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Five Unconventional Social Media Trends in Sri Lanka

‘Techy’ or not, all of us have come to gradually realise the sheer scale and power of modern social media.

‘Gangnam Style’ from the previously unknown South Korean rapper ‘Psy’ reached over two billion views on YouTube and reportedly forced the website to upgrade, showing the vast muscle of today’s ‘social media machine’.

Likewise the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ which kicked off in the U.S, became a global sensation through social media, and raised over $15 million for the ALS Association by mid-August 2014.

While many of us have been immersed in similar stories about how rapidly social media has been growing worldwide, we have been less aware of the change that has been taking place in the social media arena in our own backyard. With the growth of social media in Sri Lanka, several interesting and unconventional trends have emerged.

  1. While girls might be uploading more ‘selfies,’ it seems that Sri Lankan guys are more active on Facebook.

According to Socialbakers (which compiles social media statistics globally) almost 70% of Facebook users in Sri Lanka are males. However, if you consider age rather than gender, 41% of Sri Lankan Facebook users are between the ages of 18 and 24 and about 34% are between the ages of 25 and 34. Only little more than one per cent of local Facebook users are between the ages of 55 and 64.

  1. Former cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara is more popular on social media than many of our leading local brands combined.

kumar sanga facebook profile

According to the ‘Brands Annual 2014’ rankings published by the Lanka Monthly Digest (LMD), Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank, Commercial Bank, Dialog and HNB are the country’s top five brands (interestingly, out of Sri Lanka’s top 10 brands, five are banks).

These top five brands cumulatively account for about 571,000 Facebook ‘Likes’.

However, the Facebook page of our cricket star, Kumar Sangakkara, alone has almost 804,000 local fans – or around 233,000 more than the Sri Lanka’s top five brands put together! If you remove Dialog – which has more than 487,000 Facebook ‘Likes’ – out the picture, Sanga’s local fan base is more 10 times that of the rest (of the top brands mentioned) combined!

  1. Shakira is more popular among Sri Lankans on social media than most local celebrities/artists.

shakira facebook profile

The Colombian singer has nearly 460,000 Sri Lankan fans on Facebook and is only second to Kumar Sangakkara in terms of number of local fans. She is more popular locally on Facebook than celebrities like BnS and Mahela Jayawardena. In fact in the list of top 10 celebrities with the most number of Sri Lanka fans on Facebook, only four are local.

  1. The sixth most popular athlete in Sri Lanka based on the number of Facebook fans is wrestler John Cena.

Considering the cricket craze in Sri Lanka, especially in the lead up to the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, its no surprise that cricketers are the most popular athletes on Facebook, when considering local stats. However, the sixth most popular athlete locally is still somewhat surprising, given that it is wrestler John Cena (however, here it should be noted that Lasith Malinga seems to have two Facebook profiles and if the ‘Likes’ of both profiles are combined Cena would lose his place as the sixth most locally popular sports star). Indian Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt grab the last two spots as the 9th and 10th most popular sports stars in Sri Lanka respectively.

  1. Local brands that are popular on social media are often either technology based or upmarket retail brands.

Dialog, Mobitel, Ikman.lk, Etisalat, Pizza Hut, Anything.lk, Takas, Odel, Sri Lankan Airlines and KFC are some of the most popular brands on social media locally, when you consider statistic across the three largest platforms (FB, twitter and Google +).

However, globally the most popular brands on Facebook are dominated by food/beverage and clothing/footwear brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Red Bull and Converse. The strong contrast with the local situation where online-based businesses and telecommunication companies dominate the list seems to show that our mass market brands (banks, food & beverage, clothing etc.) have the most catching up to do.

So what does all of this mean for social media in Sri Lanka? While each of these trends might have several different implications, there are few points that are particularly visible. The fact that men are considerably more active than women on social media and that our local brands seem to have low social media presence when compared with that of local celebrities seem to indicate in general that there is a lot of potential for growth in social media, especially in certain segments (like the number of female social media users). With a gradual increase in internet penetration, this situation is likely to change and social media usage can be expected to steadily improve.

(Note: The facts and figures used in this article, are as given at the time the article was written.)

Feature Image Courtesy: Fil Dunsky

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