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Twitter to Open an Office in Indonesia

Aulia Masna - 20 March 2014

On Thursday night I was invited to an impromptu meet up with Twitter’s head of content for APAC and EMEA Christel Quek. She was in town to give a presentation at SES Conference during the day and wanted to feel the pulse of the Indonesian social media scene with a number of local bloggers. There were talks of regional programming, Twitter’s reach, and something about an office.

Twitter has sent its staff to Indonesia a number of times over the last few years. Twitter Asia executives Aliza Knox and Shailesh Rao being the most prominent ones out of Singapore, not to mention a number of engineers, have been in the country to talk about Twitter and learn about the local behaviors, specifically on how Indonesians use Twitter.

Indonesians are among the fastest people to embrace Twitter. While the majority of Indonesians on Twitter didn’t join until after 2009 –guess what happened in 2009?– in that time since, there have been roughly 48 million active Twitter accounts from Indonesia. Quek was reluctant to share the actual figure but she said that among Twitter’s 240 million monthly active users, Indonesian accounts make up “at least 20 percent of that” with “76 percent on mobile”.

To get a bit of sense of the size, that’s about twice the number of the Australian population or about nine Singapores. If that were a country, Indonesia’s Twitter population would put it on number 27 of the world’s most populous nations, edging out Colombia’s 47 million people, just short of South Korea’s 50 million people. On the other hand, many hundreds of thousands or even millions of those “actives” may well be automated clone accounts that appear legitimate to Twitter’s eyes.

What about the office?
Hang on, I’ll get to that in a moment. Quek said that the reason why she wanted to hold the meet up was to get insight into the local scene, but perhaps because it was held in such short notice –many of the participants weren’t informed until a few hours beforehand– it ended up quite awkward. Few came prepared with talking points and questions and as a result, it wasn’t quite as engaging as it probably could have been.

Twitter may have taken six years before it even appointed a person to oversee Asia, but since poaching Google’s Shailesh Rao and Aliza Knox in 2012 to lead Twitter in the region, it has established a 30-strong team in Singapore, with a primary focus in advertising sales. Quek may have been appointed as the company’s head of content but it doesn’t stray far from working with brands to create meaningful and sharable content.

What Quek has in mind for Asia is what she calls #TwitterPower. With the hashtag of course. The core idea for this regionally implemented program is as simple as to increase the use of Twitter and get more people to use it but she’s thinking of something more broad and more involved, though she has yet to pin down what exactly they would be.

TwitterPower is a program to engage Twitter’s power users in the region, to create value for the users and for them to add value back to Twitter itself. “We’re gonna be building up content destinations on Twitter and we want to see how we can amplify your voice on our platforms to give you guys more reach, more influence, and also better opportunities for our global audience”.

Enough about TwitterPower, when is the office going to open?
Gimme a minute. Over the next few months Twitter will be holding a number of “Power Tweet Ups” in Indonesia and across the region to learn what role Twitter plays among various communities and if there’s anything Twitter can do to enhance reach, activities, and interaction.

Quek said that she’s looking to spend more time in Indonesia to get a feel of the scene and learn more about Twitter’s significance to Indonesians and how it has affected the way people interact and respond to events, campaigns, movements, and other activities.

Shut up and tell me when Twitter’s going to open an office in Indonesia
In true Indonesian style though, the first question of the night was whether Twitter would open an office in the country. A question that is always asked, without fail, to any representative of any major American Internet company.

Quek said that setting up an office here is not out of the question given that Indonesia is the “second most important country to Twitter, and may be the most important in a two or three years”. With Jakarta being the leading Twitter city by user activity, there is a lot of interest in learning about the behavior. On the other hand, Twitter has yet to properly set up in Singapore –it doesn’t even have its own office there yet– so it may take some time before they open one here.

In other words, someday.

So, how many of you fell for the title and retweeted this article without reading through until the end?

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