and is still growing at an impressive rate:

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Despite these impressive numbers though, this still represents a social media penetration of just 2% in Myanmar, so there’s clearly plenty more potential for growth as the country continues its journey towards a fully open approach to the internet.

Even mobile subscriptions struggle to reach double-digit penetration, while the internet – albeit based mostly on fixed-line figures – languishes at just 1%.

However, 2014 looks like a promising year for Myanmar’s online landscape, and we’re looking forward to plenty more good news from them in the months to come.

The story in North Korea remains less clear; with the internet still officially blocked in the world’s most reclusive nation, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of what’s going on. However, Facebook themselves state that they now have 8,200 users within the North Asian state, 4,600 of whom access through mobile devices:

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It’s unclear how many of these users are actually North Korean citizens though, and we suspect that a significant proportion may be foreign nationals based in the country.

However, the fact that it is even possible for these people to access Facebook from within North Korea represents a step forward compared to the situation this time last year, so we’ll take that as a glimmer of hope for 2014.

We’ve also included data for Timor-Leste, which, although still small in absolute numbers, represents another reason for optimism, given the young country’s recent history.

East Timor’s social media population in particular is growing steadily, with 6% of the population – or 76,000 people – using Facebook at least once in the past month:

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As with many emerging economies, the numbers for internet usage in Timor-Leste are far lower than those for social media, mainly because it’s harder to measure the exact number of people accessing the internet.

Many people still access from shared devices in internet cafés or in places of work, and data is often collected by surveys that have taken quite some time to gather, analyse and publish.

Social media figures such as those made available by Facebook are almost real-time though, offering a more up-to-date and accurate picture of the online landscape within these fast-evolving digital ecosystems.

Excitingly, mobile phone subscriptions have already surpassed 50% penetration in Timor-Leste too, meaning many more people now have the opportunity to connect to the internet as soon as affordable mobile data plans become available.

Alongside figures for Australia and New Zealand, we’re also pleased to present some initial figures for Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Both nations play an important role in understanding the broader picture across Pacific nations, and the stories their data snapshots tell reveal some interesting insights:

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Fiji already demonstrates relatively strong internet and social media penetration figures, surpassing the regional average in both areas.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea still has plenty of potential for growth, with barely 4% of the population using Facebook in the past month. However, with mobile subscription penetration of 42%, it’s clear that Papuans have an increasing digital opportunity, and we’re confident these figures will all grow considerably during 2014.

We’re also pleased to share statistics on mobile social behaviour for all 30 countries in this study, ensuring marketers have a solid understanding of the opportunities to engage their audiences in a variety of settings and contexts – here are some example stats for Indonesia:

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As mobile increasingly becomes our predominant means of accessing online services and content, it’s likely that Asia-Pacific will continue to lead the world in defining the future of the online landscape.

The India Changes
Finally, given the major changes in its internet user numbers since our last report, here’s how the situation in India looks today:

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India Contract Type

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So there you have it – another week, another bumper collection of stats. However, given how quickly the data seems to be changing, it’s clear 2014 is going to be another vintage year for online growth. We’re already looking forward to next year’s APAC report!

Sources for all the above data are listed in the full report. We’d especially like to thank GlobalWebIndex and GSMA Intelligence for their help in providing data for these reports, and for allowing us to publish their valuable data.

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Social Brands: Comms Leitmotifs

by Simon Kemp in News

For the past few decades, marketing has been dominated by a mass-media paradigm.

During that time, we’ve defined the ‘best’ marketing as that which makes the most efficient use of broadcast media, and as a result, we’ve spent decades perfecting an approach that’s all about reducing the cost of interrupting people.

The result is communications that have been distilled down to their lowest common denominators: a selection of sound bites designed to be shared as succinctly as possible across a range of media, repeated again and again in the hopes of eliciting a pavlovian response that will deliver optimum scores in campaign tracking.

But this paradigm is broken.

We’ve become obsessed with media efficiency, and as a result, we’ve lost sight of what effective communications look like.

