KUALA LUMPUR: Facebook is to open an office in Malaysia, as more than 18m Malaysians use the social media platform every month and 6.5m use Instagram, its photo-sharing service.

Nicole Tan, the former managing director of ad agency J. Walter Thompson Malaysia, will head a local team that will be looking to connect more Malaysians and businesses with the company's solutions, New Straits Times reported.

"Our local team in Malaysia will be focused on helping businesses tap into this unprecedented opportunity to connect with today's mobile-first consumers," said Kenneth Bishop, managing director of Facebook Southeast Asia, at the launch.

The extent to which Malaysians have adopted mobile and social media was underscored when Facebook used the event to release new user data.

On top of the 18m Malaysians who access Facebook, Bishop claimed that 94% "discover products and brands on Facebook" with 62% going on to make a purchase.

Compared to the global average, Malaysians are twice as likely to like a page and they also have 60% more friends. Furthermore, Nicole Tan added, they "spend more time watching videos on their smartphones than consumers in any other country in Southeast Asia".

Dan Neary, Facebook's Asia Pacific vice-president who only last month opened another office in Manila in the Philippines, used a blog post to outline why the company is so interested in developing its market in Malaysia.

"Malaysia is one of the leaders in digital adoption and innovation across Southeast Asia," he said. "Be it mobile penetration or time spent on smartphones, Malaysians are leading the charge in the region and its digital transformation has positively impacted both people and businesses."

With its 144% mobile penetration rate, Malaysia is viewed as being a mobile-first country and one of the key drivers of growth for Facebook in the region.

Data sourced from New Straits Times, Facebook; additional content by Warc staff