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Social Media Front & Center in Manila

The Country Leads the World in Per-Capita Social Usage

The Philippines is the social media capital of the world when measured by per-capita texting, Facebook usage, and increasingly, Twitter followers. So where does it go from here?

This was the underlying question at a recent customer-contact conference produced by Frost & Sullivan at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel in Metro Manila. Traditional CRM was on the agenda, as was the evolving nature of local and outsourced contact centers. The potential role of virtualization and cloud computing was also discussed - two things that are in their relative infancy here.

Social, social, social
But if location, location, location are the three magic words for real estate, then social, social, social are the three magic words for customer contact. Leah Camilla Besa-Jiminez, speaking on behalf of the Internet & Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) presented an overview of the raw statistics for the country-more than 2 billion texts sent per day, the highest percentage of Facebook users in the world, a Twitter audience of 4 million that's growing rapidly-all this in a country with 90 million people crammed into a space smaller than that of California.

She provided some global examples of companies using social media to reach customers in innovative ways, including a program from the airline KLM (which offers the only non-stop flight from Manila to Europe) that tracks down customers who've tweeted about their upcoming flight and gives them a small gift just prior to boarding.

Her presentation prompted some interactive brainstorming by attendees, who were drawn for the most part from major companies in the banking, insurance, energy, telco, automotive, food, and retail industries.

We Get It. Now How do We Use It?
In the Philippines, where close personal communications remains a cultural centerpiece, the idea of integrating social media into customer benefits is a powerful one. But discussion also focused on the challenges of handling customer input (including complaints) in an efficient way that leads to resolution of problems and the introduction of new programs.

Although a few attendees complained of antiquated procedures and business cultures that hardly allowed for such change, most attendees said they worked in companies in which business & IT were on the same page and in which ideas for improved service and efficiency were encouraged.

Facebook and Twitter were the Big Two social-media platforms mentioned again and again, although LinkedIn was also mentioned as a "purely professional" site that could have some potential for getting targeted information to key customers.

For my part, I heard about the conference via an Asian Cloud Computing group on LinkedIn, and initiated contact with the conference via Twitter. I did use (gasp) email to confirm my registration, but once at the conference, found the same group of people tweeting away on their smartphones as one would find at an event in Santa Clara or New York.

A Couple of Obstacles
Budgets were seen as the primary obstacle in moving forward with any social-media initiatives. Even though Facebook, Twitter, and the rest are free to access, there must still be people deployed, rules and procedures set, action and reaction plans in place, ties to specific metrics and measures of success established, and all the rest.

Leah also mentioned the abysmally slow Internet connections found here, noting that social media have taken off despite sluggish productivity.

Furthermore, attendees were quite happy with the ideas that the big social-media companies have already done all of the heavy IT lifting, and that the information conveyed and contained in the big social platforms is not considered sensitive enough to worry about data sovereignty (ie, this data can be located on servers outside of the country).

However, a next step is applying business analytics to the big dataflows expected from aggressive use of social media, and that information would be seen as proprietary data that needs to stay in-country, it not on-campus. That's a problem to be resolved in the coming months and years, clearly.

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More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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