Q&A: YeonJeong Kim – Twitter is in its ‘Second Heyday in Korea’ Driven by K-Pop

Since working at the Yahoo! Seoul offices in 2005, YeonJeong Kim has seen her career path wind through some of the world’s most well-known global brands doing business in the Korean market including Adidas, where she was Head of Brand Communications, and Microsoft where she served as Retail Marketing Lead.

Four years ago she joined Twitter Korea, where she now holds the position of Head of Global Content Partnerships, amid a time that has seen the social media platform regain prominence on the peninsula – growth that Kim attributes to the popularity of “K-content”, including K-pop and other entertainment born from the Korean Wave (Hallyu) that is washing over the planet.

According to Kim, the volume of K-pop tweets ballooned to a staggering 3.3 billion from January to July of this year alone as Hallyu continues its upward trend.

 
 

“K-pop is expected to contribute not only to Korea but also to global Twitter user growth,” Kim told Branding in Asia in a recent conversation about her role at Twitter, her take on branding trends in the country, Twitter’s efforts to address toxic interactions and harassment amongst users, and more.


What’s been keeping you busy lately?

As Head of Global Contents Partnerships of Twitter Korea, my job is to acquire content to generate public conversations and drive user growth and grow sales revenue from content.

K-pop is huge on Twitter globally, and the most powerful Kpop moment, the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) is coming. Even though I’m based in Korea, I usually work with the global & regional team as well as the Korea team. So I’m busy with K-pop globalization nowadays.

 
 

KPop tweet volume is at 3.3 billion from January to July, 2018. As global users already know, great K-pop bands like BTS, EXO, GOT7, TWICE, Black Pink and Red Velvet are performing impressively well on the global stage beyond Korea and Asia.

You joined Twitter from Microsoft, and before that, you were with Adidas and Yahoo!. Tell us about working in the social media space.

Twitter is what’s happening in the world and what people are talking about right now. One of our missions is to generate public conversations. It’s fun and fast. The biggest difference between my previous jobs is that I work on a social platform with strong content such as K-pop, so I can immediately see what I’ve done on Twitter is shared and spread.

It is growing as the only communication tool that captures entertainment content, such as K-pop, K-drama, Sports, and Political hot topics like the Inter-Korean summit, in real time.

I receive feedback from numerous users in real time and feel the strong influence power of social media every day.

I am proud of working at Twitter, and I feel I’m part of the history for Twitter to change the world. #LoveWhereYouWork!

How is Twitter doing in the South Korean market?

Twitter is now in its second heyday in Korea. In the early 2010s, early adopters introduced Twitter as the latest trend, and many opinion leaders used it. Twitter‘s popularity, which has slowed since the appearance of other social platforms, has been on the rise since 2016.

Twitter in Korea has been steadily increasing based on the growth of K-pop, and social issues. Especially real-time based global event like the Winter Olympics, and political issues such as the 2017 Presidential Elections, the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit, and the US-North Korea Summit have been actively shared on Twitter which makes Twitter as the only platform that shows ‘what is happening in the world and what people are talking about right now’.

What are the trends driving growth?

In terms of user growth, we have potential assets like games, K-pop, and the political side. As for the revenue side, we have big global brands like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia, and great Internet and Game companies, lots of start-ups based on apps.

Product wise, video products and Mobile app download ads are key drivers. It is also expected that K-pop will be one of the pillars of sales growth. Many K-pop bands are running Twitter ads at major points such as a debut, album release, and anniversary.

K-pop is expected to contribute not only to Korea but also to global Twitter user growth. Although Korea has more than 20 years of “Idol Group” history, it seems to be very fresh and unique in terms of the United States, Japan, South America, and Europe.

Although many long-running groups have attempted to tour abroad in the past and some have succeeded, I would say K-pop’s real global penetration has just begun.


Twitter content created in-house to drive interest in the platform


Earlier this year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey spoke about efforts to measure the “health” of a conversation. What is the situation in Korea, and what efforts are there to address toxic interactions and harassment among users?

Improving the health of the public conversation is the number one priority for our company – from our CEO down, it’s part of everyone’s job at Twitter. Our policy, product, and engineering teams continue to work collaboratively to find ways to innovate to protect our users and enhance their experience.

Between 2017 and 2018, Twitter made more than 50 individual changes to its product, policies, and operations and we have increased our action rates ten-fold. These steps include:

  • Using technology to stop abusive accounts
  • Preventing ban evasion
  • Stopping malicious automation automatically and at scale
  • Making affiliation with Violent Extremist Groups against Terms of Service
  • Communicating our rules more clearly to violators
  • Hiding reported Tweets from the experience of the users who report while we review
  • Improving how Twitter reviews abuse reports filed by third-party witnesses

We also support a range of local initiatives in Korea. One such example is our partnership with Lifeline Korea on #ThereIsHelp, which is a notification service on Twitter which provides valuable mental health resources to vulnerable people and encourages them to reach out and get help when they need it. When a user searches for terms associated with suicide or self-harm, the top search result is a notification encouraging them to reach out for help.

You’ve previously worked in branding. What are some unique trends in the South Korean market?

Entertainment & Influencer marketing is becoming more of a trend for branding. Even Korea’s major bank like Shinhan bank and Kookmin Bank collaborated with K-pop bands WannaOne and BTS.

Top brands such as Samsung Galaxy, LG G7, Coca-Cola, Gmarket, 11th Street, Mise-en-scène and Innisfree have contracts with K-pop idols as their ad models and those are becoming a kind of formula.

As people age, so do brands. Therefore, they have a big task to remain and maintain young and choosing Kpop idols as their models makes it easier to achieve the goal.

Another trend is the consumption of snack content. While the continuous growth of the video market became a trend a few years ago, shorter content wins among various videos.

What advice do you have for global brands looking to complete in a Korean market dominated by domestic brands?

The key is to understand the consumers and users. Global brands are looking for a new channel to communicate with their audiences. User analysis should not be based on demographic classification but by user’s interest and engagements. Age is not that important. Global brands need to first think about “What do our consumers like?” and “What do our consumers get mad about?”.

What can we expect from Twitter in Korea moving forward?

Twitter serves as a window for communication between Korea and the world. It is growing as the only communication tool that captures entertainment content, such as K-pop, K-drama, Sports, and Political hot topics like the Inter-Korean summit, in real time.

Popular K-content such as K-pop and K-drama have infinite content added value. For advertisers targeting the millennium generation, Twitter needs to be noted. Global users can receive the highest quality of K-content via Twitter. Korean users can meet global fans or customers on Twitter. Currently, Twitter Korea’s users and advertising inventory have much potential for growth.

It is expected that the synergy between K-pop and Twitter will be maximized within the next five years.

Photo by Kim In Chul via Twitter

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