SINGAPORE: Local social networking sites continue to dominate their international rivals in much of Asia Pacific, technology research firm Gartner has reported.

The company suggested that APAC contains some of the most established locally-developed social media platforms, including Friendster, Cyworld, Mixi and RenRen.

Such a gap in the coverage of dominant global operators restricts the ability of multinational marketers to communicate with important consumers and businesses in these countries, Gartner warned.

The big players are working to undermine the influence of domestic digital sites - which often boast many loyal, fee-paying subscribers - by offering new services.

"Some of the older social sites that were popular in Asia have begun to show a loss of momentum and in some cases subscribers," said Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner.

"The willingness of Asian consumers to pay for social network service features is being eroded by the onslaught of the free feature-rich Google juggernaut and the range of Facebook's platform."

The growing momentum for blogging and social networking in Asia Pacific was reflected in analysis by research firm TNS, which showed 88% of netizens in China have written their own blog or forum entry.

Elsewhere, the heaviest users of social networking in the region are in Malaysia, averaging nine hours per week, TNS added.

The growth of social media in Asia Pacific has unique contours in different areas, according to Gartner.

In China, Japan and South Korea, for example, online games have been the main driver, while in India there is a strong interest in dating and matchmaking.

"The Asia Pacific social media market is highly diverse and in many places evolving rapidly," said Ingelbrecht, adding that niche sites focused on business and dating seem to enjoy the greatest longevity.

"Building an early critical mass of local users, featuring local language and content provides a good basis for sustaining a long term and loyal user base."

However, there are countries in the region which are open to the global social communities of Facebook and Twitter.

In the Philippines, where social networking has the strongest foothold, Facebook is the country's most visited website.

The brevity and mobile accessibility associated with Twitter has also allowed it to cross cultural and language boundaries.

This is reflected in the growth of microblogging in Indonesia, where Twitter had its highest penetration of any country worldwide during the summer of 2010.

The Philippines was also ranked sixth and Singapore ninth in the world for Twitter usage on the same terms.

Despite this, Ingelbrecht remained sceptical, arguing: "Strong as the major social sites are today, however, we do not believe that any of them will dominate social media indefinitely in Asia Pacific."

Instead, it appears likely that social networking in early-adopting Asian markets, where PC penetration remains low, will continue to rely upon access to smartphones, mobile social sites and apps.

Data sourced from Gartner; additional material by Warc staff