Social Networking in Asia – Watch Out for Hi5

In terms of European / American social networking websites, it’s pretty much all Facebook and MySpace. Over in Asia, there are different players that dominate, sites such as Hi5 and Friendster. When online to anyone from Asia, if they wanted to share more of their information with you, you would always be pointed towards a Hi5 or Friendster page (long before the buzz of MySpace or FaceBook had taken hold over here). Asians seem to connect more deeply with things virtual, projecting themselves into their own customized worlds. It was from Asia that I first saw people experimenting with personal avatars. Also, Asian social network audiences tend to be younger (although if anyone has any data references, do send them over) and because of this they will glitz up their profiles with all manner of sparkling, flashing, eye catching widgets (see my naff Hi5 profile here as an example – excuse the hash of the music file I have made. I keep meaning to sort it out).

Anyway, the reason for all this preamble is as a precursor to news on big moves for both Hi5 and Friendster. Hi5 are looking to take on Facebook and other players in the Asian space. A recent development late last year was to incorporate virtual currency with the virtual gifting of Hi5 coins but more are underway to make Hi5 an  “immersive social environment” that includes virtual goods, avatars, games, instant messaging and a 3-D world. See more here. It gets my vote, trying to bring in revenue without advertising revenue reliance. Also, a big thumbs-up article for Hi5 from Venture Beat can be found here.

Friendster although being US based are huge in Asia and have now made the timely move to consolidate their Asian market by opening up new offices in Sydney and Singapore, flooding them with new Executives. Be aware also that many Asian countries have social networking sites that many of us will never have heard of: Xiaonel (China), Xanga (Hong Kong), CyWorld (South Korea), Yahoo 360 (Vietnam) and Mixi (Japan). See more detail on how here on how Facebook fights its corner in Asia.

The Web Analytics World comparisons for 2007 are here but unfortunately, apart from India, there is no Asian representation. It does however show how popular the site Orkut (Google operated) is in India in.

And finally, two other sources. the first is heavy going but there are some nuggets of gold in this report for those who might find comparisons between the social networking sites of the US and Korea. The report from J P Shim, Mississippi State Uni can be found here. Secondly, a SlideShare presentation comparing the leading SNS’s of Asia here.

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About Aristos Peters
I work rest and play in the digital space, with particular interest in digital startup companies and their need for seed, angel and VC investment. As a NED, I have worked with several start-ups, taking them through funding rounds and also work on investment acceleration and business growth helping companies to become investment ready. Currently about to launch the startup fundraising app D RISK IT (www.drisk.it).

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