Study background

Singapore, October 14, 2010 – UM today unveils findings from the fifth installment of its Wave study, one of the world’s largest and longest-running examinations on the impact of social media in today’s global marketplace. The UM study has measured the scale and impact of social media since 2006, the same year Facebook became the online destination for everyone over 13 with an email address. Wave 5 explores changes in communication technology as well as the ways in which social media influence consumer habits.

“We are very proud and excited about our Wave research because it is one of the largest global studies delving into the influence of social media. Year after year we continue to track the explosion of emerging technologies and uncover insights on how to harness these changes,” said Huw Griffiths, EVP and Global Director of Research and Analytics for UM. “This year, we feel we have incredible data on how brands can leverage social media to drive sales. We look forward to using the Wave 5 research to help our clients better engage and connect with their consumers.”

Conducted in July 2010, Wave 5 this year expanded to encompass 53 different countries, covering 85% of the world’s Internet population. 36,800 social networkers around the world also took part in the study. Just over 500 active Internet users in Singapore took part in the study (reflecting close to 2.1 million Singaporeans 16+). Importantly, the study allows us to identify local trends and cultural differences as well as similarities. The information gathered is a data goldmine for brands attempting to build stronger relationships with target consumers, giving UM a strategic advantage in accurately forecasting consumer behavior.

Local and global…

An immediate finding of the study is that social media platforms are now firmly ingrained in consumers’ everyday lives, with more people using these networks to connect with friends than even the telephone or email.

Perhaps the most significant shift in social media in recent years has been the ability of users to interact via mobile devices. Nearly 30% of mobile users now frequently access the Internet. Wave 5 reveals that smartphone users, who are primarily male and come from higher socio-economic brackets, frequently access social media sites, tearing down the perception that this medium is dominated by younger demographics.

Still, younger demographics engage more deeply with social media platforms, using them as one-stop shops for interacting with peers. From direct messaging to pictures and information sharing, everything is conducted in a single space. Tapping into that space is therefore increasingly more valuable to brands, with social media communities often proving to be more valuable than traditional brand websites.

“Having a social media presence is a crucial element of the marketing communications mix for brands these days,” said Jeannette Liendo, Global Director, Marketing Excellence, Microsoft. “Brands that aren’t prepared to interact with their target audience through these platforms will suffer. Recent advertising spend through what were traditional routes may be down overall, but digital activity, predominantly through social media, is on an upward trend.”

In fact, of those who joined a brand community, 72% said they felt more positively about the brand, 71% said they are more likely to buy the brand, 66% said they felt more loyal to the brand, and 63% said they recommended others to join. These figures clearly demonstrate that the “socialization of brands” is a major shift in how brands are communicating with consumers, and it is a trend that is likely to continue.

“The survey title, ‘The Socialisation Of Brands’, sums up the current landscape perfectly,” said Clinton Simpson, Managing Director, UM Singapore. “There is a huge benefit to brands that engage with consumers in the social space, but the challenge is to identify the type of social experience consumers actually want. Wave 5 demonstrates that a deep understanding of these consumer needs is the key to creating compelling and successful social media programs.”

Key Facts about Singapore from WAVE 5

Social networking is a form of mass media in Singapore

Nearly 80% of active Singaporean internet users have managed their existing profile on a social network in the past six months, while around 52% have created a new profile during that same period

(a) Microblogging (Twitter) users have more than tripled in last 12 months

(b) 64% of Singaporeans message friends over social networks

(c) 61% of Singaporeans upload photos to their social network profile

Contrary to the declining global trend a large number of Singaporeans are still visiting company/brand websites almost 8 out of 10, 74 per cent find them very influential

Changing the way we use social networks

The gap between young and old age groups in terms of social network usage is narrowing

(a) On a year-on-year basis, the 45 – 54 year-old age group has nearly tripled their social network penetration based on the number of people in this group who actively manage their social network profile

We are also seeing a gravitational pull to do more and more of other online activities within our own community and chosen host network

(a) Upload videos

(b) Organizing events, etc.

Singaporeans are mature internet users

Singaporeans are more worried than their global peers on missing out if they don’t regularly visit their social network profile

More than 50% think social networking sites are an integral part of social life

Less likely to think more positively about companies that have blogs or to trust bloggers who blog about products and services, partially due to the fact that they realize just about anyone can write a blog

Though nearly 36% like personalized adverts online, this is still well behind the global average

Much more likely to join a brand community online (53% did) and some of the strongest reasons for doing so are:

(a) Support a cause they like

(b) Get advance news on products. We like to stay ahead of the curve.

(c) Get free content – free is always welcome here!

(d) Learn more about the brand

When it comes to finding advertising influential, Singaporeans put in-person recommendations first, be it from an expert or a friend

(a) TV commercials come next

(b) Recommendations from a social network friend or a retail site feature in the top 10 influential sources

(c) Reflection of the fact that we Singaporeans lean the most on advice from “tried and tested” sources

Singaporeans are willingly seeking social networks to connect with brands with 53 per cent joining an online brand community and 38 per cent already a fan of a brand

Interestingly, almost half of the people we surveyed discovered brands through social networking sites.  User activity on these sites is not confined to connecting with known brands

To see more specifics on the findings of the study, please see the full Wave 5 report at

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