Baker & McKenzie Study Reveals Key Steps in Building an Effective Social Media Strategy to Unlock the Potential in Southeast Asia

16 Sep, 2013

Baker & McKenzie has launched a social media industry report Social Media: The Opportunities and Constraints in Southeast Asian Emerging Markets, that  examines the Southeast Asian social media landscape and provides a step-by-step guide on how companies can develop an effective social media strategy to address opportunities and challenges in the region. A copy of the report is available at:

This Social Media report follows from two previous Baker & McKenzie market reports – Riding the ASEAN Elephant and Investment in High-Growth Markets specifically addressing key business issues and market changes in Southeast Asia.

Individual use of social media is prolific and growing, and social commerce is identified as the next big growth area with both global and local platforms working through the terrain. Across Southeast Asia, some 530 million individuals carry more than 600 million phones, of which more than half are already engaged in some form of social media.i  However, the challenges for organisations throughout the region can be confronting. Data protection, data sovereignty, and intellectual property rights are all increasingly contentious issues for which there is no consistent regulatory response.

The study revealed that less than 20% of the 68 companies across Southeast Asia surveyed in the Report have an interactive media strategy, with less than 5% having a coherent internal and social networking program. Industries are also at different phases in terms of their engagement with social media, with the hospitality, travel and finance industries leading the pack; and telecoms, advertising, banking, publishing, medical, retail and education trailing behind. All of these sectors, however, have yet to reach their full potential in social media engagement.

While opportunities abound, the regulatory environment surrounding social media remains uncertain. Countries across the region are at different stages of development in social media and each have their own set of local laws with limited or no coordinated regional framework in place. This makes navigating the social media landscape and managing social media risks quite difficult for companies using social media across jurisdictions, in particular in relation to issues such as data protection, data sovereignty and intellectual property rights.

“Companies, whether established or growing, can benefit tremendously from social media use. The challenge is how to maintain and adapt a consistent corporate brand across such vibrant media, especially in a culturally diverse and social media-savvy region like Southeast Asia. Navigating the various legal frameworks that apply can be extremely difficult,” Anne-Marie Allgrove, Head of Baker & McKenzie’s Asia Pacific Information Technology and Communication Industry Group, said. “The bottom line is customers no longer want to be merely talked to and told. They want to be listened to and engaged with. Knowing how to navigate the complex world of social media effectively and manage the risks can give companies a competitive edge.”

The Report was developed based on research by TRPC Pte Ltd which included  interviews and case studies from a number of global multinational companies and companies with headquarters in Southeast Asian emerging markets. Drawing on the insights from business leaders and Baker & McKenzie lawyers, the Report puts forward four recommendations for businesses to successfully employ a social media strategy. They include:

  • Identify goals and set clear and measurable objectives. Companies need to be able to answer the following questions correctly in order to make sound strategic plans:
    What is the objective of the social media strategy?
    What phase of social media engagement is the company in?
    What phase of social media engagement would the company like to be in moving forward?
    What is the investment the company is willing to make?
    What are the measures of success?

  • To do well, be prepared to invest; to excel, be prepared to invest and be dedicated. The deeper the social media engagement, the greater and more regular the investment. Companies need to be prepared to invest in the necessary expertise, skill sets and training.

  • Seek sound advice, particularly on local legal and regulatory requirements. The regulatory environment impacting on social media will remain in a state of flux for a number of years to come. Getting advice based on the understanding and interpretation of local laws will be crucial to the successful use of social media in the region.

  • Any social media strategy needs to be accompanied by effective governance policies. With lines between the social and professional spheres being blurred, there is an increasing need for companies to implement effective governance policies around  the use of social media, which often means going beyond telling the employees to use their common sense and refrain from unprofessional actions.  Amongst other things, companies need to ensure they have specific guidelines for employees regarding the use of social media, particularly when they are representing the company.

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