Editor’s Note: This article is part of our ongoing State of Content series. The full State of Content report will publish January 2016 on Content Science Review.

In 2012, an Indonesian romantic comedy was released about two young people who found love through social media. Aptly named “Twitter Republic,” the film captured the zeitgeist of a country diving headfirst into the digital era. Indonesia – the world’s 16th largest economy – already has over 83 million internet users. Mobile penetration is increasing significantly: The total number of mobile internet subscriptions – 281 million – is even greater than the total population of 250 million – many Indonesians own multiple mobile devices. Social media adoption is even more dramatic: Indonesia boasts 80 million active Facebook users (the 4th largest Facebook population worldwide), 26 million Twitter users (with 385 Tweets sent per second), and the most active Twitter city in the world (Jakarta). There is still tremendous room for growth – Indonesia is expected to reach 149 million internet users by the end of 2015.

Indeed, the massive potential of Indonesia’s internet population has not been lost on global brands. But such a large, diverse country demands concrete localization strategies. Businesses must understand the market – even down to the regional level – and create content which can engage local users.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the key characteristics of Indonesia’s digital space as well as some examples of companies that have successfully engaged Indonesian users with content. 

User-Generated Content is Key

As internet penetration surges across the country, both urban and rural areas are showing dramatic spikes in usage. With the greater number of users, behavioral patterns have begun to emerge. For example, 95% of Indonesian internet users use social media as their primary online activity. One study found that of the 30 million Indonesian teenagers regularly using the internet, most prefer to interact online on a daily basis. They love to share stories, express their opinions, and feel like they’re being heard. As a result, platforms focused on user-generated content (UGC), such as social media or forums have become huge hits in Indonesia

In addition to Facebook, another successful international UGC platform in Indonesia is 9Gag. The company’s CEO, Ryan Chan, has described Indonesia as one of its most important markets – beating out Germany and Brazil. Chan’s team visited Indonesia in February 2015 to create a 9Gag meet-up in Jakarta. In terms of local UGC platforms, Indonesians favor KASKUS, which enjoys 25-27 million visitors per month. Netizens use the platform to interact on various topics and even buy or sell products on the forums. One popular new competitor on the local scene is 1CAK, a start-up company considered to be Indonesia’s local version of 9Gag. 1CAK has more than two million visitors per month, with an average length of 15 minutes per visit. They specialize in offering their users access to Indonesia-focused content.

UGC is essential for engagement in Indonesia. In 2014, the country’s first UGC movie was released. During the filming of Filosofi Kopi (Coffee Philosophy), a movie based on the best-selling eponymous novel, Director Angga Dimas Sasongko created a mobile app to allow the public to vote on concepts for the set design, location, wardrobes, soundtrack and even the logo of the film. The idea was simple: To engage fans and give them a sense of belonging and ownership toward the film. This movie enjoyed tremendous success – it reached the top five in the Indonesian box office rankings and had more than 150,000 viewers in only 12 days. Coffee shops were even opened with the same name to honor the movie and display memorabilia.

Content Localization is Essential

English is often used as the lingua franca for high-level business in Indonesia, especially in large cities. But in terms of the greater population, only 15% of Indonesians speak English. Content localization, therefore, is vital.

As an incredibly diverse country, localization in Indonesia is no easy task. Although the national language is Bahasa, the country contains over 300 ethnic groups, many of whom have different languages and customs. As a result, localization must be carried out at the regional rather than national level. Indosat, for example – Indonesia’s second-largest telecommunications company – created a special SIM card for Bandung (West Java), which offered targeted content (e.g., information on the local football club) and services in the local language. Even international firms are aware of the importance – and difficulty – of regional localization. Baidu Indonesia Managing Director Bob Bao admitted that localization based on Indonesian behavior and language was a major challenge.

Indeed, localization in Indonesia is about more than just language – it’s about the way netizens live their lives. It requires engagement on social issues, habits and lifestyle preferences. One international brand which has successfully localized in terms of communication and services is 7-Eleven. Knowing that Indonesians love social hangouts and interaction, they completely changed the concept of their stores, re-branding themselves as the best 24-hour hangout in Indonesia. Their mass campaign included outreach to younger customers through social media, and even incorporated Indonesian slang words to help young consumers relate to the products and services. The campaign was a huge success: 7-Eleven sales jumped U.S. $35 billion in 2011 and they expect to achieve U.S. $247 billion in sales by 2016.

Winning Indonesian Customers Requires Data

In 2014, Facebook and Twitter opened representative offices in Indonesia. Major Asian internet firms like Line, Kakao and WeChat (Tencent) have also held official launches and office openings in the country. They are looking to monetize their products and services with Indonesia’s large user base. In order to win market share, they are trying to understand the characteristics of Indonesian users – not only at the country but also the regional level. One McKinsey report, for example, found that buyers in Surabaya (East Java) are more inclined to seek advice from family and friends and are more image-conscious than buyers in Jakarta. At the country-level, Indonesia is known as a communal society. Technasia.com reported that, culturally, Indonesians believe in the “gotong royong” principle. Gotong royong means working together as community.

Some big brands have recognized that Indonesia is a community-driven culture and tried to adapt their content accordingly. They often hire Social Media Influencers (buzzers/bloggers) who, based on their expertise and regional clout, have significant influence in social media circles. These key opinion leaders (KOLs) help brands communicate with their target audiences. In Indonesia, they have become an integral part of the social media scene. Indeed, Reuters reported about the phenomenon of KOLs charging brands to post content. Each influencer has their own rate per post and some have even created sales packages for brands. Their post rate is based on their total number of followers, blog visitors and level of engagement with fans. Brands measure the success of such campaigns by click-through rates, number of re-Tweets or Likes.

Another essential method for brands to drive online interest and engagement is to keep up with the latest trends in Indonesian society. Line, for example – a popular messaging app from Japan – has been highly successful at creating promotions based on the latest trends in Indonesia. The company created a YouTube mini-sequel to the iconic Indonesian drama Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? (What’s With Love?). In keeping with the plot of the popular film, the campaign encouraged Line users to connect with long-lost friends from school. The campaign went viral and significantly increased Line’s user-base in Indonesia and Malaysia. After the success of Line’s promotion, other brands like Indomie, The Coca-Cola Company and Heineken created similar social media campaigns.

content marketing

Content Marketing in Southeast Asia is the Land of Opportunity

Indonesia has a young and growing population with tremendous market potential, which is helping usher in a new digital era. The world’s largest archipelago and its 250 million people are open to foreign brands. Internet penetration in Indonesia still has significant room to grow, with 149 million users projected by the end of 2015 and 281 million internet subscriptions. The internet will be the most important channel to reach consumers in what McKinsey believes will become the world’s seventh largest economy by 2030, surpassing the U.K. and Germany. Indonesia’s young population will be the key to its economic growth – and consumer spending. Many foreign investors and brands have already recognized this potential. Those that embrace localization and understand the nation’s diversity and complexity will be able to catch the rising wave of consumerism in Indonesia.

The views of the author does not necessarily represent the views of her employer.

The Author

Rinda Mutis is a Senior Content Manager for the International User Experience & Design Department at Alibaba Group. Based out of the company headquarters in Hangzhou, China, she is in charge of content strategy and localization efforts for the Indonesian market for AliExpress.com. Prior to working in Alibaba Group, she worked for more than six years in digital marketing at top e-commerce and telecommunication companies in Indonesia.


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