This monthly post chronicles and analyzes updates across social platforms popular in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. In an ever-changing global social and economic landscape, it is Dachis Group’s belief that multinational corporations should remain aware of the social opportunities and challenges that await them in some of the world’s most promising emerging markets. Here’s the scoop for February:
- Google+ Badges now seen on Orkut – Logged onto Orkut lately? If so, then perhaps you’ve noticed some of your friends rocking Google+ badges around town. As we reported last month, regional Facebook traffic exceeded regional Orkut traffic for the first time, symbolizing a rising cause of concern for Orkut. This is the first integration we’ve seen between the two platforms and we predict even further integration to come. Could it be that Google+ sees Orkut (also popular in India) as being able to provide a solid bump to its user base and activity? This subtle nudge makes it seem so, but don’t bury Orkut just yet. Last month we mentioned community management updates to the platform and we’ll discuss below how they continue expanding their community capabilities. Either way, brands eying a serious investment in Orkut should move with caution as it seems Google has some unannounced and unpredictable plans for the social network.
- #hashtagsonorkut - Down, but not out, Google’s Orkut team has announced that communities will now support and index keywords that are hashtagged. Combined with January’s community updates, it seems Orkut is intent on improving the community management experience. As you would expect, the hashtags are searchable; enabling page managers to create, monitor, and/or curate topics around their brand. This is a significant upgrade for the channel and Orkut’s recent slew of community-focused updates may represent an emerging trend in their quest to remain Brazil’s most popular social network.
- O Tumblr falar Português? – In a move that helps reaffirm both the social nature of Brazilians and the bursting popularity of the channel, Tumblr has announced plans to launch a Portuguese version to increase its regional reach. It’s reported that they’ll be making a push to get celebrities on board–a tried formula that has help propagated other social channels into prominence–and we’re guessing the move will be effective in attracting users in a country that’s known to favor pop culture. If the shoe fits, brands seeking to gain market share in Brazil may want to consider how they can use Tumblr to connect with this increasingly prominent consumer base.
- Brazilian brand Facebook Performance – Social Bakers published a report detailing which Brazilian brands were the most successful at growing their fanbase, engaging their fan base, and responding to their fan base during the month of January. A once over of the most liked and engaging pages for the month suggests that Brazilians are most keen to associate with brands–some luxury–in the auto, entertainment and travel industries. We know that Brazil’s middle class has undergone a robust expansion over the past decade and this information offers some insight into how some of the nouveau riche are enjoying their new lifestyle. Combining their increased spending power, the rapid growth (and popularity) of Facebook in the region, and the brand data provided above, we see considerable promise for brands of these kinds to make a Facebook play in the region.
- Hootsuite releases Brazilian Portuguese version – Hootsuite has announced that they are set to enter Brazil with the release of a Brazilian Portuguese version of their social dashboard; they also announced that Orkut will soon be integrated into the Hootsuite App Directory. These announcements are interesting for a couple reasons. One being the implications that the Brazilian social landscape has become so prevalent (and vast) that it warrants a regional version of the tool. Another being that Hootsuite has adapted to the local market by integrating Orkut, suggesting their intent to serve the region. This is fairly exciting news and the broader, more global implications this move has on the future development of social dashboards in terms of standardization v. adaptation has left us intrigued.
- Embedded Polls – VKontakte announced that they’ve added functionality allowing users and page admins to easily embed polls on external sites. A fairly simple process, all the poll creator has to do is click “Get poll code” below the poll and voila, the poll can be pasted to owned web properties. What’s more they’ve also enabled instant poll insights, allowing poll creators to see the demographics (i.e. age, gender, city, country) of users who have engaged with a poll. When you think about it, gleaning this kind of information on a “post”-level basis is pretty powerful. Not only can you glean insight into how many fans are interacting with your content, but you can also learn the demographics of your engaged audience (at a very granular level). Think your poll is engaging your target audience? Now you can find out in the click of a button and iterate as necessary.