[As an aside, effectiveness is about doing the right thing, while efficiency is about doing that thing right]

Back To Basics
The very roots of the word ‘communication’ highlight where we’ve been going wrong.

The English word stems from ‘communicare’, a Latin verb meaning ‘to share’.

Critically, therefore, real communication is about creating shared understanding.

So, at its essence, communication isn’t really about what you say; rather, it’s about what other people understand.

However, as part of marketing’s relentless drive to maximise media efficiency, we’ve become overly fixated on ‘the message’ (i.e. what we want to say), and consequently, we’re missing the huge opportunities that come with building a better, shared understanding of our brands and their offerings.

In Context: Brands As Social Entities
But in order to build a better, shared understanding, we need to get a better understanding of our audiences’ motivations, and the dynamics that drive our exchanges with them.

We’ve already explored motivations in a previous post in this series that covered the evolution from ads to added value.

However, in order for brands to achieve their full potential, they also need to integrate more actively into the social dynamics that define the contexts in which they come to life.

Sadly, many brands still behave like newborn children: entirely egocentric, and almost totally oblivious to the needs of others.

However, studies have found that the traits we find most appealing in other people are those that are socially oriented (more on that here).

Interestingly, these appealing human traits are the same as those that define great brands:

Be Natural
Popularity is more pull than push, and trying to become popular through hollow flattery and false mirroring is unsustainable. Impressing people is much easier if you lead by example instead of screaming for attention. As a result, it’s far better to champion the cause than it is to ride the bandwagon.

Be Considerate
People appreciate a good listener, so don’t talk about yourself all the time. Take time to hear what your audience wants to say to you, and not just to work out what you want to say to them. Embrace the everyday people as well as the celebrities.

Be Generous
If you want to build trust, give before you take. What does your audience want, need and desire? How can you help them achieve it through your communications alone?

Be True
Stay true to your ideals, but don’t force them upon other people. Strength, honesty, humility and kindness are far more valuable brand values than ‘dynamic’ or ‘cool’.

Be Social
Conversations are as much about the social discourse as they are about the sharing of information. Avoid an over-reliance on monologue and one-line statements, and engage in dialogue as much to reinforce bonds as to establish new relationships. Treat others as you’d hope to be treated yourself, and always be ready with the proverbial olive branch.

For brands, this last point – Be Social – is perhaps the most important when it comes to building enduring success.

Of course, as a conversation agency, we’re biased here, but our positioning isn’t an accident; here at We Are Social, we genuinely believe that there’s far more value in dialogue than there is in the broadcast paradigm of a repetitive monologue.

But how do brands ‘grow up’, and evolve from their current communications infancy to become more socially engaged entities?

The Art Of Conversation
To start with, it’s important to remember that you can’t ‘win’ a conversation. Conversations should be about a mutual exchange of value; if you’re trying to win, that’s an argument.

A significant part of this mutual exchange of value is the opportunity to deepen bonds and strengthen relationships, at the same time as sharing information or knowledge.

This is one area where marketers often fall down: in our arrogance, we believe we have more to teach audiences about our brands and offerings than we might learn from our audiences in return.

However, it’s only the brand that exists in our audiences’ heads and hearts that has any value.

To this point, there’s a wonderful post on Wikihow entitled “How To Stop Talking About Yourself” – it’s a fascinating read, and offers this wonderful piece of advice that brands everywhere should heed:

Respond to questions without turning the focus onto you. When asked, “Did you see Survivor last night?”,

[Avoid:] “Yes! I never miss an episode; in fact my husband and I watch Survivor, American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars. Did you see how well Kristen danced last night?” You answered the question, but redirected the focus onto you.

[Try:] “I missed it; was it good?” Simply answer the question they asked you, and give them a chance to talk with you. After all, they like the show, and it was their topic.

In other words, making people feel like they’re an important part of your brand’s world, and welcoming them into your communications, are both huge opportunities to improve success.

