Social media has become popular among companies worldwide as an effective marketing tool. Thomas Crampton, the Asia-Pacific director of public relations firm Ogilvy's 360 Digital Influence, spoke to Viet Nam News about the development of social media in the country.
How have social media networks developed in Viet Nam in recent years, and in comparison to other Asian countries?
Viet Nam is at the fascinating intersection of a developing nation, a young population and a Government that has supported the development of the internet. How this plays out remains to be seen, but as Indonesia has shown, populations can come online at breakneck speed with incredible results. In the last year, Indonesia overtook the UK as the world's second leading nation on facebook, much of the usage coming through mobile devices.
Marketing via social media is popular today, but in Viet Nam, few companies use it. Why do you think Viet Nam resists this trend?
Social media is cost-effective when approached with long-term objectives. Unlike old school advertising, social media is about building relationships and engaging directly with consumers over time. It is still at a very early stage in many markets. Many companies have heard of blogs, facebook, Twitter and other channels, but do not understand how to leverage them.
There is, however, an increased willingness among companies to get involved. More companies understand they can't afford to ignore all the conversations taking place online among their customers. Our team's work helping companies understand, strategise and execute social media may be considered cutting edge by some companies today, but it will be taken for granted within the next 3-5 years.
Once a company understands the fundamentals of engagement, there are many relatively inexpensive steps they can be taken to grow their base of social media followers. Doing this will not only connect more people to the brand, but also provide the company with a core group of brand "ambassadors" who can be leveraged once the company is ready to take on more sophisticated and costly engagement campaigns.
How do you expect social media to develop in Viet Nam in the near future?
Social media has already taken off in Viet Nam and the growth is set to continue in coming years. Increasingly, more and more people are accessing the internet from home, but one of the main drivers of internet usage seems to be 3G.
Mobile internet in Viet Nam saw a growth of more than 800 per cent last year, reaching a total of 110 million mobile subscribers in early 2010. As for the future, keep in mind that over half of Viet Nam's population is under 30 years old, representing a generation that grew up and will continue to live on the internet.
Which kind of business should take advantage of social media? How does a company get started with it?
All companies already have a social media presence, whether they know it or not or whether they like it or not. Companies are being talked about online and their products and services are being weighed up against those of competitors as we speak. No company can afford to stay out of these conversations in the long run.
The worst thing a company can do is to get involved without the proper priority and commitment.
Outsourcing social media work or even having a summer intern take care of it is unfortunately a pattern we see way too often these days. This is a very dangerous approach. Going into social media, every company needs a strategic framework and clear objective.
How does Ogilvy's 360 Digital Influence team help local companies in this process?
We have developed a step-by-step engagement framework that helps companies develop the right social media strategy from scratch. The approach is based on research, an extremely important first step. Where conversations are taking place? Who are the people talking? How influential are they? These are all questions that need to be answered before a company can successfully build their own unique social media strategy. At Ogilvy, we offer tailored products that fit into all phases of the engagement framework, from insightful research reports, to workshops and management guidelines. — VNS