Social media in Pakistan: digital habits and main players
“Pakistan is a country of 180 million total population, with 70% people living in villages and only 30% residing in big cities”.
This is what was said about this country until this era – the so-called “post PC era”, or the “era of millennials”. Today we speak of online and offline as not being two different dimensions, rather two sides of one page, so we are going to talk about the country’s digital scenario not just considering the number of people, yet also the impact social media in Pakistan actually has on society.
With about 30M Internet users, Pakistan is becoming a more and more important player in the Asian digital scenario. The country has just made its very first steps into the social media world, after the digital wake up of corporates & brands who are still in the process of learning how to take advantage of new media – although some exceptions are present. Nevertheless, the digital industry of Pakistan has shown a 45% growth in year 2011-12, despite the absence of 3G network until date.
Out of the total population of Pakistan, around 15% can access Internet, while 8% of them are now subscribing web services through cellular networks, mostly in main areas such as Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. Considering that back in early 2000s Internet was reaching roughly 0.1% of people, things are rapidly evolving.
Mobile is a big part of the growing process: according to reports by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, in March 2012 there were 122 million mobile subscribers – almost 70%, actually the highest mobile penetration rate in the South Asian region.
This only makes us wonder what will be the growth of Internet and social media users in the “post 3G era”.
So, what do Internet users of Pakistan do, and where?
The Facebook explosion
Out of almost 30 million internet users, 9 million of them are on Facebook making it the top most visited website of Pakistan, leaving even Google one step behind. Considering that that the social network reached 5 million users in 2011, it’s definitely a strong growth, mainly driven by male users, representing about 70%.
Recently an infographic has been published by Pakistani blog Third World Strategy, with an interesting breakdown of Facebook demographics in the country:
Also see the link attached below, Its a page run by a comic artist and over time has gained huge popularity, now in top ten most influential people of Pakistan on FB. He addresses political or everyday scenario by his comics. Sometimes he also targets the Ad campaigns on TV so people can relate to everything he says, Hence proved, funny works!!
On a side note, it must be added that humor works a lot in the Pakistani market. Comics by Arslan is a page run by a comic artist that over time has gained huge popularity, now being among the most influential people of Pakistan on FB. He addresses political or everyday scenario by his comics, sometimes he also targeting TV adv campaigns, so people can better relate to what he says.
Interesting to notice how the Facebook page of Nando’s – popular South African grilled chicken-chain– counts over 440K Pakistani fans, using humor and endorsement of stand-up comedy shows as a strategy to engage followers.
Social Media and Pakistani society
As reported in an interesting post by Samra Muslim, 28% of Pakistan’s social media users are active on other popular SNS, such as Twitter, Linkedin or Instagram, and on publishing platforms such as Blogspot.
Twitter, however still alien to most brands, is widely used by media and general public (as it happens in other fast-growing countries like Indonesia, editor’s note).
The Express Tribune, one of the most important Pakistani newspapers, counts over 60 thiusands followers on the microblog. Also public personalities are active on Twitter, with considerable amounts of followers – such as former-cricketer now-politician Imran Khan (over 600K) and Lahore-based popstar Atif Aslam (more than 160K).
Social media use in 2012 has grown by almost 50%, resulting also in the highest percentage of voters in Pakistani history at elections 2013, with a lot of online traffic, also bringing sit-ins and offline protests into the digital conversation.
Editor’s note: more on the issue can be found in an interesting report by journalist Sameen Hassan – the article also stresses how some candidates used social media more as a propaganda medium, rather than generating an open debate.
Speaking of the government involvement in the Pakistani Internet world, recent news was made by the threats of blocking Google from the country (as reported by the Telegraph) due to the presence of “blasphemous content”. Youtube was banned last year, after the outbreak of controversial movie Innocence of Muslims; this caused Google-owned video sharing platform to lose its market share to France-based platform Dailymotion in 2012-13, especially since the ban has been recently confirmed.
The importance of local websites
Let’s now explore some of the most popular local web-platforms and services among Pakistani Netizens:
- OLX, a classified ads platform
- Rozee, a job portal
- PakWheels, an automotive-related forum
Olx is an American classified ads platform. After a huge success in India, the Pakistani version was launched. The service is about selling and buying a huge variety of things online: their Pay off is “Yahan sab kuch bikta hay” – which literally means “everything is sold here”.
Olx is currently among the most visited websites in Pakistan, and among the most popular pages on Facebook in the brand category too, with almost 2 million fans. The brand is also popular for its TV ads, available on Youtube:
Another important local player is Rozee, a portal to find jobs online. Its very successful in Pakistan, and it has been involved in a series of offline promotional activities, such as spotting Rozee ads behind rickshaws – the typical local passenger cart with three wheels – and then sending the picture to rozee.pk, in order to win money.
Although the website is mainly used in English – as well as most websites in Pakistan – the name is in urdu language: Rozee means the income generated by working.
The last local platform we’re going to explore is PakWheels, Pakistan’s #1 car website to buy, sell and discuss about new and used cars. It allows users to buy used cars and car parts for sale, post free car-related ads, check the latest cars’ prices, compare features and read reviews.
The network was born just to sell-and-buy cars, but turned out to be the most used social media dedicated to car-related discussions, including motorsports, travel and lifestyle. It has huge traffic, and also works as a Yahoo Answers-alike platform, where users can ask almost everything related to cars, getting answers from people in every part of the country – and also other areas of the world, since users of the website are spread also abroad.
PakWheels counts almost 100K fans on Facebook, and it’s an interesting example since it really represents the Pakistani social media userbase: targeting hardcore cars fans, the website is popular among a male audience, of different age and status.