Southeast Asians Emerge on Digital

It’s Saturday morning in Singapore. A group of Millennials post photos of their brunch on Instagram, joking about which hashtags to use. In Manila, a father reads an article in News Feed about his favorite actor. And in Bangkok, a recently engaged woman sits in a coffee shop with her tablet, browsing her favorite blogshops for the latest wedding fashion trends.

Across the diverse countries and cultures, one thing unites all of these people: the role of digital in their daily lives. Southeast Asia is a region where connectivity is never guaranteed and where data and devices can be costly. But as smartphones become more affordable, WiFi is installed in more homes and businesses and more people log on more often, digital is transforming many people’s way of life.

To explore this real-time digital evolution, Facebook commissioned global market research company TNS to conduct surveys of people on Facebook in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. Our findings are below.


Riding the digital wave

We learned that people on Facebook across the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia are living digital lifestyles. And much of their online activity is happening on Facebook.

Across the 5 Southeast Asian countries, Facebook is a companion in life’s great moments as well as everyday moments. People surveyed reported using Facebook while commuting, taking holidays and waiting in line. Work, Internet cafés and at home, in bed, are common places where people tend to use Facebook.

Facebook usage remains relatively steady throughout the day but tends to spike before or during prime time (after 8pm) in each of the 5 Southeast Asian countries. TV watching also spikes before or during prime time in each of the countries. After 8pm, similar proportions of people watch TV and use Facebook, likely an indication of multiscreening. Indeed, many people surveyed also reported using Facebook while watching TV.



Where discovery happens first

Facebook is where people turn to learn new information. From new brands to games, movies and breaking news, many people across the 5 Southeast Asian countries studied say Facebook is where they first discover content.

People in the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia are the most likely to use Facebook to discover breakings news and new games, products, brands, services and entertainment. This behavior is less prominent in Singapore, where 3 out of 10 people surveyed reported using Facebook as a place to discover new content.



A new way to talk and text

Facebook is changing communication behaviors across the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. People across the region report that Facebook and Messenger often replace other means of communication, such as email, phone calls and text messages. 61% of people surveyed across the 5 Southeast Asian countries said they would rather talk to close friends on Facebook than on the phone or through email. This sentiment is most pronounced in Thailand, where 82% of surveyed people reported emailing less, 79% said they spend less time on the phone and 91% said they send fewer texts because they communicate via Facebook and Messenger.


What it means for marketers

Dominate through dayparting: People go online throughout the day, often during times when they can’t be reached through traditional media like TV. Reach people when they can’t be reached elsewhere and stay top-of-mind through dayparting.

Make it multiscreen: As people increasingly multiscreen, Facebook can help marketers extend the reach of their TV investment inside and outside the living room. Providing quality content and integrating that content across screens—from phones to tablets to desktops to TV—will create experiences that people remember.

Drive digital discovery: In many countries around the world, digital sources of discovery are becoming as important as traditional sources of discovery. This is especially true in Southeast Asia, where people go online—and on Facebook in particular—to learn about new products and services. Marketers who leverage the power of digital discovery can connect with new audiences and grow their customer base.


Sources: Facebook-commissioned TNS studies of people ages 16+ in the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand in Jun 2014 and people ages 18+ in Singapore and Vietnam in Jan 2015.