SEA flocking to social networks

Internet users in Southeast Asia are coming to social networking sites, increasing penetration rates from year to year are higher than the world average, according to new statistics from ComScore.

In a Web conference Wednesday, the market researcher discussed the state of Internet usage in the region from a survey conducted in January 2011, covering six countries: Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

According to Joe Nguyen, comScore vice president Southeast Asia, Vietnam saw the biggest growth year after year by 35 percent, where the penetration of social networks in the country rose to 66 percent last year, by 49 percent 2009. The rate of penetration, however, remained comparatively lower than other countries in the region that all adoption rates have been recorded higher than the world average of 70 percent, said Nguyen.

penetration of social networks in the Philippines stood at 95 percent, while Malaysia was 91 percent, Indonesia 90 percent, 82 percent in Singapore and Hong Kong recorded in 76 percent.

The analyst also noted that the high rate of adoption in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia were “almost exclusively” driven by Facebook.

Facebook has seen great success in other parts of Asia, where a report in early August, ComScore said Facebook and social networking site most visited in India.

Nguyen said the Philippines has become the market leader in the world for social networking giant. According to estimates by ComScore, Facebook currently has a 93.7 percent rate of penetration in the country, hitting Google search as the number one Web property in the Philippines.

Nguyen added that Filipinos spent an average of 7 hours a month on Facebook. Malaysia, in 88.4 percent, and Indonesia, at age 87. 4 percent, also ranked among the world’s top 10 markets Facebook.

In addition, worldwide, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore are among the top 15 markets for Twitter. 21 percent of Internet users in Indonesia visited the microblogging site in January 2011, making it the fourth largest in the world to the fullest extent of Twitter. Philippines, 13.8 percent, and Singapore at 13.6 percent took place eighth and ninth, respectively.

ComScore said that global use of social networking sites grew from 67.6 percent to 70.5 percent between 2009 and 2010. Social networks also saw the biggest gains in terms of the amount of time spent online users to the sites, increased 11.9 percent in 2009 to 16 percent in 2010.

On the flip side, e-mail and instant messaging (IM) declined year after year in terms of reach around the world, said Nguyen. use email slid 65.8 percent in 2009 to 61.3 percent in 2010, but saw an MI more “dramatic” slide 41. 1 percent in 2009 to 34.7 percent last year, he said. Both the email and instant messaging also declined in terms of time spent online.

Photo sharing growing
The increased use of social networks, however, was overshadowed by the more photos, he said, he saw the fastest growth, 42.8 percent in 2009 to 52.7 percent in 2010.

Southeast Asia also had similar rates of growth in this category where Vietnam again led the pack, jumping 73 percent from a rate of 49 percent penetration in 2009 to 66 percent last year. Malaysia ranked second with a rate of 47 percent growth, followed by the Philippines at 46 percent, Hong Kong at 23 percent, 17 percent in Singapore and Indonesia at 16 percent.

Nguyen noted that photo-sharing has become a “key component of the social networking experience,” noting that high growth was evident in all Southeast Asian countries, driven by share photos between users of Facebook, where users could upload and tag photos of themselves and their friends, however, also pointed to the popularity of other photo sharing sites like Flickr.

The ubiquity of digital cameras and camera phones and large youth populations in these markets also contributed to growth in this category, he added.

The comScore survey also assessed the use of the region from other websites, including online retail, online, multimedia sites, travel sites, online video, search, news and blogs.

For example, visits to travel sites, online stores, multimedia sites and online banking sites increased in the six countries of Southeast Asia. Only Hong Kong and Singapore recorded a relatively flat growth of visits to online retail, “said Nguyen.

The analyst added that visits to travel sites have experienced significant growth in the region increasing user confidence in using the Internet to research flight and book. The growing number of low-cost airlines or budget service in the region has also contributed to increase as more people can afford to travel and are willing to spend money online to book flights on budget airlines, he said.