Launched in February 2004, Facebook is a social networking service founded by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. Early investors include Microsoft and Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka- shing, through his namesake charitable foundation. Facebook’s US$16 billion initial public offering in May 2012 generated huge investor interest although the shares subsequently slumped in price.
Facebook to spur more digital advertising in Hong Kong
With HK firmly under its sway, Facebook aims to build on its success in the tech savvy city with targeted pitches, especially on mobile devices
The mobile phone maker said the Xperia vaulted to the top of the best-selling Android smartphones in Hong Kong about three weeks after the campaign was started, driven by the interest generated on Facebook.
"We reached 3.5 million Facebook users within three weeks. It proves that quality content on social media is an effective way for a brand to engage consumers and achieve good business results," said Michelle Au, Sony Mobile's general manager for Hong Kong and Taiwan operations.
Facebook, which has more than 1 million active advertisers worldwide, aims to step up development of online and mobile marketing campaigns in Hong Kong, where it estimates more than 60 per cent of the population access the social network each month.
Jayne Leung Yau-mui, the director for North Asia at Facebook, said: "We see a lot of opportunities to work with advertisers in Hong Kong. Mobile is a big trend."
That optimism stems from Facebook's strong market penetration in the city, which made it the biggest social network used in Hong Kong. Its internal estimates show about 4.3 million active monthly users as of June 30, of which about 3.5 million accessed the social network on their smartphones and media tablets.
Asked about competition from fast-growing social messaging platforms such as Tencent's WeChat and Line, Leung said: "Facebook is not just a communications tool."
She pointed out that the site's users express themselves in various ways and have a wide breadth of connections.
Citing data from research firm eMarketer, Facebook calculated about 2.9 million people in Hong Kong on average visit its site every day. Of that number, about 2.4 million do so on their mobile devices.
The company's worldwide numbers are loftier. It estimated 699 million daily active users on average as of June 30, with 469 million using the site on their mobile devices. It also recorded 1.15 billion monthly active users as of June 30, with the number of people logging on with their mobile devices reaching 819 million.
In July, Facebook reported that mobile advertising accounted for 41 per cent of its US$1.6 billion global advertising sales in the second quarter. Its revenue in the past quarter grew 53 per cent to US$1.81 billion from US$1.18 billion a year ago.
Leung, who runs operations in Hong Kong and Taiwan, said Facebook's direct engagements with advertisers and advertising agencies in the city started in February 2011, when the company set up shop in Quarry Bay. It was the second office that Facebook opened in Asia after Singapore in September 2010.
She declined to provide the number of advertising clients Facebook has in Hong Kong, but said the company typically worked with four types of clients: e-commerce firms, mobile application developers, small and medium-sized enterprises, and large brands.
E-commerce site Reebonz has used Facebook to target a specific demographic in Hong Kong: female, between the ages of 18 and 35.
CottonWork, which sells custom-made shirts online, is one of Facebook's active local SME advertisers, as is Hong Kong-based 6waves, an independent publisher of games for mobile app platforms and social networks.
Leung said campaigns by large brands, such as Sony Mobile and Ocean Park Hong Kong, relied on the broad reach of Facebook to engage the large audience they want.
"We are getting good traction in Hong Kong because marketers are now following where the eyeballs are," she said.
Last month, media-monitoring firm admanGo reported that advertising spending in online media in Hong Kong rose 37 per cent to HK$297 million in July, up from HK$216 million a year ago.
However, campaigns targeted at mobile device users grew larger, at 583 per cent to HK$46 million last month from HK$7 million a year earlier.
Advertising spending in the city rose 10 per cent to HK$3.71 billion in July, from HK$3.37 billion a year ago.
Jennifer Ma, the director of sales and marketing at admanGo, said digital advertising had risen significantly in recent years. "Cosmetics and skincare products have been mostly promoted in print media, especially magazines, but more marketers have shifted their focus to online and mobile campaigns," Ma said.
She cited as an example Biotherm, the French luxury skincare brand owned by L'Oreal, which invested about 85 per cent of its HK$5.3 million advertising spending in July on digital campaigns.