On the Ground at Social Media Week: Social Media Around the World, Hosted by Freddie Laker, Head of Digital Strategy in Asia, SapientNitro
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Day 3 of Social Media Week NYC kicked off with a presentation from social media experts across the pond. The first few minutes at the Art & Culture Hub at Hearst Tower were spent reconnecting with old friends, sipping coffee and riding out the few minutes of technical difficulties. It can be quite funny when you walk in a room and there are 4 people on the screen all trying to talk simultaneously from around the world, but no one can hear each other. Although the fact that we have technology that can even connect us all, is truly amazing. A huge thanks to Watchitoo for making it all possible.
Toby Daniels, Founder of Social Media Week, was there to kick-start the panel and truly brought into perspective how important social media is, not just here, but everywhere. It is a global phenomenon that connects us all and is truly where emerging trends are born. Our host for the morning, Freddie Laker (Head of Digital Strategy in Asia for SapientNitro) begins with a keynote on his key learnings, take-aways and predictions for the future, after moving to China and becoming apart of a rapidly growing social and digital nation.
You can instantly predict how truly funny and brilliant Freddie is, something I think makes for an excellent speaker. After being in a global role for a short time and still living in the states, he realized that he should “put his money where his mouth is” and actually make the move to Asia. Something he describes as being both truly humbling and inspiring. Although he doesn’t speak the language very well, he knows how to order food and give directions to taxi drivers. He quotes, “If this is Communism, I don’t know what Capitalism is anymore.”
Social media has changed the world as we know it and it’s hard to wrap your head around it sometimes because it gives us the opportunities to communicate, collaborate on new ideas and even enable revolutions. China is a huge part of that movement with over 500 million internet users and countless popular platforms only available to those living in China. Freddie goes on to explain what when we start these platforms over here in the states, we fear we are “westernizing” the rest of the world, when in fact, we are actually broadening our own horizons. America is often criticized for being too closed off, instead, we are becoming more worldly be creating platforms that connect the world. Social media is also creating a whole entire new set of youth, youth that are hyper-connected, worldly and cultured and that will be drastically different than the generations and generations before them.
From an outsiders perspective, we view China as being cut-off and closed in from social media because their government doesn’t allow Facebook and Youtube, but what we are missing is that instead, they have created multiple social, video, real-time and gaming platforms of their own, that are more popular and more innovative than platforms available to the rest of the world. Just because they don’t have Facebook, doesn’t mean they aren’t wired in.
Freddie continues to get the crowd engaged and laughing with some examples of popular Internet culture in China. He describes their “Triad of Internet Power” as: Ninjas, Animals and Little People. Going on to describe examples of hilarious memes and viral phenomena’s that have infiltrated China’s highly developed Internet world.
Hot trends in Asia that will have a significant impact on global social media:
– Social gaming: entire networks are already in place that are driven by social games.
– Location-based services: a trend that is taking more time to become popular in China, but growing as smartphone penetration grows.
– Collective buying: thousands of Groupon-type platforms are already in existence.
– Real-time everything: status updates, wall posts, feeds…growing more and more towards everything being set in real-time.
Future predictions for Asia and social media, according to Freddie Lake:
– Facebook is developing virtual currency as we speak, an idea that was first introduced in China. Due to its widespread success, it transitioned into a payment portal, which Freddie thinks, will be what Facebook will eventually turn into, think PayPal meets Google checkout.
– Development, ideas and platforms to reach rural areas of the world. In many parts of Asia, India, etc. people don’t have access to the same technology the rest of the world does. Freddie ideates that some of the best new developments (think Facebook Zero and Facebook Lite) will be to reach out and connect with people who don’t necessarily have internet and maybe only a WAPP connection.
– The rise of cheap smartphones. Phones that will be under 100 dollars, easy to use and accessible to more people around the world.
– The birth of hyper-relevance. Basic storytelling ideas where we now live in a world where we know where you are and who you are. The idea that companies and governments will be able to leverage this information as a database. Does Facebook want to become this? If China doesn’t have Facebook or Opengraph, who will be the Chinese Opengraph of information? By 2013 most of the internet sites will be in Chinese, what does this mean?
– The Internet of things. Meaning everything we own could be scanned and searched for. Example: missing car keys with and RFD barcode on them. Freddie doesn’t think that American necessarily has the power to collaborate with every company and manufacturer to do this, but China does. He is extremely humbled by the focus and dedication their government gives on new initiatives.
What’s next? He has no idea. He will even pay you money if you know. But all he does know is that Asia and South America are places to watch, some great innovations and developments are going to come from them. He has a suspicion that new millionaires will be born in America trying to copy what they are doing.
The second part of the presentation consisted of a panel of 5 social media experts from across the world. One that was actually present in the room and the rest via digital video. Below are excerpts of the questions and answers given to the panelists, moderated by Freddie Laker.