- VKontakte Beware? – Emarketer is forecasting that the number of Russian Facebook users will rise 62% in 2012, this compares to an average of 11.1% user growth for networks in the country. Data supports that the number of Facebook users won’t eclipse the number of VKontakte users this year. However, it does represent one of two BRIC countries where Facebook is experiencing considerable rise in recent months; Brazil is the other, whereas Facebook maintains the lead in India, and is banned in China. As mentioned in last month’s post, VKontakte doesn’t plan to ride quietly off into the sunset and is steadfastly pursuing European market share. As such, we’re hoping that VKontakte will step outside their tendency to copy Facebook’s product and move toward differentiating their platform via more creative means and innovation. Recent history suggests this won’t be the case, but here’s to hoping.
- Social the Russian Way – Pondering a play on a Russian social channel (e.g. VKontakte), but not sure how to appeal to the market or what kind of engagement you’ll get? Check out this rundown from the Social Penguin detailing Russian social behaviors and you may find that the way forward isn’t so foreign.
- The two points from the Orkut updates listed above under Brazil also affect users in India.
- Censorship Debate – As we discussed last month, India’s Delhi High Court threatened to censor social sites like Facebook, Orkut, and Google if the Internet giants failed to comply with requests to remove offensive (religious) content. However, India’s Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal brought some calm to the rhetoric after claiming that “Without any obfuscation, no government in India will ever censor social media.“ However, Minister Sibal also issued a disclaimer with his pledge, stating that social networks “Have to obey the laws of the country”; Indian law requires websites to remove content deemed offensive within 36 hours. The networks have pushed back, with claims that pre-filtering content is impossible and they have reactionary mechanisms to counter offensive content. It seems the two sides are respective of the other’s plight, but India is in control of the dialogue and seeking appeasement from the corporations. As a global social network, would you squander away the world’s second most popular market where (right now) only 10.2% of the population uses the Internet? Presumably no. For a more detailed understanding of the entire situation, check out the BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan report here.
- Flocking to Google+ – As of today, India represents Google+ second most popular user base behind the U.S.A. It’s estimated that about 13.69% of Indian Internet users are on Google+ and also that the channel is more popular in Bangalore than any other city in the world. As we discussed above, Orkut (second most popular social network in India) began integrating Google+ badges and this figure may prove to encourage further channel integration. With such a high number of Indian users, this may help smooth any channel transition plans Google has for consolidating Google+ and Orkut, at least in the region.
- Top 20 Social Brands in India – NM Incite released their inagural Social Media Brand Equity Ranking and with it a 2011 ranking of the Top 20 social brands in India. A quick glance at the list will reveal a profound dominance by telecom and automobile brands. Combining this data with India’s rising middle class, the increasing reach of the Internet thanks to mobile, and the rise of Facebook in the country reveals just how much brands in these industries (especially) stand to gain over the next few years. With such upside, brand and social managers in either of the industries listed above should go ahead get dialed-in or start your engines.
- The Truth Hurts – In last month’s post we discussed the Chinese mandate that all microblogging platforms must verify their users’ real names and the possible detriment it could have on social buzz in the country. Turns out, we’re not the only ones who share this concern. Citing the requirement and new investments, Sina Corp is forecasting a lower first quarter and slimmer profit margins than analysts expected. Sina is said to be diversifying Weibo’s monetization strategy, but recognize the potential damage real name registration can have on user growth and activity. Already, they claim that only 60% of their 250MM to 300MM users have succeeded in passing the verification process. Even without 40% of their users unverified, Sina Weibo still remains among the most popular microblogging platforms in the region. Given this, brands active and interested in the channel are advised to continue moving forward with their efforts, but should avoid making long terms plans until after the smoke clears. Look for more on this in next month’s update.
