Again, why Facebook will dominate the Vietnam market

By , October 31, 2008 1:15 am

The argument which was left unclosed…

On the fly with the news, I hastily posted an entry on the status of Facebook’s translation to Vietnamese project. That entry was left unfinished with a big gap between my premise and my conclusion.

Facebook flow

So here I am to fill the that gap with more complete points

…urged me to review basic principles of the market…

The search for the answer reminds me of two articles that should be read going further into Facebook’s strategy

“Facebook is a relationship-centric SNS”

TanNg, Vài gợi ý cho người dùng mạng xã hôi ở Việt nam

***

“As with the overseas Vietnamese students, we tackle them by word of mouths. So far, we have identified a number of key Vietnamese student networks in the US and the UK. But again, it depends largely on “viral effect” – one person sign up, love it and spread it to others. We have great faith in our product and are working hard to constantly improve the system. So yes, we plan to use a combination of word-of-mouth and traditional outreach strategies.”

Khoa Pham & Thanh Le, Interview with faceViet’s CEO

Leave these points here, we’ll come back to them later.

…to get the foundation questions answered

1. How does Facebook acquire users?

Facebook started off in Ivy League’s colleges. Then these students introduced the website to their connections. More and more joined and used the service because it was a useful product.

Facebook user acquisition 01

That’s why we say Facebook is a relationship-centric SNS. The motivation for users to use Facebook is mainly their connections. Facebook’s user acquisition is organic and natural as long as it remains useful a product to the users.

Facebook user acquisition 02

How about Vietnamese users? A picture is worth a thousand words

Facebook user acquisition 03

2. What builds reception readiness?

In the illustration, I put my hypothesis on reception readiness of Facebook particularly and the social network concept as a whole.

So what found this readiness in users?

1. The use of interactive IT systems in their work/study

Emails, KPI management systems, deal tracking systems (yes, CRM or issue-tracker if you’re more familiar with either of them), e-learning systems, version control systems, discussions boards, digital submission systems, scheduling (or timetabling) systems, accounting systems, payroll systems…

The more proficient people with (some of) these systems, the more ready they are to use interactive SNS.

How familiar are the majority of Vietnamese students with these systems?

2. Media coverage & user educating

Or how well the media educate potentials users of the values SNS bring them.

User educating is not PR; it’s about values. It should not involve throwing the product on users; it’s about attracting them. It’s not about exposing your greed selling to users first; it’s about solving their problems first.

3. Water the root

Social network spread of efforts

Correctly if I’m wrong, but I believe that spending more efforts on power users would reinforce the organic introduction loop.

Where is the root of Vietnamese SNS users? Mr. Thanh Le from faceViet mentioned his point above and I agree with him.

3. Why will Facebook dominate the Vietnam market when they launch?

1. Because Facebook has the root of the roots.

2. Because Facebook is mature in all product, brand recognition and business model, if compared to other competitors from local market.

3. Because Facebook will stand longer. This crucial point is usually, and possibly intentionally, ignored in many discussions on SNS in Vietnam. All Yahoo! 360 users have gone through the fear of losing their contents and social graphs. They will make judgment in choosing the next destination! I think they are smart enough to know how big (which in turn means stable) the world’s biggest SNS is and how long it is going to last store their contents and social graphs as compared to competing services.

But Facebook doesn’t satisfy the needs of many Vietnamese users…

What do the majority of Vietnamese users need now?

  • A blogging platform? Well, Facebook is relationship-centric, not content-centric. Nevertheless, it has a powerful Notes application.
  • Media sharing? Well, Facebook is relationship-centric, not content-centric. Nevertheless, it is launching a music site.
  • Customization? Well, Facebook is relationship-centric, not ego-centric. Nevertheless, certain application allows users to customize their page.
  • Facebook is overwhelming with feature. Well, writing on walls, sending messages and uploading photos are way too hard it took me forever to learn. Fortunately, Yahoo! 360 and Flickr did are doing very well to educate users (including me) on these three extremely difficult tasks. Other features? If you don’t like them just leave them be, they won’t bite.

OK, leave the details there and take one step back to look that the big picture.

Vietnamese users, in their first experience with Web 2.0, were given a blogging platform (Yahoo! 360) and very basic social networking features. They want a place to communicate, express and share. The options for them were way so limited while local services are still not mature, or in other words, many Vietnamese users have not used a full relationship-centric SNS yet. We don’t know how Facebook will change their preferences until it does. This we don’t know, doesn’t make an argument whether Facebook satisfies their current needs or not. Reality will answer.

Conclusion

This entry fills the gap I left from my previous argument: Facebook will dominate.

How do you disagree with me? Or which service do you think will challenge Facebook?

Acknowledgment

With special appreciation to these people for helping me with this post:

Duy Doan, VCCorp

Thu H. Nguyen, Australian Consulate General

Heating up Saigon in November 2008: Barcamp Saigon and Google DevFest

By , October 26, 2008 3:06 am

The two events that are going to heat up tech communities in Saigon this November with innovation, collaboration and new outspreading concepts.

