Mobile devices are the preferred tools by social network site (SNS) users over PCs in at least four Asian countries, according to a recent IDC survey report. The report titled Examining Usage, Perceptions, and Monetization: The Coming of Age for Social Network Sites in Asia/Pacific said more than 50 per cent of respondents in China, India, South Korea and Thailand access social networks such as Facebook weekly via mobile phones.
In China and Thailand, 62 per cent and 65 per cent of the respective respondents use mobile phones to get news alerts and notifications, receive and reply to messages, upload photos, or update personal status and profiles on popular SNS.
On the other hand, 19 per cent and 25 per cent of the respondents in Australia and Singapore, respectively, registered the lowest percentage of users who access mobile versions of SNS on a weekly basis.
"The prevalence of owning a cellular phone over a PC in China, India and Thailand has directly boosted the popularity of mobile SNS access," said Debbie Swee, market analyst, IDC Asia/Pacific Emerging Technologies Research.
The number of mobile users in South Korea is also large but the growth has been attributed to another factor.
"The [South Korean] market is technologically advanced and has already seen mass adoption of mobile Internet as compared with all other countries surveyed in the study," Swee explained.
Despite a similar technological status of the Australian and Singaporean markets, "the overwhelming importance of the PC over mobile has created strong inertia against adopting regular mobile access of SNSes," the IDC analyst added.
Lower telco rates
According to the IDC report, there are indications that mobile operators' pricing strategies are preventing non-users from going to mobile social networking.
"For mobile operators in China, India and Thailand, IDC believes a low flat-rate Internet access fee would complement and increase mobile SNS adoption," Swee said.
Most users who have never accessed SNS through mobile phones said they are prevented from doing so because of the costly data tariffs in the form of mobile Internet, SMS or MMS access.
However, they also expressed intention of trying out mobile versions of SNS if telcos offer more affordable data rates. To a lesser extent, the availability of user-friendly mobile applications is also perceived as a notable area of improvement.
For other countries, increasing the number of users of mobile SNS might just be a matter of marketing approach.
"In Australia, South Korea and Singapore where data tariffs are already relatively low, operators need to correct users' misconceptions of pricey data plans through advertising and other marketing efforts," Swee said.
She stressed that failing to do so could mean that mobile Internet applications and services, not just mobile SNSs, will take longer to take off.
Undertaken by the IDC's Asia/Pacific End-User Research and Statistics Group (ERS), the survey involved 1,400 social network site users, aged between 15-35 years old, from December 2008 to January 2009. It is part of a series of studies that evaluate the impact of Web 2.0 on Internet users in Australia, India, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.