Facebook says communication key to business growth

THROUGH a decade or more of change, the one constant is that consumers often adopt new technology before businesses do.

In fact, they have a profound influence on how people discover, evaluate, and converse with businesses and ultimately, how and where they make purchases.

“At , we saw three significant consumer communications trends this year which we expect will only intensify in 2019: Video, Stories, and Messaging,” Malaysia Country Head Nicole Tan told Tech Wire Asia.

Earlier this year – in August – Facebook rolled out Watch globally and found strong adoption in the Asia Pacific, especially in India, Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

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The social media giant also found that the Asia Pacific leads the way in people accessing video content on mobile.

This can be credited to the shift to mobile across the region, with smartphone penetration in countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia continuing on its upward trend.

In Malaysia, for example, 97.7 percent of those accessing the internet last year did so on their smartphones. According to Nielsen, Malaysian internet users spent 15.8 hours on average per week accessing the web on their mobile devices.

“While we have beaten the drum about the rate at which people were bypassing desktop for mobile in previous years, 2018 marked the cementing of the multiscreen consumer.”

The simultaneous use of second-screen devices —smartphones, tablets and desktops/laptops alongside TV-viewing has increased year-on-year and is predicted to continue through next year.

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Malaysians, like their Asian neighbours, have developed a love affair with their smartphones. Source: Shutterstock

Facebook has found that mobiles are winning the screen battle with PC-only use trending downwards.

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This complex ecosystem means that businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve will also need to think about multi-touch, cross-media approaches to engage with customers in 2019.

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This year, in order to ensure that Malaysian businesses and entrepreneurs stay ahead in this digital age, Facebook Malaysia introduced its “Made by Malaysia, Loved by the World” program to train up to 2,000 local businesses, together with partners MATRADE and AVANA.

Another interesting development is the consumer adoption of the ephemerality of the Stories format.

Official figures reveal that people now share more than 1 billion stories every day across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

The Asia Pacific region accounts for the highest number of story producers with over 40 percent of Stories being created in this region.

A recent eMarketer report which examined the popularity of Stories, said it plays into several broad consumer communication trends – a preference for sharing photographs or video over typing out a text update, the comfort of knowing what you post isn’t going to stick around forever and the need to share everyday moments with smaller audiences.

“This preference is also driving the rise of messaging.”

Of all the consumer communication trends, messaging has the most implications for business as it gives people a direct line to the businesses they are interested in spending their money with.

People turn to messaging when they want a brand’s guidance or expertise, when they seek a more streamlined shopping experience, and when they want to signal that they are open to important updates, whether that’s a delivery notification from a favorite retailer or a gate change from an airline.

People and businesses around the world now exchange over 10 billion messages on Facebook’s platforms each month. This preference for messaging is even more pronounced in Asia Pacific, where 87 percent of smartphone owners use a messaging app every month.

“Messaging is important because it draws people and businesses into what can become an ongoing conversation, rather than a one-time transaction,” Tan said.

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In many cases, messaging can offer people a concierge-like experience.

After answering an initial filtering question, people are able to engage in a two-way dialogue, unlocking a more meaningful and personalised brand experience.

“We surveyed people across four markets and found that being able to message with a business made people feel more confident about the brand and more connected to it,” Tan explained.

This is a new paradigm where businesses can make people feel cared for and create a connection that fosters brand loyalty.

So, if businesses were to make resolutions, what should they be? According to Tan, all these new trends boil down to an age-old idea — that in business and in life, relationships are everything. And every relationship starts with a conversation.

So, meaningful conversations – starting them, sustaining them, and growing them – could be one area to focus your energies on in 2019 if you want your business to grow.

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