BarCamp Saigon

BarCamp Saigon

What is a BarCamp

BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants — often focusing on but not limited to technology. Topics typically include programming, web design, technology usage, education, entrepreneurship, etc.

There is no audience, only participants. Attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one, or otherwise volunteer / contribute in some way to support the event. All presentations are scheduled the day they happen. The people present at the event will select the demos or presentations they want to see.

When

November 15, 2008

All-day event

Where

RMIT International University Vietnam

702 Nguyen Van Linh Boulevard, Tan Phong Ward, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

More info

The official website: barcampsaigon.org

If you’re on Facebook, join this event BarCamp Saigon 1

If you’re on Twitter, follow @barcampSaigon

You may also want to read why you want to join BarCamp

Read updates from some BarCamp Saigon organizers

Kevin Miller

Thomas Wanhoffs

Hung Nguyen

Step2 Radar

Chip 2.0

Google DevFest

Google Code

Following their announcement of launching in Vietnam, Google organizes its first Hackrathon in Vietnam.

When

November 4, 2008

Where

University of Technology

LinkHay brings more opportunities to explore and express

By , October 23, 2008 12:31 am

LinkHay launched a new interface and here’s a quick sum-up:

Features I like best

  1. Personal feed [linkhay.com/u/<username>/feeds]. Values it brings:
    • Historical data. This helps when I need to reorganize information or refer to a statistical figure
    • Effort tracking
  2. Friend feed [linkhay.com/friend/<username>/feeds]. Values it brings:
    • Central place to follow conversations
  3. More spaces for content by shifting the menu up

Other ambitious features

Profile [linkhay.com/u/<username>] and Friend feed [linkhay.com/friend/<username>/on-net] show LinkHay’s ambition of growing the product to a real vertical social network by offering the two key elements which attract user engagement in a web service.

Values

Overall, the new interface brings two major values to its users:

  • Increased explorability of information by pushing more visibility for the feeds
  • Encouraging expressions of personal preference for seeing the web by offering the profile

Yahoo! New Profile creates no buzz!!!

By , October 17, 2008 2:35 pm

1. New Yahoo! Profile launched.

2. I started surfing the web rather late in 2001. Yahoo! Profile has always been there in the same address profiles.yahoo.com – that means it should have always been there in the last decade without people’s notice

3. Compared to the old profile, new profile only adds Feeds, Guestbook and reorganizes the profile.

4. Yahoo! Profile is NOT a social-networking site.

5. Yahoo! Profile is another step in their Open Strategy, but how useful is it to users? Users do NOT think like roll-then-scale-then-integrate-then-sell strategists do. Don’t challenge their patience.

Conclusions

  • Don’t bother comparing Yahoo! Profile with 360 or 360plus or the late Mash, they’re not the same.
  • Don’t bother dragging Facebook or Blogger here, it’d only make a not-funny-at-all joke.
  • Yahoo!’s hints are but hints, promises are but promises, buzzes are but buzzes. No hit created.

The day (social media) people fear is near: Facebook's gonna launch in Vietnam

By , October 14, 2008 12:15 pm

1. Facebook Vietnamese translation is quite good. Facebook’s translation team (mostly well-educated, English-fluent and enthusiastic users) has done a terrific job.

Facebook Vietnamese screenshot

2. I am less excited, if any at all, to see a competition between Facebook Vietnamese and made-in-Vietnam made-by-Vietnamese Social Networks when Facebook official launches its Vietnamese page…

3. The hesitation to vote for Facebook is: traditionally thinking, a social network site for Vietnamese should satisfy some requirements:

  • Blog as center
  • Media (mostly music) sharing
  • Customizable profile for younger users
  • Not so overwhelmingly rich with features

Facebook’s focus is the opposite of all these 3 points. “Notes” is powerful enough to be a blog, but I have the impression that the application is not fully utilized by the users. At least one application allows profile customization, but Facebook core doesn’t encourage this. And since Facebook is an open-platform, the amount of application may be too much for first-time users.

4. Nevertheless, Facebook has all the potentials to solve one big problem for Vietnamese community: where to migrate to from Yahoo! 360.

5. Going vertical might help for Vietnamese Social Networks.

First result of Facebook's new design: its Relationship-based Semantic Ad

By , October 6, 2008 12:25 am

How are you with the new design so far?

Tech-savvy users, needless to say, you must have loved Facebook’s new design.

My non-tech Facebook friends, have you familiarized yourself with the new design? Do you still think Facebook makes it hard for you to navigate and locate things you like? Do you miss the old design? Well you know, I have seen the expected results from the new design already. Let me show you:

Have you noticed the change improvement of Facebook Ad?

First thing is in the Ad. I call new Facebook Ad Relationship-based Semantic.

There are two elements: Relationship-based and Semantic.

Facebook Advertisement

Relationship-based

The old ad is exactly a same-old vertical banner. No thing new.

The new add is in the form of “Friend A is a fan of Product P”. Wow! Facebook recognizes you and displays ads that feature your friends!

Semantic

Semantic is a little bit more abstract.

