By Anu Noto-Menon, a digital and content strategist of Sandpiper based in Singapore. Anu works with Sandpiper’s clients across a range of industries including Financial Services, Professional Services, Technology, Energy and Environment to provide expert counsel in digital, social and content marketing.
In 2021, the number of internet users in Asia Pacific reached 1.23 billion people, which is roughly a quarter of total internet users worldwide. That is the customer base that any organisation can’t afford to ignore. But for many companies looking to move into Asia Pacific from North America and Europe, the digital marketing landscape can be tricky to navigate.
International businesses looking to establish a stronger digital footprint in Asia-Pacific will have a well-established social media presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They will find that these platforms work well in most Asia Pacific markets, such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Hong Kong. The primary challenge will be reaching key markets such as China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, with a combined population of almost 1.6 billion people. That’s a compelling market opportunity that you shouldn’t ignore.
In these markets, platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, Line, and Naver rule the digital and social landscape. According to Statistica, WeChat has 1.2 billion monthly active users worldwide, compared to 2.93 billion on Facebook and Instagram 1 billion. But there is a considerable lack of transparency around these Asia Pacific platforms. Brands looking to build or strengthen their digital reputation in these markets may not have the proper visibility or benchmarks for monitoring their digital footprint. They need specialist, local advice to make digital marketing successful across these Asia Pacific markets.
There are internal challenges that businesses need to address before exploring new market penetration, especially in Asia. Some crucial challenges relate to educating senior stakeholders on the ROI of investing in a new territory, particularly when adopting digital trends and technologies to achieve growth and performance in these markets. There is also the matter of internally building up skilled resources to execute the digital roadmap or train existing teams to manage localised digital activities. Partnerships with local media or digital agencies often help to bridge the gap between knowledge building and execution of digital adoption into these markets.
When partnering with local media or digital agencies, the first step is to define your business objectives, prioritise the markets for brand expansion and understand who your target audience is and their primary channels for content consumption. You would then work with local market experts to identify clear and achievable milestones to ensure your digital plans align with your overarching business goals and objectives. These milestones could be measured in terms of establishing a social media presence and building a base of targeted followers on localised social channels with X% growth MoM, seeing improved SERP results across relevant search engines and an increase in social, organic or paid traffic towards designated websites or microsites, or generating a pipeline of X number of potential qualified marketing/sales leads. Based on these milestones, you can then develop a multi-channel approach to include digital touchpoints such as social, content, performance, influencer, and affiliate marketing.
A recent case study involved a professional services company which provides anti-money laundering licenses and certifications. Having established a strong digital presence in the US and UK, the business wanted to expand and strengthen its social media presence in Asia but understood that it needed more expertise to build its brand across local platforms. Sandpiper helped them identify the right local social channels, developed a localised editorial calendar of content for each specific market and tracked channel performance across all the platforms in terms of engagement, follower growth and conversions. One of the key activities Sandpiper executed was to support the delegate registration for their virtual APAC conference, a thought leadership event designed to bring together key industry experts from the professional services, finance, and legal sectors. Through an integrated approach of social media marketing, content marketing and performance marketing, Sandpiper was able to reach out to the company’s targeted audience across key markets in Asia, driving registrations. This event had over 500 attendees, which exceeded expectations and significantly expanded the company’s potential client list.
When entering Asia Pacific markets, many brands will build their channel presence from scratch on unfamiliar platforms, and it’s vital to work with local experts. At the same time, it’s also an opportunity to look at the performance of existing channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, and Twitter and see if any improvements can be made to the strategy. The final piece of the puzzle is content. Globally- or western-focused content will not translate well in the Asia Pacific. The content will not only need to be translated into the local language, but it will also need to reflect local cultural norms to be effective. Local creativity will make your content more meaningful, impactful, and effective.
Social media marketing allows brands to reach targeted audience segments. Measurement is immediate and meaningful, enabling brands to validate their marketing spend and correct course immediately if necessary. Social listening lets you understand where your brand is being mentioned and what the sentiment is – positive, negative, or neutral. This visibility around target audiences allows brands to build their lead lists and client base. Tangible data on ROI is also helpful for senior stakeholders who need to validate their budgets.
Digital marketing is unprecedented in its ability to reach your target audiences with laser precision, provide instant feedback and measurement, and revise your approach flexibly as necessary. It’s a vital part of your digital reputation, which impacts how your target audience perceives and engages with your brand across various markets. It is a non-negotiable part of a broader strategy that covers more traditional PR and Marketing campaigns.
As Asia is a fragmented market, a one-size fits all marketing approach won’t work. The best way to achieve success is to take expert, local advice that can steer you and your brand toward success.