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Breaking into Emerging Markets with Facebook and Mobile

Published: November 22, 2013

Author: Ralph Camus

 Facebook is poised to take over APAC, one Like at a time.

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For the past year and a half, Facebook has been making inroads into the mobile space, a move they have been vocal about for some time now. Their bold moves reveal that their strategy and execution have paid off rather handsomely; Facebook mobile users have grown steadily and now number over 840 million (and growing), while on the revenue side, nearly half of ad-related revenue now comes from mobile. This is what we see as their long-term strategy that both boosts their businesses in developed markets, and is a larger push into the rest of the world, particularly in Asia-Pacific (APAC).
While it is easy to see from Facebook’s financial performance that the APAC market still has lots of catching up to do in terms of revenue per user, we have previously shown, that the market potential of APAC is huge. Our report data shows over 190 million people in key APAC markets already connected through Facebook.
Concrete Actions
While these numbers remain speculative promises of gain, Facebook has taken the initiative in making concrete efforts to support business in the region. In a recent post, we covered one of these examples. In the Philippines, Facebook partnered with a major telecom provider to give free access to Facebook over mobile devices. Why did they do this? First of all, cost concerns are a major barrier in many developing nations. Simply put, many subscribers cannot afford unlimited data plans that are commonplace elsewhere. Secondly and arguably, more importantly, for many in developing markets, the mobile phone (be it a smart or feature phone) is the gateway to the internet – a fact underscored by historically low internet adoption rates. By breaking down barriers to usage, Facebook aims to make people’s use of the internet synonymous to using Facebook.
This is a brilliant move when one takes into account the improving fortunes of developing markets. For instance, in the case of the Philippines where Facebook’s free access program has started (reaching around 36 million people), economic indicators look bright in terms of foreign investment attractiveness, as well as on people’s disposable incomes.
A Lively Scene
While in this post, I give only one market as an example, one only has to look at the vibrant tech startup scene of APAC and the presence of strong players in both mobile apps (Indonesia in this case) and e-commerce. E-commerce in particular has many bright stars ranging from Rocket Internet properties, to 701 Search, not to mention the presence of numerous daily deals sites. These are positive affirmations of both growing fortunes of consumers and the acceptance of digital channels as viable businesses in the region.
Together with the larger efforts of Facebook in the region, it is also steadily equipping specialists to help businesses through its PMD program, which it is expanding in the region. This ensures that businesses are properly supported by an ecosystem of specialists.
The Time is Now
The end result is that the time to act is now, in terms of building relationships with customers, engaging with them on the social network and establishing presence early to be part of on-going conversation that leads to conversion.
For marketers in the region or marketers wanting to target users in emerging markets, APAC included, now is the time to use Facebook, especially in e-commerce and app/gaming verticals. Facebook is making moves to ensure that these markets are experiencing the social network first through their mobile devices and thus planting the seeds of a healthy and engaged user base.
The audiences that are cultivated this way make this new crop of users, Facebook-first users when it comes to internet use, making the social network their anchor point to the web at large. Now, some are even saying that most of Facebook revenue will be coming from emerging markets, quite soon. This is not an unrealistic proposition granted the changes happening in the region coupled with solid action on behalf of Facebook itself.

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