I just spent a week in Jakarta exploring opportunities for Songkick, and was really surprised at the consumption patterns around social media there. Firstly it’s huge. Similar to Brazil, URLs are often left off advertising hoardings, and there are only FB/Twitter handles to activate. Everyone I spoke with was an active and passionate user of social media and fluent in the landscape of apps/services, from Whatsapp to Foursquare.
I went there expecting Facebook to be the wildly dominant social platform. I’d read stories about the explosive growth FB had seen there, and have heard reports that FB internally forecast it to be their largest or second largest market long term.
When I arrived, one of the common questions I’d ask people was which social networks they use. The response was extremely constant: Twitter, followed by Facebook. People on the whole seemed to be bored with Facebook. There was a sense it had been huge a year or two back, but now was less relevant. One user captured the broad sentiment towards FB well saying that it had become similar to an old email account that you check every now and then to see if there’s anything there.
Twitter was incredibly actively used, I’d see people using it on their phones everywhere. Path was also getting real traction, people see it as a natural complement to Twitter, intimate vs public. Most people had also tried and were often using many other social apps e.g. Foursquare, Whatsapp etc. Nothing on the level of Twitter though.
I think initially I viewed this as some kind of quirk of the social media landscape in Indonesia. People seemed to be churning through social apps incredibly quickly, trying out everything, getting hooked on some, getting bored of others far more quickly than in the UK or US. It felt like weird alternative social ecosystem, where everyone was way more into social networking than most places I’ve been.
It felt like watching the story of social media story play out in fast forward.
Then I remembered that there was another place I’d seen like that - Silicon Valley, where the social platform trends are often leading indicators for those in the world at large.
That made me start thinking a bit more about what the underlying cause of this higher adoption/decline velocity might be. I think the primary underlying cause for this ‘fast forward’ social media culture in Indonesia is probably demographics. The median age in Indonesia is 28! Compare that to the US (37) and UK (40). People across the population are highly networked and in many cases, mobile native. They are aggressively curating their technology use based on the value it brings. It made me wonder whether in Jakarta I really was watching the global story of social media in fast forward. If so it does not bode well for Facebook.