As an aspiring graphic artist, Mai spent most of her waking hours on her phone, scrolling through different social media platforms, like Instagram and Pinterest, for some creative inspiration. But since Ho Chi Minh City imposed strict social distancing measures since June, her screen time has increased dramatically, but not necessarily because of work.
“How long has it been since we were all allowed to go out? This lockdown is already making me stressed out, so I turn to social media for fun, entertainment, and for information on what’s happening outside my apartment,” Mai shared.
Thanks to the availability of different social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube in Vietnam, she can easily get some much-needed temporary escape from the upsetting reality happening in her hometown.
“There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed, and just check people’s posts. I think social media has become more positive these days, with all the funny videos and memes people are posting. Somehow, it makes us forget the fact that we’re actually struggling.”
Like Mai, most Vietnamese social media users seem to have increased their presence on their favorite apps for lockdown relief.
A new report from Decision Lab revealed an “increase in social media use during Vietnam’s ongoing compliance with strict social distancing and physical movement measures.”
According to its survey, which included more than 1800 responders across three generations of social media users Gen Z, Millennial and Gen X, Facebook, Zalo and Youtube were the top three most popular platforms in Q2 of 2021. Facebook, which dominated the survey, was used by 96% of the respondents. YouTube, a video sharing platform, got 86% while Vietnam’s very own messaging app Zalo got 85%.
Besides these three apps, all major social media platforms have experienced growth in popularity in Vietnam compared to previous years.
Instagram usage rose to 48% (from 46%). Tiktok, a new video-sharing network that has taken the online world by storm last year, saw its popularity increase tremendously, from just 15% to 42% this quarter. TikTok has even grown more essential to Vietnamese consumers, sharing the fourth spot with Instagram in Q2.
More people got back on Twitter, and 9% of people said they’d been active on professional networking site, LinkedIn.
Pinterest, a platform for ‘visual discovery’, also enjoyed a resurgence. It gained 6 percentage points to hit 25% in Q2 as more people looked for recipes, home workout and travel inspiration.
Vietnam’s Gen X also looks to favor local app Zalo more than any other app, with 42% of the respondents choosing the messaging platform as their primary app. Both Gen Y and Gen Z respondents chose Facebook.
Unsurprisingly, though, most of the respondents (54%) indicated that they can’t live without using Facebook. A little more than 40% answered YouTube, while 39% chose Zalo.
The report also confirmed Gen Z's wide presence on social media. In fact, 72% of the 16-24 age category said they are using more than four apps.
Overall, the report revealed that app penetration rates are increasing across age groups, indicating that Vietnamese consumers are more present on digital platforms than ever.
Popular platforms by functions
Music and entertainment videos
Tiktok’s popularity is undeniable, especially among the younger generation. It’s in its nascent phase of becoming the go-to application for music and entertainment videos, a category presently dominated by YouTube.
With Gen Z’s demand for more short entertainment, TikTok usage in Q2 of this year grew by 8%, compared to only 1% in Q1 of 2020. While YouTube tops at 63%, it’s usage has declined from 75% in Q1 last year.
But across age groups, YouTube is undoubtedly the No. 1 music streaming platform for Vietnamese consumers, who consider the platform as the most effective for all formats of visual contents, including full-length movies.
Streaming site Netflix has also garnered a 5% increase in market penetration in Q2 2021, slowly catching up to FPT Play. Compared to last quarter, the disparity between Netflix and FPT Play in terms of market penetration rates has gotten smaller. Netflix is the only foreign player in Vietnam’s market for streaming services.
As with previous quarters, consumers search for news on Google Search (29%), Facebook (26%) and local news sites (28%). But while Google Search is used by most Gen Zs seeking for information and updates on current events, Gen X and Y audiences are actually relying more on local news websites.
Zalo is the No. 1 messaging app for Vietnamese consumers, with 45% of respondents saying they use it the most to connect with friends and family. Facebook (27%) and Messenger (23%) are other popular communication tools. Vietnamese consumers, especially Gen X and Y, are moving away from Facebook as a communication tool, while increasingly favoring Zalo.
Facebook remains the most popular app for casual browsing, with 51%. It’s followed by YouTube (10%) and Zalo (6%). However, there’s an increasing number of Gen Z consumers who are using Tiktok for mindless scrolling. Other age groups prefer YouTube and local websites for this activity.
Shopee, a Singaporean e-commerce giant, has asserted dominance over all of its online rivals, with 74% of the respondents preferring the online marketplace for shopping. Shopee has captured the Gen Y and Z segment. But most Gen X respondents prefer to use Lazada.
The e-commerce “hierarchy” is clear across regions with Shopee dominating the market. That said, in rural areas, social commerce (Facebook) competes with Tiki for the third spot after Lazada.