by Michael O'Neill
January 23rd, 2014

Indonesia is a naturally sociable country, but watching how that social culture translates to online behavior is always a fascination.  For example, 2013 Facebook statistics revealed Indonesia is the social media platform’s fourth biggest market, with over 48 million users.

This number is absolutely extraordinary, considering only about a quarter of the total Indonesian population has access to internet. Essentially – if you’re an Indonesian and able to find an internet connection, mobile phone, internet café or warteg, you’re on Facebook. 

What’s more, MarkPlus predicts that the number of Indonesians with internet access will balloon to over 100 million in 2015 – and we’re expecting to see this translate into an explosion in Facebook users.

What is it about Facebook that has Indonesians so enchanted?  We know Indonesia is country of ‘kampung’ (villages), with people often defined by the close social groups in which they belong. This means there is a high preference for a strongly-defined social framework in which individuals are expected to publicly identify with.

Indonesians reinforce this community bond with strong group behavior: they love to hang out together and they love to discuss things. These social characteristics translate to their online behavior: they like to stay connected with everyone they know.

It is not uncommon for an Indonesian to have over 1,000 Facebook friends in his or her account. And no, it does not mean they will stay in touch constantly with all of them – just the thought of having everybody they knows at the tip of their fingers makes many Indonesians feel connected.

How does this affect brands in Indonesia?  Done well, Facebook can be the perfect place to communicate with your Indonesian customers and build loyalty. Many consumer product brands thrive on Facebook – they set up a page, promote the page with well-thought out activation events, get thousands of followers, and interact with them daily. Indonesians love to be able to interact with public figures they admire, and the brands of products they use. They are more than ready to be engaged, and marketers need to capitalise on this.

Despite this, the number of brands doing social media badly in Indonesia perhaps outnumbers the number who are doing it well.  There’s nothing less social than opening a Facebook page, asking people to follow it, and then never being available to respond to their comments and questions. And yet, we see this behavior constantly, even from big brands who should know better.  Posting only when you want to market your product is akin to being ‘that guy’ at the party – it’s completely unsocial, and leaves loyal fans feeling neglected. And there goes their loyalty out of the window.

There are so many Indonesians on Facebook, and all of them like to communicate with their friends. Therefore, be a friend for them. Even better, be the sister, or brother, that they can always talk to.  The more you communicate with them, the more responsive you are to their queries and complains, the more they will hold your brand dearly to their heart.

Jayde Lovell is vice-president, Digital, Southeast Asia, at Weber Shandwick

This article first appeared at Weber Shandwick’s Indonesia website

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