Boasting nearly 4 billion active monthly users, Meta’s suite of apps, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, have become an integral part of daily interactions worldwide. In an exclusive interview with Dan Neary, Meta’s vice president for the Asia Pacific region, we delved into the company’s strategic focus on the APAC market, a key driver of its global growth. Furthermore, we explored the social trends that will shape the business landscape in 2024, from continued
inued investments in AI to the rising influence of Gen Z and the solo economy. Facts and figures “Our latest figures show that more shoppers are leaning towards social platforms for discovery and inspiration during the year-end shopping season with reliance on in-store, search and store websites compared to previous years,” he told Inside Retail. Neary went on to say that video is a large part of how people are engaging on Meta’s platform and it is the fastest growing format in the APAC marketplace. In fact, people are spending more than 50 per cent of their time watching videos, especially on their mobile devices. “Reels is the fastest growing content format on the platform, with people resharing more than two billion times a day, doubling over the last six months,” he added. When it comes to business messaging, Neary said that more than one billion people are connecting with business accounts on the platform every week. In APAC, more than 90 per cent of advertisers in Singapore and Vietnam use click-to-message advertising. “Click-to-WhatsApp advertising revenue continues to grow very quickly in particular and is already at a multibillion-dollar annual run-rate. We’re progressing on our work to enable further down the funnel conversions, and longer-term, we’re excited about the potential of AI to help businesses message with customers more efficiently at scale,” he noted. AI’s crucial role According to Neary, AI plays a critical role in the company’s discovery engine and advertising business. He said AI can help businesses automate campaigns or analyse performance and compare what works best at scale and drive more efficient use of resources. The company invests in AI to help advertisers find, convert and keep customers through a variety of business objectives in a diversity of creative formats that flex to achieve outcomes that matter most to a specific business’s growth. “Put simply, AI can drive better performance by enabling brands to surprise and delight customers by intuitively serving up products they love — even before they’d even considered them,” he opined. One example is Pomelo, a Thailand-based digital fashion platform, it relied on the firm’s machine learning technology to determine budget splits on advertising campaigns and it achieved a more than two-times higher return on investment compared to a usual campaign setup. Reels is growing Neary said that it’s no secret that short-form videos like Reels have become increasingly popular all over the world and especially in Asia Pacific for cultural and demographic reasons. A recent company survey covering respondents in Australia, Korea and Japan showed that Reels and millennials have a special bond and APAC’s dynamic Gen Z was more likely to have followed a business (77 per cent), tagged a brand or product (72 per cent), and purchased a product (72 per cent) after watching Reels. Neary said traditional marketing funnels are undergoing a seismic shift. The era of linear awareness, consideration, and purchase phases is fading away as digital transformation reshapes decision-making processes. To thrive in this era, marketers must evolve from linear funnel thinking to an adaptive, holistic approach. An ever-evolving future By the next year, the rise of AI assistants is expected to further fuel the growth of business messaging, and Neary said that Meta AI, the firm’s assistant which can interact like a person, promises to change messaging experiences on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. “In text-based chats, Meta AI has access to real-time information through our search partnership with Bing and offers a tool for image generation. We also recently launched an early alpha of business AIs so that eventually every business can have an AI to interface with customers to do sales and support,” he stressed. Neary said that this year was a breakout year for generative AI, particularly with marketing and creative industries testing it across their businesses — from copywriting and creative ideation to driving deeper customer insights. “This trend is only going to grow and AI will be our biggest investment area in 2024 — both in engineering and compute resources,” he revealed. The Generation Z factor When it comes to Generation Z and the intersection with social media, Neary said brands need to engage with this demographic on their own terms, which means fostering deeper and more personalised connections. “For these users, social media isn’t just a place to connect with friends and family — it’s where they spend quality time learning about their interests and connecting with the brands they enjoy,” he noted. He advises brands to champion authenticity and word of mouth by leveraging experts, influencers or content creators that align with a firm’s brand values. Apart from creating hyper-personalised brand journeys, companies should also leverage video content for more engagement. By 2025, Generation Z will make up a quarter of APAC’s population, and they lead digital-centric lifestyles. Also, single households have emerged as the fastest-growing type of household in Southeast Asia. “Single households in Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines are expected to see a 20 per cent increase by 2030. This creates new needs for connection, a shift in media consumption and consumption patterns, including increased demand for smaller, frequent purchases,” he concluded.