With the rapidly expanding rate of the use of new media in the region, the role of social media becomes increasingly important alongside traditional media in promoting ASEAN community building. On Facebook alone, more than 120 million of ASEAN population are active users with Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia are among the 22 largest Facebook communities in the world. There is a need to strengthen the effort in maximising the use of different platforms strategically aimed at different target audiences.

Social Media experts from ASEAN Member States, EU Commission, Australia and Germany gathered in Bangkok and had an intensive discussion during the 2nd Social Media Exchange last week on 22-24 March 2013. The three-day workshop was supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Participants shared their knowledge and experiences with the ASEAN Secretariat to define possible strategies for ASEAN to engage citizen more effectively through the various Social Media platforms. Subjects discussed, among others, are: Social Trends and Insight 2013, Brand Strategy, ASEAN Message and Priority, Benchmark campaigning and social programme planning strategies, and Campaigning concepts and implementation.

Success stories were also shared during the Exchange including an organic creation of an ASEAN Community page that is currently managed by a group of 30 youths from all 10 ASEAN countries working together voluntarily to help promote ASEAN and its 10 Member States. From the past two years since its formation in 2011, this non-official ASEAN Community page has already reached 146,245 likes with over 59,000 people talking about the page. Kobchart J. Boon, a 19-year-old university student and one of the administrators of the page shared his views that “the topics people seem to be most interested in are places, cultures and food”. The collaboration of 30 administrators from 10 countries is mostly focusing on these aspects to populate the page with non-political matters.

For the past two years, the ASEAN Secretariat has also been utilising the use of various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube in promoting ASEAN, but there is a need to strengthen and maximise this effort. The ASEAN Secretariat aims to work on a Social Media Campaign in 2013 to further improve the awareness and reach out to a wider target audience in ASEAN Member States and beyond.