1SocialnetworkI read an interesting article on Hill + Knowlton’s website where Ben Shipley, Digital Practice Lead for Hill+Knowlton Strategies Asia Pacific poses the questions if the next global social network will come out of Asia.

He states that social has its strongest roots in the United States and Silicon Valley respectively; with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn all reaching a global user base from a very tight geographical home base.

Ben Shipley elaborates: “It’s easy to focus on this cluster when you’re trying to predict the next big thing, but Asia is building momentum quickly in this space. Young mobile users are the fuel that powers the growth of social networks and with Asia having more than 2.5 billion mobile users and a youth skewed population, will Asia deliver the next big thing in social?”

China is indeed a giant in digital marketing with around 4.5 million users online, of which the majority is on mobile technology. As social media has altered the demands on company and brand communication, it is imperative to both think of and implement social media and mobile as a unit.

Besides these facts, it’s worthwhile to take a look at WeChat that has been developed by Tencent in China. WeChat provides multimedia communication with text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, photo/video sharing, location sharing, and contact information exchange. It supports social networking via shared streaming content feeds and location-based social plug-ins ("Shake", "Look Around", and "Drift Bottle") to chat with and connect with local and international WeChat users.

Actually, Tencent’s heritage in the social messaging space runs deep. Hill + Knowlton’s Digital Practice Lead explains: “Their launch of QQ in 1999, an ICQ-esque messaging platform, taught the company many lessons on integrating a commercial ecosystem around a core offer, without alienating a user base. The rebrand of their next generation WeiXin platform to the more globally approachable WeChat shows the company has eyes on a wider global presence.”

According to him, last year’s cross-Asia growth was 500% year on year, compared to 11% for Facebook, 65% for Twitter and 73% for Sina Weibo. “At those rates, WeChat will sit at the top of the social media pile come the end of 2014”, Ben claims.

He explicates further: “The difference in the way internet use has developed in Asia is evident. Where in the West we fill blogs and news sites with articles exhorting how the future is mobile, in many Asian markets mobile is the first and only way many users have a personal connection online. The app is built around a mobile first model. To use the web interface you must scan the QR code onscreen to authenticate yourself. On launch, the platform integrated the microphone and speaker functions of the handset, enabling push to talk chat that is just too easy to use and fall in love with. There are the elements that have made Facebook popular too, with the ability to curate and share moments that make up your life with your contacts.”

For brands, the platform currently is super attractive, with much higher conversion rates of fans into shoppers than can be found on the leading western platforms. Official accounts speak directly to opted-in fans, without the challenges of a news feed presentation algorithm to contend with.

But the main reason why the next big thing in social most probably comes from Asia is simply the fact that “ideas from these markets are imagined with knowledge of many of the successes and mistakes of those who have driven the market before, and are being built for the world as it is now and not scrambling to change with it.” Indeed, watching, learning, and improving, is a typical Asian attitude. (Source: Hill + Knowlton)

By Daniela La Marca