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Click here: APAC brands log in to social media to engage with customers

A Nielsen study found that 56% of APAC marketers consider social media as the most effective channel.

From the traditional advertising spaces such as television and radio, marketing strategies have evolved and found a new space to attract more customers: social media. If brands fail to keep up the fight online, they risk losing their potential customers to their competitors, a marketing expert said.

According to a study by Nielsen, 56% of marketers in Asia-Pacific cited social media as the “most effective” paid channel, especially for the retail sector.

Abhinav Maheshwari, vice president for Marketing Effectiveness in Asia-Pacific at Nielsen, said social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Tiktok host native marketplaces on online platforms and mobile applications.

“With these, businesses tapping on social ads are able to guide their customers through each consumer journey touchpoint from awareness to conversion,” he told Retail Asia.

The study – which surveyed 1,943 marketers globally, 510 of which were from APAC – found that marketers in the region generally plan to raise ad spending across all channels by at least 34%, and double for some digital channels.

As focus and investment for advertising budget will be largely in paid digital media channels, marked increases in digital spending over the next year are planned over the next year by APAC marketers especially for social media (70%), online and mobile display (68%), and online and mobile video (67%).

A study by customer experience platform Emplifi found that the average social media ad spend on Facebook and Instagram by APAC brands declined by 18.5%, and Southeast Asian brands by 10% in the first quarter of 2022, following a rise during the holiday season.

Despite this, ad spend rose 8% compared to the same period last year to US$1,500, whilst in Southeast Asia alone, it rose 20% year-on-year to US$1,802.

“Marketers still view paid social media as an integral part of the marketing mix, and are willing to pay a premium to reach their audiences,” Emplifi CMO Zarnaz Arlia said in a statement.

Maheshwari warned that businesses that fail to integrate social media into their marketing strategy are “missing out on the golden ticket to reaching their audiences.”

A study by Hootsuite showed that over three-quarters of all internet users aged 16 to 64 used social media platforms to search for brands and their products in 2022, he said.

With this, the lion’s share of their potential customers would have become captivated audiences for their competitors.

“Social media increasingly also acts as a channel for feedback and customer service. Through this, businesses can deliver positive customer experiences, and interact with customers to drive brand engagement,” he said.


Veering away from traditional channels

Marketers in the region prioritise brand awareness and customer acquisition, according to Nielsen, adding that the focus of their advertising budgets will be allotted largely to paid digital media channels.

Around half or 51% of the marketers’ total advertising budget was also spent on paid digital channels such as social media, online and mobile video, and online and mobile display advertising.

Traditional media advertising platforms are leaning towards brand building and customer acquisition, Nielsen said, noting that marketers in the region target to spend less on mass-reach options, citing a mismatch between their top business goals and strategies.

“In terms of return on investment (ROI), digital advertising is generally regarded as more cost-effective than traditional formats. Furthermore, digital advertising has an element of interactivity through comment and share functions that creates avenues for two-way conversations and user-generated content,” Maheshwari said. 

“Brands can also enjoy flexibility in their content through digital ads as they are able to edit the settings and posts on the internet,” he added.


‘Double-edged swords’

Maheshwari flagged the flexibility afforded to brands in spending on digital advertising.

“Flexibility and interactivity can also be double-edged swords. More interaction, sometimes negative comments, may mean less control over the brand narrative and sentiment if unfavourable sentiments go viral,” he said.

Having the ability to edit and retract statements and delete comments that provide an opening for brands to avoid accountability for mistakes, raising “concerns about brand safety and trust,” he added.

This is also in line with Nielsen’s finding that consumers globally have higher trust in traditional media formats such as television (78%), and TV-programme product placements (74%), compared to digital advertising platforms such as social media (36%), online search (36%), and online video ads (33%).


Riding the social media wave

The rise of social commerce also led to shopping becoming intertwined with entertainment “turning into a truly immersive experience that starts and ends on a social media platform,” he said.

Brands should also leverage mass formats to expand audience reach. Aside from linear TV, live streaming platforms, over-the-top platforms, broadcaster video-on-demand, and connected TV can also be alternatives.

Collaborating with content creators and social media influencers by using live broadcasts is also one of the ways brands can take advantage of the trend to boost their sales, Maheshwari said. He cited a study by Meta that found that 39% of e-commerce engagements were through live e-commerce on social media platforms.

“Brands should not ignore short videos and influencer marketing as they gain rapid popularity in the region,” he said.

According to Nielsen research, brand recall in influencer content is four times stronger than in traditional digital content. 

Likewise, Maheshwari said advertisers should start exploring the potential of using campaigns like promotional events such as Mega Sales Days, for longer-term goals such as building strong brand affinity.

There are also other factors that brands rely on for their advertising campaigns. Nearly three in five or 57% of the APAC marketers believe that first-party data is important for their strategies and campaigns, below the 69% global average.

Around 75% said they have access to quality data that allow them to fully utilise the impact of their media budgets, according to Nielsen. APAC marketers also ranked the importance of ad creativity and audience targeting higher than other factors in driving a positive campaign performance.

The study, however, also found that around 25% of the marketers in the regions are struggling with varying elements of their audience data, which include data access, identity resolution, and actionable data insights.

Having customer care support is also one factor that brands should take into account, according to Emplifi. It found that the response rate of APAC brands is the highest on Facebook, with more than 80% of direct messages responded to in less than an hour.

Instagram, meanwhile, has the lower rate at 45%, with a response time of 4.1 hours, whilst Twitter was at 71% but has the slowest time at 5.1 hours.

“Consumers in APAC have high expectations when it comes to receiving customer support through social channels, they want real-time responses and shorter waiting time to get resolutions," Arlia said. 

"While response rates are high on Facebook and Twitter, brands must still do more to ensure all social channels are addressed equally. Investing in and improving social customer care will help brands gain and retain market share," she added.

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