Digital in Indonesia

The Promise

It’s no secret that Indonesia is the current hot stomping ground for agencies in Southeast Asia. With a population of 250 million people, an estimated 55 million Internet users in 2011 based on ITU estimates, and an increase in GDP per capita from US$500 to US$2,800 in the years 2000 to 2010, all the figures speak to a fast growing economy to rival the traditionally important BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India, and China).

Things are no different from the digital front and you can’t argue with the statistics: it is the fourth biggest market according to Social Bakers – an almost 20 percent penetration among the entire human population. It also holds about 13 percent share of all tweets in the world, according to a MarkPlus study. Indonesia is ripe for a digital revolution.

The Ground

But any agency that is going into the Indonesian digital market from another market would be faced by challenges that are unique to Indonesia. For this piece, I am focused on the traditional marketers in that market and all my observations should be taken in that vein. As Indonesia is also home to a very vibrant and thriving tech startup scene, which has an entrepreneurial ecosystem that has already spawned successes in the online world.

The challenges in this market are twofold – one from the client’s standpoint, and another from a cultural standpoint, especially in terms of social media (which is, far more than in any other market in Southeast Asia, a critical cog in digital marketing in the Indonesia market).

Opportunity – Analytics

The recognition of the need for digital marketing has been in the mindset for quite a while over the past few years in Indonesia, where the Internet population was still burgeoning and the smartphone revolution (that enabled mass access to social media tools) was just starting to take off. Within the next two years (and to be blunt, I mean the next one or two marketing budget cycles), I think you will see a sudden increase in the value of the market as more and more brands use digital to reach the audiences.

However, there is a tremendous opportunity that is still largely unrealized in the market for analytics. As the market matures, and considering the sheer volume potential that the Indonesia market has, the potential of analytics playing a huge role is there – albeit unrealized. Currently, the approach of most companies toward digital marketing is an afterthought.

As digital becomes more comfortable with marketers and more people realize the potential of digital to not just raise awareness but increase sales directly, I predict there will soon be an increase in demand for analytics services beyond just straight page views and visitorship numbers. This can also be evidenced by the offline prevalence of research articles in this market.

Thus, any company that sooner embraces a deeper set of analytics to drive their marketing strategy will have a huge advantage.

The Role of Social Media

As with any other emerging markets, Indonesia has essentially leapfrogged some aspects of Internet marketing. This is especially so in the area of social media. As the figures above show, Indonesia has embraced social media with a vengeance, which can be traced to the friendly and boisterous culture.

However, this has an impact on the type of campaigns that are run in Indonesia. Firstly, the Tweet-a-Pic contest – simple campaigns that involve taking pictures and tweeting those said pictures with the camera phone. Simple, effective, and small in budget to execute. But, in my opinion, overused as a contest mechanic. It is quickly losing its novelty and marketers here will soon have to learn how to better engage with the audience. That said I truly don’t think, at least from a marketing campaign perspective, that there is a silver Twitter campaign template one can follow anywhere in the world.

Secondly, there is the “Selebtweet” – a culture where you actually pay celebrities to tweet about your products. This is an effective way of reaching a big audience. But, with the prevalence of these celebrities, the trust in celebrities tweeting about products is quickly wearing thin among Indonesian consumers. I predict marketers will soon realize that this might not be the most effective way to spend budget and the tendency will drift toward a more PR-centric approach of engaging with trustworthy influencers to spread the message instead of taking the quick and easy way of investing in celebrities.

In Conclusion

Now, these are just a couple of thoughts on the Indonesia market and some might disagree with my perspective (especially since I am not Indonesian). I have tried to view it with the perspective of my experience in other countries. However, the upshot is that every market has its idiosyncrasies and that every country should be approached differently depending on its culture, digital maturity, and context.

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A photograph of Mike Millar giving his presentation on digital business in Asia, to a room of attendees at Shift London.