Social networks are a growing battlefield in Vietnam. As noted by Nguyen Huy of Mimo.vn in a recent chat with us, the platforms are fragmented. This is a salient observation as social sites in the country have yet to see a clear leader in any space. But this is the scene that Mobifone, one of Vietnam’s leading state-owned telecoms, wants to squeeze into.
The company has recently started promoting a new social network called Zoota. The new multi-platform social network includes social sharing, chat rooms, games apps, and allows access to MSN, Gtalk, and Facebook. The service is also offered on Java, Symbian, Blackberry, Android, and iPhone. Zoota is trying to appeal to customers first through games, a model that essentially put VNG, Vietnam’s biggest consumer IT startup, on the map. On top of all this, it is an extremely cheap offering. The cost would be 15,000 VND (US$0.75) for 30 days of service and that includes a promotion of five free SMS per day. With this extremely low fee, users can access all their main social networks. In the first month, the service already has 100,000 users. With support from a major telco, it’s just a matter of time before Zoota reaches one million users.
Zoota’s cheap multi-platform entrance, along with the Twitter-like Mimo, indicate that major Vietnamese companies are becoming more cognizant of tailoring such models to the fragmented market. But Vietnam’s current largest social networks, Facebook and Zing, were launched first on the web and gained their base there. I think it’s still not clear yet if a mobile-oriented model will necessarily give an edge over these big incumbents.
How choppy is Vietnam’s social scene right now? Here’s what it looks like:
- It was only a few months ago when Facebook surpassed local competitor Zing.
- Mimo is already at 2.6 million users just more than a year after going live.
- Twitter is rumored to have around 3 million registered users, although I hear there’s no evidence that there are anywhere near this amount of users.
- Mobile messaging apps in Vietnam still haven’t seen any clear leader emerge, but they are increasingly used by the majority of smartphone users.
- VinaGaming’s social gaming empire is under siege from smaller, more agile gaming companies like Colorbox.
- Dating sites are competing fiercely with one another, including players like Noi.vn, Vietnamcupid.com, and global competitors like Tagged.
- Skype is gaining traction over the leader, Yahoo Messenger. We would also have to include Facebook Messenger in the chat battle as well. With 8.6 million users on Facebook in the country, it’s hard to ignore one of its key features.
The interesting thing about the social incumbents in Vietnam is we can hardly call them incumbents. Facebook is struggling to integrate chat and mobile with its late entrance to native mobile apps – a mistake that Mark Zuckerberg even admitted to. In Vietnam, where chat apps are becoming increasingly popular, it’s clear that Facebook alone is not satisfying all of the users’ social needs.
[Source: PC World VN - article in Vietnamese]