Social media

Local firms failing to exploit social media

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am

What if you need to vent your frustration over PCCW's customer service but cannot get somebody directly on the phone?

Facebook and Twitter could be a faster alternative - except that the telecoms giant has no active account on these two social media websites.

In this, it has plenty of company: according to a survey, only just over a fifth of Hong Kong businesses use social media to keep in touch with customers, lagging behind their counterparts in both developed and emerging markets.

This has emerged from a poll of 2,721 private companies by business- and financial-services provider Grant Thornton Jingdu Tianhua.

It found that more than half of the businesses based in the BRICS countries (the leading emerging-market economies) and Latin America already made full use of social media channels, while 40 per cent in the United States, France and the UK used Facebook, Twitter or blogs.

'There are still a lot of misconceptions about social media,' said Elmer Cagape, founder of the search-engine marketing firm SEO Hong Kong. 'People in Hong Kong see them as a way to generate sales. They don't consider social media as tools to get people's attention.'

Cagape, whose company provides marketing solutions for local businesses, said firms were also quite reluctant to devote resources and staff to social media.

Two-thirds of the 50 Hong Kong companies surveyed preferred reading a newspaper to other sources of news. This is in strong contrast to the mainland, where a bigger proportion of businesses than anywhere else - 6 per cent - said the internet was their preferred source of news and, conversely, one of the lowest proportions, only 11 per cent, preferred newspapers.

'Hongkongers, because of the hierarchical structure of their society, still rely on traditional media to get their news,' said well-known blogger Isaac Mao. 'Businesses that use social media in Hong Kong are also likely to engage in a very traditional way: only by Facebook, for example.'

PCCW has a Facebook page, but the content comes directly from Wikipedia and has no activity. Companies such as Harbour City and the Mandarin Oriental have active Twitter accounts, but Mao said they needed to be more proactive. 'In China, companies like Starbucks or Standard Chartered are all on Weibo or Renren,' he said. 'It is a low-cost marketing tool. Hong Kong businessmen should be as open as their mainland counterparts.'

He said Pan Shiyi - chairman of Soho China, a Beijing-based property developer - has a personal blog that has been visited by tens of millions.