Facebook ad caters for relevance of information to you. Information they care about:

  • Relationship: ads show faces of your friends
  • Location: ads show products/services in your location
  • Background: if you are doing or did your tertiary education in an Australian university, the ad might display a Master degree from Australia
  • Interest: are you into Rock? ads show Rock performances

Do you have the impression that Facebook starts to understand you?

Why is this a result of the new design?

First thing first, I have to admit that saying “the new smart ad is a result from the new design” is an over-simplified statement.

Can Facebook ad be smart with the old design? Yes!

But it was much harder and would take longer with the old design.

Take a look at the new design:

  1. You can comment right on your friends’ statuses
  2. You have more spaces on the homepage as well as in your profile. Your profile is no longer crowded with all the applications but applications are separated thus create more spaces
  3. Your friends’ Walls are thrown up first so it’s much quicker for you to leave your message
  4. Your friend list is now more organized, increases the will to send them messages
  5. Photos are displayed in different views, you want to comment more as you see more photos
  6. In short, you write a lot more on Facebook’s new design
  7. In short, you create a lot more contents on Facebook’s new design

As you create more contents, Facebook understands you more, thus displays more relevant ads to you.

You may argue: ads benefit them (Facebook and its sponsors), not you. Well, to be honest, would you prefer to see a totally non-relevant ad or an ad that might interest you?

What do you think about this? Do you love it or hate it?

Other considerations

Of course, a service provider is a business. Many may have concern of privacy. Google has known MUCH about me, now Facebook does. There’s a chill in the air that there are always people who want to make money keep an eye on every step I take online.

Conclusion

The ad might be beneficial to all three parties: you, Facebook and sponsors. Like it or not, inter-dependence is the driving force that strengthen consumption.

@ngoisao.edu.vn and why this is a good thing

By , October 3, 2008 5:44 pm

Private-owned high school Ngoi Sao (translated as Star) was probably the first non-international school in Ho Chi Minh City to provide edu email to their students. Read the story here

First, since the capacity is 7Gb, I have reason to believe that the school’s IT utilizes Gmail service.

Second, providing students with the school email address makes it more professional for communication than a personal mailbox on a free service. The students can use their school email to apply for part-time or free-lance job.

Third, I wonder if there is any difference between email addresses of students and email addresses of the school’s staff?

Last but not least, maybe these students can use their edu email as credentials to join a network on Facebook, instead of the current introduction mechanism.

How to join a network on Facebook

1. Location-based network has no restriction

2. For organization-based network, members must have an email address belonging to their company / organization where they find the verification link from Facebook

3. High schools also have their networks, but since many high school don’t provide school email, joining process is done on introduction basis. Person A requests network N to which s/he belongs. When person B who is a member of that network in real life want to join N, B has to add A as a friend and asks A to confirm that B is actually in N before Facebook adds B to N. Then C shall have to add either A or B and ask for confirmation. This process goes on for subsequent members…

Yahoo!, take the LITTLE advantage you have over Facebook!

By , October 2, 2008 11:42 pm

Recently Yahoo!’s strategy has been questioned when they declined to sell to Microsoft or offered their market-leading product Yahoo! Answers.

On product level, although Yahoo! lost 0-4 on social media, the company still has the advantage their teams can take advantage of: branding power and customer loyalty. And they can exploit the advantage to boost their product engagement simply by cloning other services.

For example, Tu has really sharp eyes when he noticed the hints of Yahoo!’s next products: they might try to clone Blogger or Facebook.

In fact, Yahoo!’s recent blogging platform for Hongkong and Vietnam imitated different features from Facebook (friend tagging), WordPress, Windows Live Spaces or Twitter (“Follow” concept under the old name “Add friend”).

With the new Facebook design disliked by somewhat millions users, Yahoo! can attempt to win back their user base by cloning only the simplest features (of course, less effective in data mining) of an advanced social network to target the non-tech-savvy users.

When innovation like Yahoo! Platform still has a long way to go, doing quick fixes on simple things might help Yahoo! in their identity crisis.

Face it: men are happy in cyberspace

By , October 2, 2008 7:10 pm

VNExpress replicated a Reuters’ survey on “The time when people find themselves most happy” here.

On both Reuters’ and VNExpress’ surveys, men are found most happy going online.

They are actually happy online when they response to the survey more than 2.5 times than women do.

Time when Vietnamese find most enjoyable

How will Twitter make money?

By , October 1, 2008 11:29 pm

Twitter’s success has boiled to the point the even some Twitterers start to wonder how would the service monetize.

Here is the short list of a few ways I can think of for Twitter’s evolution:

  1. Same as that of Facebook: display ads in left & right white spaces
  2. Same as that of Google Adword: you tweet “I love cold drink”, an ad for Coca-cola is displayed
  3. Same as that of faceViet: display ad between tweets
  4. Same as that of vietnamworks: service providers pay Twitter to create a Twitter account specifically for brand-engagement / market research / recruitment / sales. This is politically difficult as the line between a service provider and a non-provider is vague
  5. Same as that of many popular blogs providing premium subscription: celebrity Twitterer charge followers for valuable tweets, part of the charge goes to Twitter
  6. Same as that of a social-C2C-commerce: Twitters become actual seller & procurers

What are your ideas?

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