By JO TIMBUONGbytz@thestar.com.my
PETALING JAYA: Social media is the buzzword in today's digital marketing circles but emerging trends such as online lepak (hang out) sessions and location status sharing, are set to intensify its power.
According to advertising agency Universal McCann (UM), social media by itself is relatively old hat but when combined with location status updates, it becomes a new marketing and promotions platform for businesses.
In the sixth edition of its international social media research study, Wave, UM said it found that 57% of online users are sharing their locations on social network profiles. Over 40,000 social media users aged between 16 and 54 participated in the survey, and 518 of them are Malaysians.
"This is a huge change because social networks were never closely associated with location before," said UM Malaysia chief executive officer Prashant Kumar.
Location status was more associated with mobile trends, but users ability to access their social network accounts throught their mobile devices made the marriage between the two possible, he said.
Prashant said location status updates are a magical development in digital marketing. Now, not only can users post their thoughts, but by adding the location element they can communicate with friends who may be in the same location.
This marriage also benefits businesses which can take the opportunity to push locally customised content to the user.
The survey also found that Malaysians are spending more time on the Internet and have created a new trend, called online lepak.
"Many treat Facebook as their town square and spend a lot of time there while doing their work," Prashant said.
Last year, UM took advantage of this trend by putting a digital twist to the traditional festive open house practice.
It organised a virtual Hari Raya open house campaign for one of its clients, that allowed users to host their own open house online and to decide how the "house" would be decorated and which "dishes" to serve.
"With urbanisation and family members scattered far and wide, many would think that an open house would be a thing of the past, but Facebook is the one place that many would congregate at so why not have an open house there?" Prashant said.
He said the campaign sparked off more than 60,000 open houses online with about five million interactions.
The social network location-based services union and online lepak trend are signs that social media is maturing and that privacy is being redefined.
Earlier on, social media users were wary about sharing their location but UM's study found that this concern is diminishing; the number of concerned users went from 74% to 64% in the span of one year.
Prashant predicts that the concern will vanish in five years as users realise that the more they share on social media, the more they are defined.
He said the initial fear was of someone misusing the information. "People get jittery because they cannot control how organisations will use their personal data," he explained.
This is why transparency is important and organisations need to clearly state what information is being collected and how they plan to use it, he said.
And more social media users should make an effort to understand such terms and conditions before they surrender their details.