- Honey, Put Video on the Todou List – Sina Weibo and Todou have announced plans for an enhanced platform that will enable video uploading and sharing from Sina Weibo to Todou. The integration is said to provide for a more seamless user experience and will enhance the importance of maintaining a well-rounded social ecosystem for brand marketers. We know that some global brands are beginning to realize Sina Weibo’s value in the region and this integration will allow for them to forge deeper connections with their audiences. As the blending of these two networks (and others) move forward, the value of a video component within a Sina Weibo content strategy will grow more and more apparent in the region.
- Tencent headed West – It’s been reported that Tencent is pursuing plans to expand their global footprint and is targeting the U.S. to support their efforts. Among other things, the company has allegedly setup shop in Palo Alto, is rolling out an English version of Tencent Weibo, and has already launched an English version of their website. Before you begin to drum up questions about why they would want to compete with Twitter, we should mention that it’s not Twitter users they seek, but actually U.S. companies. In terms of social reach, this move is big in that it brings the illustrious Chinese market much closer to the fingertips of U.S. social managers. The launch does come with some drawbacks, though. As the platform isn’t yet capable of translating English into Chinese (or vice versa). As such, this will present some friction for brand marketers and the layer of complexity around content creation will remain. Even more, if U.S. brands were to begin attracting audiences and publishing content, imagine the input required to field and respond to Chinese messages. While the move makes the platform more English friendly, considerable barriers to entry remain. Hold off on the Tecent Weibo strategy, but watch the space as it may move their competition to take similar (and further) action–a win for all U.S. brands interested in the region.
- Tencenterest – We mentioned last month that Renren entered the pinning game with Renren Guangjie and now we’re learning that RenRen isn’t the only network looking to get in on the action. Close behind Renren, Tencent recently announced the launch of their own pinboard site, Dutu. Where this gets interesting is that Dutu is integrated with Tencent Weibo, giving Tecent Weibo’s large user base instant access to Dutu. As Tech in Asia points out, it will be interesting to see what action Sina Weibo takes to keep up with Tencent. Either way, it seems pinning has moved beyond the “fad phase” and appears more a global phenomenon. We’ve seen many US brands engaging English speaking audiences on Pinterest–is it time to expand efforts abroad?
- Renren to 200 Million? – Renren is claiming that they may reach 200MM users in 2012. Check out this video where Renren CEO Joseph Chen attributes the claim to the explosion of mobile internet; he also speaks briefly about the broader social landscape in China. While reaching 200MM users is certainly something to celebrate, there remains plenty of room for growth in the world’s largest country where only 38% of citizens use the Internet.
- Preferred Social Channels in APAC – Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific released an infographic detailing the number of pageviews/month across social mediums in the region. As it relates to China, the graphic claims that social networks receive 3 Billion pageviews/month, microblogs receive 670 Million pageviews/month (most in APAC), blog platforms receive 280 Million pageviews/month, and videos receive 5.6 Billion pageviews/month (2nd most in APAC). From a comparative perspective we glean just how popular microblogs and video are in China, providing further justification for Sina Weibo’s recent video integrations move.
- 2012 Social Media Landscape China – Check out this infographic from our friends at CIC Data to see the vastness of the Chinese social landscape. It’s my hypothesis that the American companies pictured in the core are there to provide western audiences with a point of comparison for the Chinese channels on the periphery.
- Opportunity Knocking – Apparently I was on to something when I decided this subject deserved (at least) a monthly post. Both eMarketer and Bricdata recently released reports supporting how tremendous of a role social can play in bringing brands to these emerging markets. Yes, many challenges exist in these countries, but for now it seems the juice will prove worth the squeeze. I would provide a synopsis, but each report provides far too many strong data points, making them worthy of far more than a blurb in this summary.
- Fast Company Releases List of World’s Most Innovative Companies – A brief rundown of how social companies in BRIC fared: In Brazil, social media advertising giant Boo-Box received the silver medal and social gaming company Vostu completed the list at 10th. Russia wasn’t deemed worthy of a sub-category. No social companies made the cut in India. Lastly, in China, Internet and social giants Tencent and Renren received gold and 6th, respectively.