Emerging markets: The influence of Twitter

Henry Manampiring

In Indonesia, the Twitter phenomenon has evoked political incidents and is the popular way for brands to start a conversation, often by celebrities

During US President Obama's visit to Indonesia in November 2010, the Indonesian information minister Tifatul Sembiring – who always refuses to shake hands with a member of the opposite sex to whom he is not related – was seen on video footage eagerly grasping Michelle Obama's hands.

Sembiring denied any voluntary handshake, tweeting that “The First Lady's hands were pushed against mine… resulting in involuntary contact”. Overnight, Indonesian tweeps flooded Twitter with sarcasm and parodies, blowing up the incident, which became known as ‘Handshake Gate’.

Despite Facebook's superior user base, in Indonesia the real action is on Twitter. While Indonesians still check out their ex's new girlfriend on Facebook, conversations that have real effect on real life, such as politicians' indiscretions, are exposed and debated on Twitter. It is not easy to rule a country that has been dubbed ‘the Twitter capital of Asia’.