- Katarina Graffman,Owner & CEO of Inculture, Stockholm, Sweden
- Justin Barkhuizen, Ex-Director of Social Media, MediaCom
- Mark Leong, Digital Strategist, RAPP, Tokyo, Japan
- Zarul Shekhar, SapientNitro + TV Producer/Anchor Delhi, India, Manager of Digital Media
- Mehdi Lamloum, Digital Planner, OgilvyOne, Tunisia
1. Describe a day in the life of someone in your country using social media:
Zarul: Presented a wonderful video showing how people in India use social media in their daily lives. They update Facebook, blog about life, send SMS to their friends and can even order things through SMS and email. Social media has definitely changed the way people communicate in India and has made Internet and advertising popular. Zarul even shows an example of him taking a picture of a car crash, uploading to the police Facebook and getting a quicker response than any other method. Amazing!
Mark: Shows how in 2005 he was using SMS, email and phone a lot >> fast forward to the present and you can find him barely using SMS and phone, mostly using Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Foursquare, etc. He says that in Japan it’s not necessarily about how many platforms we use, but about which ones we choose to connect with friends on.
Justin: Showed a video about people in South Africa using social media to find parties, connect with friends and promote events in their towns. They are so excited about using social media. Justin comments that in South Africa, there is free wi-fi everywhere. There are so many things they can do that they couldn’t do before. People use social channel for betterment instead of tracking Kim Kardashian.
2. Describe shifts in the ways people live their lives and certain user behaviors that are specific to your country.
Zarul: A huge user trend in India is online matrimony. Arranged marriages are still very prevalent in India and thus there are many resources available to help you get married, such as livestream channels, programming, case studies, counselors and relationship managers that help you get married. Another trend, blind dating online.
Mark: People in Japan hide their true identities online behind fake names, pictures and avatars. This is slowly starting to change and for the first time, people are using either their real names, or combinations of their real names/pictures so that friends can easily find them on Facebook. Mark describes having trouble finding friends because he was unable to remember their Foursquare nicknames. Mark also describes how these trends are mostly on American social sites, on Chinese specific platforms, fake identities and avatars are still being used.
Katarina: People in Sweden used to be very scared of the internet, but now people are getting used to posting things on the internet. A lot of people have online diaries and are sharing the stories of their lives for everyone to see. Also, their blogging/diaries are great marketing tools because people are absorbing the information and sharing it.
Mehdi: There are a limited number of internet users in Tunisia. Social media is THE media in Tunisia. The media they have available to them, tv, newspapers, etc. is so awful that social media has become the best option.
Justin: Only 5 million people use the internet in South Africa but mobile data is huge. WAPP experience is the best way to reach people which is why the government is focused on building platforms for youth empowerment and to raise awareness about HIV and other social issues. Education needs to take place.
3. What are Apps, Platforms and Tools unique to your countries.
Zarul: India is fad driven. We don’t join Facebook because we think it’s cool, we join because is popular and everyone else is doing it. There are many localized social networks, such as ibibo.com, that cater especially to gaming with Indian street names, facts, etc. Making the experience just that better because it is culturally built. Big brands are able to advertise, run competitions and offer the people of India free gifts and giveaways. Another great tool is the ability to send SMS through ibibo.com and to update status through voice for people that don’t have internet access.
Mark: The top platforms in Japan are Mixi and GREE, both of which have 20 million users, where as Facebook only has 2 million. What will happen in the next few years with these platforms will be exciting to watch.
Katarina: It is interesting how people in Sweden use social networks to talk and discuss very private topics like sex. Especially when everyone used to be so scared of the Internet. People are not afraid of being really open.
Medhi: The only social networks available in Tunisia are Facebook and Twitter, the rest are all socialist sites. 1 in every 2 Internet users in Tunisia is on Facebook. They use it as Youtube, Flickr and as a dating site because there is nothing else available. Facebook blogging in popular and so is an site that aggregates tweets called Tnlabs.org.
4. Thoughts on the future of social media.
Justin: The top 10 Facebook pages in South Africa don’t contain any brands. There is a magazine, a tv personality, but no brands. Brands need to figure out what to do and get their message out there. Cultural perspective: there is so much to do, so much to mobilize. I think we will continue to see stuff getting out there and people buying into it.
Zarul: There is a lot of illiteracy, language and education lessons are the biggest need. One example of how that is changing is through Nokia phones, they offer a service to learn English, this is a great resource. Fisherman are also using apps to help them determine the weather and if it is safe to go out that day. Social media is really influencing and helping the ordinary man in every day life, someone who is illiterate.
I absolutely enjoyed this panel and glimpse into the wide stretch of social media around the world. We are all constantly evolving and connecting and as the speakers all described, moving towards a completely wired in and connected world. A huge thanks to Social Media Week NYC and Sapient Nitro for giving us this excellent presentation.
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