5 Things about Social Media in Korea – Voice of an Intern

Let me introduce a posting written by our intern, Junhee who worked with us for the last two months.
This is about 5 things about social media in Korea at the point of intern’s view.
Hope everyone enjoys the article.

5 Things about Social Media in Korea – Voice of an Intern

Written by: Junhee Lee


A little bit about myself first. I’ve been interning at Ogilvy & Mather Korea out of the social@Ogilvy (still getting used to the new name) division for the last 2 months. I am a third year undergraduate student at Washington University in St. Louis – Olin School of Business majoring in marketing. So what brought me to the social team at Ogilvy? Simply put, I wanted a taste of Korea’s distinctive service industry that caters towards clients in an asymmetric relationship.

I’m sure you don’t need a list up of statistics on Korea’s broadband penetration, Wi-Fi capabilities, and growing smartphone market in the somewhat derogatory but most aptly named (or perhaps not) “Samsung Republic” that Korea’s conglomerate driven political economy is sometimes referred to as. Nonetheless, it only takes one a short trip on Seoul’s subway line or bus service – not to mention both utilize LBS RFID technology to display arrival times on digital dashboards in real time – to notice the majority of passengers staring into their smartphones, PMPs (Portable Media Player), and iPads (or the like) to understand the age of social is already here.

             What does this mean for social media? As a communications vehicle, it has come to nearly rival the traditional channels of newspaper and TV broadcasting. The global platforms Facebook and Twitter have become dominant players in the Korean market (Facebook was reported to have the highest monthly visitors in recent months and gaining), a huge transition from the previous domestic-based ‘Cyworld’ and IMS (Instant Messaging Service) era. As a business marketing tool however, it is still in its infancy without a standardized set of tools and a lack of accurate models for measurement, not to mention the scarcity of experienced expert practitioners in the field (although many are self-acclaimed).

Social media in Korea as a whole is currently following in the footsteps of the US, but with its own set of characteristics reflective of its distinctive culture.

1.  More Creativity & Innovation – fierce competition within this growth sector is pressuring brands to initiate aggressive, ambitious, and sometimes over-the-top marketing campaigns

  •        The recent surge in brand-endorsed social media engagement is giving rise to a new service industry of social media and online marketing specialists that utilize their accumulated know-how to design clever and imaginative campaigns

2.  Original Content Creation – social media in Korea is not just about linking and sharing existing material, but producing exclusive content for social media platforms

  • Korea has historically had a culture of thriftiness and brands aware of this are capitalizing on it through social media by offering a variety of platform specific dollar-saving deals utilizing various social media tools to engage consumers (third party APIs, app development)
  • Steve Dahllof, President and CEO of Ogilvy PR APAC recently published an article about the importance of creating great content – exactly what the Korean social media landscape is endeavoring to accomplish, and succeeding

3.  Material Incentive-Driven Social Marketing –  it costs more for businesses to elicit interactive responses and attract consumers

  • If the US social scene is about sharing content and reaching a wider audience, in Korea it is about attracting consumers through lucrative deals and discount offers or “events”

4.  Dynamic Brand Loyalty – consumers lean towards the biggest givers and newest trends in the dynamic service-oriented Korean market

  • “The customers are always right” rings ever so true in Korea’s cut-throat business environment where brands work endlessly to satisfy a growing body ‘spoiled’ modern social consumers due to rising expectations and proliferation of easily accessible excellent online deals

5.  Information Quality – company sponsored brand endorsements by individuals wielding multiple accounts is commonplace

  • The anonymity of social platforms combined with widespread use of power bloggers by brands (many do not reveal their affiliation) has created a social arena where secondary and tertiary accounts are being used (also to enter online ‘events’ multiple times)


             What do I expect in the future then? Regardless of its issues, I have no doubt that social media will become a part of modern culture. The question is how will businesses cash in on this? It will be exciting to see in the coming years how businesses and consumers interact in the hierarchy-less realm of social media.