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Business Friending in the Philippines

The Philippines is home to some of the world's keenest users of social media – particularly Facebook. According to the GlobalWebIndex Q4 2015 survey, the average Filipino spends 3.7 hours per day on social media, significantly higher than any other ASEAN country, including Indonesia (2.9 hours), Vietnam (2.3 hours) and Singapore (1.6 hours). It is also higher than Hong Kong (1.5 hours).

By far, the most important social media platform for Filipinos is Facebook, which opened its Manila office earlier this year. "Some 91 per cent of Internet users in the Philippines [49 million people] are on Facebook, with 90 per cent of them accessing it via mobile,” said Dan Neary, Facebook's Vice-President for the Asia-Pacific region. “Two in three Filipinos are connected to a business page on Facebook, with many of them using the platform to discover new brands and products."

Marketing Platform

Facebook's market dominance in the Philippines has led many businesses to adopt the social media as their key platform for online marketing. Many companies don't bother having a website and instead use their Facebook page to showcase offers, respond to enquiries, engage followers and promote their brand.

Companies then complete the sales process by linking visitors directly to one of the large, established online e-commerce malls or to their own dedicated e-commerce portals for customers to complete transactions. Lazada, the Southeast Asian e-commerce website owned by Alibaba, is among the most popular options, with its Facebook page having garnered more than 15.5 million likes.

A good example in the SME sector is The Super Food Grocer. Having already notched up 42,253 page likes, it posts high-quality updates two to five times a month, typically in the form of graphics, professionally-made videos, recipes or article snippets. All of them feature calls to action, linking directly to the company blog or online shop.

Several factors are behind Facebook's ubiquity across the Philippines, including the availability of affordable, locally made smartphones, which are priced below US$70. The Philippines is also now the fastest-growing market in Southeast Asia. A key driver, though, has been that the Philippines still largely constitutes a highly price-sensitive, pre-paid mobile data market. Among the incentives offered to build loyalty to particular data plans has been free access to Facebook, an initiative that has also promoted its wider uptake.

Culturally, Filipinos are highly social by nature and are used to word-of-mouth recommendations. These traits, in turn, have helped turn Facebook into an unmatched platform, allowing it to have a huge influence on purchase decisions by Philippine consumers, many of whom rely on friends’ online recommendations.

Unlike Google, a search for a company name on Facebook brings up company information, as well as recommendations and likes by friends and role models, all in an easily comprehensible, standardised format. According to the social media monitoring site Social Bakers, of the top 10 most popular Facebook pages in the Philippines, six are by local entertainment celebrities. Anne Curtis, the Philippine actress and television host who tops the country's celebrity list, has more than 13 million followers. Angelina Jolie, by comparison, has only about 5.5 million.

As such, the successful large-scale social media campaigns in the Philippines tend to be those that are emotional, highly interactive and celebrity-driven. Increasingly, celebrities, and aspiring online celebrities, are able to monetise their large numbers of followers by establishing a personal Facebook “brand,” something that companies will pay to be associated with.

Coupled with highly supportive local consumer behavior, the extent of Facebook's penetration is good news for overseas brands looking to build sales in the Philippines, especially those that have limited marketing budgets. Facebook offers strategic ad placements, content marketing and the use of low-cost campaign analytics, allowing small businesses to create and manage campaigns on a reasonably modest budget, while optimising brand engagement.

For more market opportunities, please visit: http://research.hktdc.com/.

Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council
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