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Serving Asian Customers? Think Social Media.

Whether they need to know a product price, gather information, or simply complain about something, Asian customers are increasingly turning to social media for assistance. Ovum reported that nearly 40% of Indian consumers use social media for customer service— compared to only 12 % of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom. In China, too, service through social media has almost doubled in the last two years, as people turn to social media as a viable alternative to phone. This trend of increased use of social media by customers is pushing companies to tap into social media as a service channel in Asia.

Before jumping in, however, companies should consider the diverse social media landscape in Asia, as well as the cultural/local nuances of various regions:

  1. Understand the Asian social media landscape – One size does NOT fit all: In spite of the growth of social media globally, Asia-Pac has more individual market differentiation than other global regions. For instance, in China, Japan, and South Korea, local sites feature local language and content to establish a critical mass of local users. On the other hand, in South-East Asian countries like The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, global social communities like Facebook are amongst the most visited Internet sites.
  2. Decode the Asian customer’s social media DNA: Local differences in markets are strongly mirrored in social media activity and behaviors across regions. To successfully service a customer, understanding regional and cultural norms is necessary.

For instance, when writing reviews, Koreans are most likely to share positive experiences whereas Chinese are most likely to share negative experiences. On the other hand, in Japan, public dissent or debate is frowned upon. To avoid public scrutiny, people use social media anonymously; they present themselves as who they want to be, and not who they are.

So to service the Asian customer, what is it that companies are doing differently to make social media an effective customer service channel?

  1. Cultivate an internal team of social media global experts: AirAsia, a south-east Asian low cost airline, has global social media presence on Facebook, Renren, Twitter and Sina. Though they have a unified brand image, AirAsia takes an extra effort to localize; for example, they have set up 11 Facebook pages for different locations. As part of its social media global expert team AirAsia includes its top management, pilots, station managers, and other internal staff. It believes that employees know the AirAsia brand best, which allows them to respond faster, manage diversity, and strengthen its social media channel.
  2. Create communication guidelines based on regional norms: Customizing communication to include local nuances creates greater impact. For example, to be effective in the Chinese social media world, reps/moderators should use relevant terms or analogies—or even leverage online celebrities (which is very popular in China). Additionally Asian languages are very different from English. To communicate effectively companies must ensure high quality translation to local languages. For instance, in Japan weak translation leads to customer isolation — a core reason for Facebook’s poor growth.

We would love to hear from you. What do you think companies should do to service Asian customers specifically through social media? What are you doing?

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