World turns to social media to connect with consumers but Hong Kong yet to switch on

Nearly half of China's population now online: survey

When the Hong Kong-based accounting firm Grant Thornton Jingdu Tianhua finished up its survey into how many businesses worldwide were turning to forms of social media as a means of communicating with consumers it was pretty well expected that the penetration numbers would be high.

What the company didn't expect, however, was how far Hong Kong's businesses seem to lag behind the rest of the world.

A poll of 2,721 private companies across the globe has found that on average 43 percent of them have now turned to using the likes of Facebook, Twitter or to blogging to connect with the consumers they are chasing.

The exact number for countries in Latin America was 53 percent, the survey found, while in the so-called BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) the figure was 50 percent.

Surprisingly, for the world's G7 nations (US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada) the figure dropped down to 40 percent but even more surprising was the figure found for Hong Kong, the bustling metropolis whose leaders like to boast is "Asia's World City" due to its vitality and its connection to the rest of the world and the most up-to-date of trends.

According to survey results, just 22 percent of private businesses in Hong Kong are keeping up with the social media movement and using these options to connect with consumers.

What the survey also found out about Hong Kong is that the city is full of sticklers for tradition -- unlike their countrymen across the border in China.

Two-thirds of the Hong Kong businesses surveyed claimed that old-style hard copy newspapers were their main source of news while in China 65 percent said that online newspapers were number one -- the highest percentage anywhere in the world. Just 11 percent of China's businesses still turn the pages of traditional newspapers, the survey found.

"Businesses all over the world today are not merely using social networking platforms as media on which to passively post banner advertising, but as a channel of direct engagement with their business stakeholders. Yet, it is surprising to see that businesses in Hong Kong have refrained from the use of this effective tool of social mobilization," Daniel Lin, managing partner of Grant Thornton Jingdu Tianhua, said on releasing the survey results.