SINGAPORE: More than half of Facebook users in Southeast Asia rely on the social networking site as a discovery tool, for everything from breaking news to new products and brands, research has shown.

Surveys conducted for Facebook by global market research company TNS across Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia found that, on average, 58% of respondents first heard breaking news via Facebook while 52% said they first heard about new products, brands or services through the platform.

Similar figures were reported for new games (56%) and new films/albums/books, festivals/shows (55%).

These averages concealed some marked differences, however. Just three in ten Singaporeans, for example, reported using Facebook as a place to discover new content.

But even if they weren't using it for that purpose they were using it for others, as the research claimed Facebook was changing communication behaviours across the region: overall, 61% of people surveyed across the five countries said they would rather talk to close friends on Facebook than on the phone or through email.

This sentiment was found to be most pronounced in Thailand, where 82% of surveyed people reported emailing less, 79% said they spend less time on the phone and 91% said they send fewer texts because they communicate via Facebook and Messenger.

This activity was not restricted to a particular time of day, with respondents using the Facebook steadily from early morning to the end of the working day and beyond.

Across all five countries Facebook usage was significantly higher than TV up until 5pm at which time both channels started to converge. In prime time, similar proportions of people were both watching TV and using Facebook – a likely indication of multiscreening.

The Vietnamese, for example, spend about 2.5 hours on Facebook every day, twice the amount of time they spend on TV and at least one hour more than activities on other media.

And for them multi-screening behaviour is normal behaviour, with around 16 minutes of an hour spent on TV simultaneously spent on Facebook.

Data sourced from Facebook, Digital Market Asia; additional content by Warc staff