Marketers scan social media impact
Just 22 per cent of privately-owned businesses in Hong Kong use social media to communicate with their customers, a rate that is almost half the global average - 50 per cent in the newly emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China (the so-called BRIC countries), and 53 per cent among the world leaders - the Latin American countries.
In the mature G7 markets, the figure falls to 40 per cent, and in Europe, it is just 35 per cent - but still more than the rate in Hong Kong.
Social media is used mainly by Hong Kong companies for advertising purposes (14 per cent of businesses), recruitment (12 per cent), communication with customers (10 per cent) and communication with staff (10 per cent).
This compares with worldwide preferences of 23 per cent who use social media for advertising and 22 per cent who use it to communicate with customers - more than double the rate in Hong Kong.
The figures, from Grant Thornton Jingdu Tianhua's International Business Report, are surprising, given Hong Kong's high internet penetration rates, the city's technologically savvy population and its third-highest smartphone penetration rate in the world.
Another surprise is that more Hong Kong business leaders (66 per cent) rely on newspapers as their source of news than they do online newspapers (12 per cent), mobile internet (6 per cent), desk-based internet (8 per cent) and the television (8 per cent).
These figures can be compared with mainland China, where 65 per cent of respondents prefer to use desk-based internet to source information, and only 11 per cent prefer newspapers.
The findings show that there is a vast trove of underutilised social media potential in the city, says Daniel Lin, managing partner of Grant Thornton Jingdu Tianhua.
He says that while businesses around the world have been using social media to directly engage with customers and stakeholders, as well as for advertising, Hong Kong businesses have largely ignored the medium.
It's a trend that is about to change, he says. "With such robust rates of smartphone penetration in Hong Kong, there is immense potential for businesses to reach out directly to their customers in more innovative ways," says Lin.
"Social media creates a level playing field for businesses and customers to create dialogues of trust and greater brand affinity. This breakthrough in marketing strategy is expected to prevail and bring mutually benefiting rewards to both businesses and their customers."