A Guide to Social Media in South Korea: Facebook, Twitter, and Other Sites

Anyone trying to compete in the business world nowadays already knows that an active social media presence is key for reaching out to potential  customers, clients, partners –really anyone– who may be interested in working with you.  If you’re planning on expanding your business abroad, it is imperative that you first understand the culture and atmosphere surrounding various social media sites.

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In South Korea, a country with a population of 48.8 million and a mind-blowing internet speed of 2,202 Kbps, people are linked in like never before, especially on mobile devices.  However, while the three top websites in the west—Google, Facebook, and Yahoo!—have had success in other east Asian countries, in South Korea they have been unable to break through the immense influence of their local counterparts, including: Naver, the portal and search engine; Tistory, the blogging website; and Cyworld, the main social media site in South Korea which is a hybrid of a blog and a personal homepage.  (Since 2010 Facebook has started moving in on Cyworld’s territory, therefore it would be prudent to have a vocal presence in both websites if you’re planning to expand into the South Korea web scene.)

The highest usage of social media websites in South Korea by age lands among young people, ages 20 to 29, with men slightly more active at 68% than females at 64.7% in 2011.  However, while Facebook use is on the rise, the opposite is happening with Twitter among South Koreans.  Many describe it as too crowded and too difficult to use, with less privacy than Facebook would offer.  Studies have shown that South Koreans prefer more closed, intimate social media sites, where messages would only be shared with a close circle of friends and family rather than to any stranger who happens to look up your screen name.  Instead, many of them use a Twitter-like live feed known as me2DAY, owned by Naver and popular among many South Korean celebrities such as G-Dragon and Sandara Park.

street-at-night-837446-mInterestingly, one of the most popular forms of social media in South Korea is blogging, with their top blogging network being Tistory.  (Tistory has since been purchased by Google Korea.)  While blogs often are not viewed by American companies as an efficient, high-speed way of communicating information to a large mass of people, in South Korea blogs are a widespread phenomenon that see a level of internet traffic high above what we would consider more conventional social media sites.  Another site that has seen a recent explosion of popularity in South Korea is KakaoStory, a mobile application where you can share photos with a group of followers—similar to our Instagram.  When it comes to instant messaging apps, the top three to familiarize yourself with are NateOn, KakaoTalk, and Buddybuddy.

Overall, if your company has designs on the South Korean market, be smart and get a good feel for the social media waters before you make any big moves over there—at this time, your best bet would be to familiarize yourself with Tistory, Cyworld, and KakaoStory, so that you will have communication with the broadest range of internet users.  And, of course, it would help you immensely to have a basic understanding of the Korean language as well.  Send us a free inquiry or take a free online Korean level test and get started today!

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