After my visit to China, I visited Singapore and met people from around the region. This included digital marketers from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Australia, and Indonesia.
As part of my presentation on social networks I looked at the history of networks in the region, and discovered that Friendster was until very recently the dominant platform in the region. It was pretty close to being unrivaled. Only in India, where Orkut was dominant was Friendster out of the picture. Now - just a few years later - Friendster is pretty much dead, and there is flight away from Orkut in India.
Facebook is now the dominant and leading platform right across Asia Pacific. According to Comscore Facebook is number one in pretty much all markets except for Japan (MIXI.JP rules there), South Korea (CyWorld rules there), India (where it is still slightly behind Orkut) and Taiwan (Wretch runs the show there).
There are still points of resistance against the Facebook juggernaut, namely: Hi5 seems to be holding out amongst the young in Thailand; and an interesting little microblog called Plurk seems to be growing rapidly. Its Alexa data shows its growing globally, but it seems to be have been particularly embraced by those in Asia Pacific.
I learnt a few things and reconfirmed a few things I knew already:
- Dominance in social networks is ephemeral. If you do not reinvent yourself and keep connected to your audience your days are numbered - ask MySpace
- Losing your audience is like a 'run on a bank' - once it starts it turns into a frenzy. A network with a large audience can disappear overnight
- Social networks are social-cultural mirrors - they reflect local culture and local relationships. Hi5, sticking it out, in Thailand's youth culture is an example
- Social networks exhibit network economics. Everybody moves towards the standard. Facebook has become the standard, and standing up against it requires great luck or great skill. Look at Microsoft in operating systems, and Google in search. This is 'winner takes all economics'.
- Although Facebook is dominant, the content, people, and conversations are all very different from those in other continents - in the same way that their local magazines cover different subjects, with different celebrities, and different passion points.
By the way, the building pictured above is the new Marina Bay Hotel in Singapore, which is completely out of this world to see.