A New Social Media Entrant Must Change the Concept of Its Use

Opinion: U.S. platforms are not built with anyone outside of the U.S. in mind

The Asian social media market represents a massive, untapped potential
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The U.S. loves its social media platforms. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, it seems like Americans can’t get enough, as 66 percent of its internet population uses social media.

At the same time, only 37 percent of internet users in south and southeast Asia use social media. For example, in India, no social media platform attracts more than 34 percent of the internet population—which is the second-highest in the world, by the way.

So, why aren’t citizens of other countries as enamored with the current social options as the U.S. seems to be? It’s actually exceedingly simple: U.S. social media platforms are not built with anyone outside of the U.S. in mind. Global users sign on to these platforms each day because they have limited options, and they end up using feature sets that doesn’t appeal to them.

If the goal of social media is to connect people of all walks of life, why not create a network that appeals to and culturally fits all?

The Asian market as one example of social media’s untapped opportunity

The combined population of south and southeast Asia is approximately 2.4 billion people—about one-third of the world’s total population—but only 37 percent of this massive community uses social media.

Even with this low user rate, the base of existing social media users in this Asian market is about four times the size of the U.S. market. If it matched the 66 percent user rate in the U.S., it would total about 1.6 billion users, over seven times greater than the U.S. user total.

These numbers speak for themselves: The Asian social media market represents a massive, untapped potential.

Potential users in south and southeast Asia aren’t just avoiding social media because they want to. They’re avoiding social media because it doesn’t do anything for them.

American social media networks are just that—social media networks. It’s information sharing, often at a personal level that often adds very little value to other users: how your day was, important life events and accomplishments, political opinions and more.

While personal sharing is somewhat appealing, people in south and southeast Asia see e-commerce as more important than social networking. In fact, 66 percent of Indians refer to social media before making purchases, as opposed to just 40 percent of Americans.

There are no current U.S. offerings within the social commerce space, so it’s no surprise that this group has had a hard time committing to a platform for everyday use. But if you build it (and it meets their demands), they will come. In order to draw more users from this massive market and other underperforming markets like it, we must design platforms and products that cater to them.

South Asian social media users want meaningful and productive relationships with other users and an enriched quality of social media interactions. By allowing users to engage in direct commerce with one another, there is a tremendous opportunity for social e-commerce to enhance and humanize these relationships in a way that these users want.

The market opportunity of social commerce

Social commerce is the logical solution to this need, as it allows networks to share their revenues with users and, in turn, to increase their engagement and user bases. This is a massive market opportunity, to the tune of $300 billion. This is in addition to specific sub-markets that include digital gift cards at around $149 billion and social network advertising at some $36 billion.

As mentioned earlier, there is no clear-cut leader in social media in south Asia, with no network attracting more than 34 percent of the country’s population. This means that the lead is there to be seized by a platform that can deliver an experience that users want: one that is meaningful.