Indonesia is currently vying with Brazil for the title of social media capital of the world, and the stats show why. It is the world’s 4th largest market for Facebook, 5th for Twitter, and 12th for LinkedIn. The reason for being at the top of the tables is twofold. Firstly, demand: Indonesia has an exceptionally social culture, and the statistics simply reflect the online expression of the real world in Indonesia. The second reason is supply: ingenious tweaking gets Facebook working on even the lowliest feature phone, so more than 80% of the mobile base of 278 million subscribers can potentially access social media services.
Twitter users booming, but Facebook may be stalling
After experiencing meteoric growth from 15 million to 40 million users in just 18 months, Facebook has plateaued at around 47 million users. Twitter, on the other hand, is in the middle of its meteoric growth phase, with the number of users conservatively estimated at 35 million at the end of 2012.
What these numbers show is the incredible impact of the network effect on a large base of highly-connected individuals. Neither Facebook nor Twitter have a physical presence in Indonesia, yet during their growth spurt periods each service put on 25 million users in the space of 18 months, driven purely by word of mouth.
However, word of mouth cuts both ways. We’re hearing the phrase Fesbuk sudah tua (“Facebook – already an old man”) with increasing frequency, especially in Jakarta. It’s also gaining a reputation as a platform for people to spam their social circles with goods for sale. If these becomes Facebook’s image in 2013 then its days of ruling the Indonesian social network scene could be coming to an end.
Social media is more than just chatting
A look at the most visited websites in Indonesia always throws up a frequent surprise for new investors: blogspot.com, blogger.com and wordpress.com all appear in the top 10. With over 5 million active blogs, Indonesians use the blogosphere as a means to express political, personal and business views.
And, as with the social media companies in the US and Europe, the platforms in Indonesia are looking to monetise their user bases. The most common approach is through targeted advertising and sponsored pages. But online commerce is also a valid route – Kaskus.com, Indonesia’s largest community site with 4.5 million users, is seeking to leverage the buying and selling that goes on between its members on an informal basis to add e-commerce to its offering in an attempt to become a social commerce platform.
There’s real money outside Facebook and Twitter
One of the unsung success stories in social media in Indonesia is mig33, recently lauded as the 7th fastest-growing social platform in the world. mig33 is a mobile social network where users can chat, play games and buy virtual goods for their friends. Initially targeted at feature phones, it has been a big hit in Indonesia, where it has 40 million users.
But more important than the user base is the revenue mig33 is generating. Using an innovative twist on multi-level marketing techniques, mig33 uses a real-world cash-based system to collect money from its users, thereby getting around the fact that most of its users don’t have credit or debit cards. This combination of social commerce and real-world payments has enabled mig33 to generate revenues of US$3 per user per month in Indonesia.
That’s over 400% higher than Facebook’s average revenue per user in Asia. Not bad for a social media company that you’ve probably never heard of.