Of course, for most brands, it’s still financially infeasible to have one-to-one conversations with every individual member of the audience, but channels like social media make such interactions much easier than they were when we only had broadcast channels to choose from.

Having said that, taking advantage of ‘conversational’ channels involves a very different approach to the lowest-common-denominator approach we’ve become used to.

Change Is Coming
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Big Advertising Ideas are not as relevant to social communications as they are to TV.

A single-minded comms approach may be the key to driving media efficiency, but it only works effectively if we get it right first time, and the reality is that most people’s brains work in slightly different ways.

This isn’t a new assertion of course; the wonderful Mark Earls has been challenging it for a number of years now:

One of the reasons why this approach is rarely the best option is because lowest-common-denominator messaging rarely delivers the highest possible value.

The challenge is that single-minded communications are only designed to convey that single message, and that’s only truly efficient if conveying that single message successfully establishes the desired understanding across the whole audience.

Conversely, in order to maximise effectiveness, we may need to convey our ‘message’ in a variety of different ways over time, and to different groups of people, before we can establish a sufficient level of shared understanding across the whole audience.

That wasn’t often an option in an expensive, TV-dominated world, but our media mix options have evolved.

It’s time to rethink our commandments.

Enter The Leitmotif
In musical theory, a leitmotif is:

“a musical term referring to a short, constantly recurring musical phrase, associated with a particular person, place, or idea… In particular, [it] should be clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances, [but] it is transformable and recurs in different guises throughout the piece in which it occurs.”

If that all sounds a bit complex, this Star Wars explanation nails the concept beautifully:

“Each important idea [and character] in Star Wars has its own leitmotif. At the beginning of A New Hope, Luke watches the suns set, wondering what his destiny in the world could be. His leitmotif [or 'Luke's Theme', if you will], is played wistfully and slowly to reinforce this idea. Later, when he is in the midst of rescuing Leia, his theme is stronger, more percussive, and rhythmic. Essentially, the same notes are being played, but the style with which they are played makes all the difference in the tone of the scene.”

Critically, a leitmotif does not represent the constant repetition that defines music like techno (and broadcast advertising); it’s about a theme that changes and evolves over time to add new value or meaning.

Adopting such a ‘communications leitmotif’ may hold the key to more effective marketing within the reality of today’s multi-channel media mix: rather than relying on repetition of the same message over and over again, marketers can adopt a broader, richer ‘communications agenda‘ which enables them to use a variety of activities to build towards success in different ways over time, engaging more of the audience in more meaningful ways, and ensuring a greater chance of success.

Evolving The Story: From Theory To Practice
There are a variety of different ways to bring a strategic leitmotif to life – here are some we’d advocate:

The Dandelion Approach
As Cory Doctorow asserted in this seminal post from a few years back, the dandelion doesn’t put all its eggs (or seeds) in one basket. Rather than investing all its efforts in nurturing a single offspring, the dandelion spreads as many seeds as possible in the hopes that at least some will fall on fertile ground. This is not about random dissemination though; despite slight variations in each seed, every one contains the DNA of its parent plants, and each one is designed to travel as far as possible. Critically, though, the ‘costs’ associated with producing each different seed are low enough that individual failures are not an issue.

The Tapas Approach
Meals comprising many small, shared dishes are popular all over the world, from Tapas in Spain to Dim Sum in the Orient. Each individual dish can be quite different, but they all ladder up to an overall meal ‘experience’ which is both reliable and enjoyable, even if not every dish is to everyone’s taste. This approach can work well for communications too: by harnessing a variety of smaller, disparate creative executions across a number of different channels, brands have a greater chance of delivering something that resonates with the different members of the audience, and shares the necessary understanding.

The Kaizen Approach
Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning “change for the better“, and is a central part of a continuous improvement approach. The same concept lies at the heart of effective conversations too: each time a participant in the discussion shares new insights or information, the other participants can refine or modify their opinions or approach, in order to reach an optimum, collective understanding. The Kaizen approach is a bit more direct than the previous two, but it has a clear role to play in a variety of brand situations, particularly where the topic is more complex, or where rational motivations dominate.

