Facebook outlines its 3-pronged efforts in line with Malaysia's digital ambitions

Facebook Malaysia will undertake a three-pronged effort to support Malaysia’s on-going efforts to progress in its digital focused economic development path. The three approaches are helping Malaysian businesses grow and transform both at home and abroad; enabling improved internet connectivity; and supporting community building efforts.

This is part of its "Fast Forward Together" strategic long-term initiative and comes as it just launched its new expanded office space in Kuala Lumpur. However Facebook declined to comment when asked if it will be ramping up its headcount and increasing new talent. Country director Nicole Tan said it does not break out employee numbers by country, region or function, but Malaysia is an "important market" for Facebook in Asia Pacific. As such, it will continue to acquire the right talents based on forward-looking plans to drive growth in the region.

Tan added, Malaysia is in the midst of societal and digital transformation remains an important area for Facebook. "With the office expansion, you will see us taking a more active role, with us having more open house workshops, road shows, more support for businesses, agencies and communities," she said.

Focusing more on SMEs

According to Tan, 76% of users are connected to a local Malaysian business and 15.8 million of consumers on Facebook in Malaysia are connected to a small business in a foreign country. Tan said that while digital adoption in increasing productivity is crucial for SMEs to expand further, most Malaysia SMEs are still not ready due to lack of digital skills, access to talent and quality internet connectivity.  To aid SMEs, Tan said Facebook launched tools to help small businesses save time and resources so they can focus on growth - automated ads, appointments and new video creative tools.

"Automated ads takes the guesswork out of creating effective ads that can run on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Audience Network and make it easier for SMEs to focus on growth," Tan said. She added that the video creative tools also offer new ways for SMEs to easily edit existing videos with automatic cropping, video trimming and image and text overlays. Meanwhile, the appointments tool helps SMEs book and manage appointments on Facebook.

Additionally, some of the initiatives Facebook has implemented to help Malaysian businesses transform and grow include its "Made in Malaysia, Loved by the World" initiative, blueprint training and the Developers Circle to help developers and start-ups. It will also continue to invest in the latest infrastructure and connectivity technology, such as scaling Terragraph technology trial in Malaysia. Meanwhile on the community building front, Facebook plans to drive positive social impact with its Facebook Community Leadership Circle Program, We Think Digital programme and "Why am I seeing this?" function, among others.

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Areas Facebook hopes to bank on

Tan told A+M that the ephemerality of the Stories function, messaging and videos will be among the digital trends for 2019. Approximately 40% of Stories are being created in Asia Pacific, which Tan said is the highest number of story producers worldwide.

"Stories are optimally suited for mobile and consumers love the format. Now advertisers are seeing it as a dynamic creative canvas; It’s fully immersive, it’s completely vertical with lots of fun elements that makes it an interesting format to build for," she said.

Tan added that consumers are turning to messaging when they want a brand's guidance or expertise, hope to seek a more streamlined shopping experience or receive updates from brands. She said that messaging is important because it draws people and businesses into what can become an ongoing conversation, rather than a one-time transaction. In many cases, messaging can offer people a concierge-like experience, Tan said.

As for videos, Tan said that it is a powerful medium for bringing people together and has been "exceptional" in its effectiveness to connect people through storytelling. "It is emotional and personal. It brings people together like no other medium," she said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad said during the launch that in building a new Malaysia, it is on a mission to build, rebuild and reinforce its position as a nation of strength, integrity and commerce where prosperity is shared and growth is accelerated. In his speech during the office launch, he said that SMEs are "essentially a vibrant push-factor" in Malaysia's economy and technology could ensure businesses become more effective, which in turn could yield an increase in productivity and output as well as wages for the workers.

"On the government’s part, it will encourage and provide incentives to investments and collaborations in turning Malaysia into a hub for digital services and communications. In addition, the government is also encouraging Malaysian companies to enhance their capabilities in these areas by collaborating with multinationals in order to become regional or global champions," he said.

He also urged Facebook and other platform providers to continue collaborating with the government and law enforcement agencies in order to ensure the social media realm remains as a platform that generates positive change rather than the negative ones.

“Social media platforms such as Facebook are important in connecting businesses, consumers and communities so that we can create a more connected world. This is a step forward in the work that is being done at the governmental level with private and public sector to grow and contribute towards a more vibrant national economy," Gobind Singh Deo, minister of communications and multimedia, added.