Friday, May 02, 2008

Social Media in Singapore - Sizzle or Fizzle?

Kudos to Daryl Tay of Unique Frequency for addressing an issue which many know but few seem to want to bring to the forefront. And that is how the social media scene is performing in Singapore. He also highlighted an inspiring example on how Sea World uses social media marketing to its advantage. As one of the early purveyors of a corporate/ special interest blogs (namely Yesterday.sg), I tend to mirror some of his thoughts on the limitations of pure social media marketing (or PR) as a viable strategy in Singapore.

Here are my thoughts on why social media doesn't quite go the full distance in Singapore. Well at least for now.....

1) Entertainment as opposed to edification. The huge majority of bloggers in Singapore tend to use them for fun and leisure, as opposed to education. Most of the popular blogs here are light-hearted and mirth-filled affairs which tend to dwell more on the adventures (or misadventures) of their creator rather than a step-by-step guide on a specific topic. Which brings me to my second point.

2) The paucity of thematic blogs. Well, maybe except for food, which would make an interesting case study for topical blogs in Singapore. Some fashion-based blogs have also emerged, but these tend to be few and far between. Increasingly though, I do see more blogs focused on PR and marketing, or the social media arena, and that sure must be a good sign.

3) Lack of online trust and commerce. This is a legacy from the old dot com days, and it looks like people are still not willing to transact extensively online. The short distances between our homes to shopping centres could be a reason (plus the sweltering heat of staying cooped up in a flat!). Without a means to capture sales, social media then becomes merely a means for awareness.

4) Lack of support from mainstream companies. While some government agencies have experimented with social media, I do not see any major retailers, service providers or manufacturers doing so here. We do not have an equivalent of Walmart, Dell, Ford or Marriott Hotel blogging here. From what I see, most forays into corporate social media are done by technology start-ups, and their blogs tend to be more focused on what the founders do as opposed to establishing thought leadership.

5) A more acute generational gap. One thing which strikes me is how American bloggers come in all shapes, sizes and age groups. Many of the most popular bloggers are men and women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Contrast that with Singapore's social media landscape, where the majority tend to be folks in their teens, 20s, and maybe early 30s.

6) Corporate head honchos are still not doing it. Apart from Tan Kin Lian, former CEO of NTUC Income, I have not seen many senior management types spilling their guts out online. Well, maybe Facebook does have a wider spectrum of folks embracing it, but most use it more for personal and social reasons rather than commercial ones.
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