There will be many more ways to bring such an ‘evolving theme’ approach to life, but the ones that will win through will be those that deliver a new kind of efficiency: the ability to identify when the necessary understanding has been shared with relevant audiences, and when investments can move to a new communications task.

In order to achieve this efficiency, however, marketers will need to get much better at listening to – and measuring – audience response and reaction, and using these to refine and evolve their communications approach.

We’ll cover these Active Listening techniques in the next post in this Social Brands series.

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Social, Digital and Mobile in Pakistan

by Simon Kemp in News

Just like our last SDMW feature country, Bangladesh, Pakistan is a member of the 100 million club.

The online environment in Pakistan is changing rapidly, as a quick comparison between today’s report and our first edition from December 2011 will testify.

The key headlines from this second edition are as follows:

  • Pakistan has almost 30 million internet users, although penetration remains low at just 15%;
  • Social Media use has grown by almost 50% since our last report, passing 8 million monthly users in the past couple of weeks;
  • Mobile continues to grow quickly, with the country’s telcos adding more than 1 million new subscriptions each month in 2012.

As ever with our SDMW reports though, it’s the more focused details that tell the best stories.

With more than two thirds of Pakistan’s 190 million inhabitants below the age of 30, it’s clear that the nation benefits from a young and dynamic population.

Furthermore, despite financial challenges – the average income in Pakistan is less than $3,000 per year – Pakistanis are embracing connected devices and the content that they offer.

Interestingly, 80% of Pakistan’s netizens spend more than one hour each day on the internet, although the average ‘internet session’ lasts just 5 minutes, suggesting that Pakistanis go online multiple times each day for short ‘browsing snacks’.

The majority of netizens use laptops to access the internet, although 30% of internet users go online via a mobile phone – perhaps unsurprising given that more than 100 million mobile subscriptions have been activated in Pakistan to date.

Mobile penetration still remains relatively low however, at just over 60% – well below Asia’s regional average of 82%.

Social media penetration also remains acutely low, with barely 4% of the country’s population using Facebook, even though the site appears to maintain its position as the most popular social network in the country.

Social media remains a largely male preserve too, with men accounting for almost 70% of the country’s social media users.

However, Facebook is adding new users in Pakistan at a rate of one every 12 seconds, and 28% of social media users make use of 2 or more platforms, suggesting plenty of potential for growth in social media use in the country during 2013.

Crucially for marketers, two thirds of the country’s Facebook users are below the age of 25, and more than half of them come from the country’s richest 10% of households, resulting in a highly concentrated social media audience of young, affluent consumers.

Nearly three quarters of these users log in to Facebook daily too, and spend an average of 40 minutes on the site each day, mostly between 6pm and midnight.

Twitter users hover around the 2 million mark, although some estimates put Pakistan’s Twitter population closer to 3 million. Google+ also appears to have a certain popularity in Pakistan, although exact user numbers are harder to come by.

As with many countries around Asia though, the real excitement lies in mobile. Someone takes out a new mobile subscription every 2 seconds in Pakistan, resulting in growth of 46,500 new subscriptions every day.

Despite this impressive growth, however, mobile internet usage remains sparse, and just 15 million people in the country access internet services via mobile, even though the government reports that 64% of the population has the potential to access mobile internet services.

Of those who already access the internet via mobile, 75% do so via Symbian-powered devices, and most people in Pakistan continue to rely on feature phones.

Lack of 3G coverage may play a role in the slow uptake of mobile internet, and extending the coverage of these faster networks beyond today’s paltry 0.4% of the population would likely boost the country’s online connectivity.

These numbers all point to significant opportunities for growth though, so Pakistan is certainly another one to watch for 2013.

The sources for all the stats can be found at the bottom of each slide in the SlideShare deck above. You can download a high-res PDF of this report here.

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