Monday, 5 September 2011

Social Media in Asia


   One of the reasons that I’m so pleased to be delivering this HR and social media workshop in Kuala Lumpur is that I’m really interested in how social technology is developing in Malaysia and the rest of Asia.



From one perspective, it doesn’t seem that there’s much happening there – evidenced by the lack of HR bloggers in Asia (outside India) that I mentioned recently.

One the other hand, usage is clearly growing quickly.  For example, commenting on the displayed infographics from Burston Marsteller, Digital Buzz notes:

“Internet usage is sky-rocketing throughout the Asia-Pacific region, obviously making the growth of social media the fastest in the world, as you’ll see, it’s not all about Facebook, but it still leads the way across the region, at least for now. This is a nice collective Infographic from Burson-Marsteller.”


And I thought these comments in The Marketer were also very interesting:

“After a sluggish start, Chinese usage of social networks is leapfrogging pretty much every country in the world.  More than 200 millsion Chinese now have a social network account, and eMarketer forecasts that this will reach almost 488 million by 2015.  In terms of time spent online and intensity of engagement, Chinese social networks boast astonishing metrics.

China’s version of Twitter, Weibo launched as recently as August 2009.  Yet the top Weibo stars now boast more fans that Twitter’s leading celebrities.  Instant messaging platform QQ has more than 600 users, who regard it as their day-to-day e-mail platform.

Jerry Code, the Shanghai based head of cultural insight for WPP-owned marketing agency Value Added, says social networking is changing the fabric of Chinese culture.  ‘The impact has been massive – arguably more than in the West,  The changes in Chinese society have been so dramatic because people are used to change, which means the adoption of technology and social networks is much faster.  People of all ages are jumping into it.’ ”



The different languages, alphabets and technologies used in China and other Asian countries is clearly one reason it’s difficult to keep track with Asian thinking about HR through social media.  But with Google Translate and other tools it shouldn’t really be that difficult.

So I’m still not sure why there’s a disconnect between Asian usage of social media, and external use by Asian HR people.

Any thoughts?



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  1. Looking at both China specifically and the wider Asia-Middle-East more generally, I think there are two important cultural differences that help explain the lack of HR bloggers.

    First, their education systems tend to emphasize repetition and rote-memorization more than analysis and critical thinking. Blogging would be pretty dry if everyone just copy-pasted from everyone else.

    And secondly, there's a history of reduced free speech and persecution of bloggers in many of those countries. Blogs and blogging software are frequently blocked in much of the world. People end up in prison. So there's a greater element of personal risk.

    Plus, why blog about HR when you can blog about revolution and freedom?

  2. Thanks Paul. You're definitely right about Asian education and free speach - but does this really hold back blogging? - as opposed to other social networking which is obviously so well used?

    I suspect you may be onto something with your comment that they may just have more interesting things to blog about though!

    Appreciate the comment, and I'll let you know what I learn at the workshop...

  3. Jon - I think the point Paul has made is a valid one. In many parts of Asia, the education system emphasizes conformity, rather than encouraging new thinking. Culturally too, people might think of others as more judgemental, especially when it comes to professional issues. That's where the personal risk comes from, not necessarily from the reduced freedom of speech generally.
    I have tried to initiate a number of people into blogging / twitter, but often the response is something to the effect of "what if I don't have anything great to add, how would other HR pros react to it."

  4. We get that response here too!

    It's often the first post that's the most difficult one - as soon as someone's posted once they often realise it's not that hard to keep on going.

    Thanks for the comment Abhishek.


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