Foreign enterprises account for a large majority of the market share

Among domestically-created social networks, Mocha, a social network founded and run by the Military-Run Industrial Telecommunications and Industry Group (Viettel) has a comparatively large number of users. In the first 6 months of 2019, this social network has a growth rate of up to 58%. Previously, free calling and messaging were key functions of Mocha but now they are only part of the benefits that this social network offers to its members. As Mocha aims to become the center of the ecosystem for young people, it continuously introduces new services to meet the increasing needs of young people, such as listening to music, watching movies, and reading news. Furthermore, it is also connected to many applications of Viettel.

Since the beginning of 2019, Vietnam has witnessed the launch of two social networks named Hahalolo and Gapo, which have been developed and operated by Vietnamese enterprises. Hahalolo is a social network that is built on the basis of a website and mainly serves e-commerce and tourism. Meanwhile, Gapo is modeled after Facebook.

Mocha, a social network which was founded and run by the Military-Run Industrial Telecommunications and Industry Group (Viettel).

Although Vietnam-created social networks are quite numerous, Vietnamese users still regularly use foreign-based social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. In particular, Facebook and YouTube are most used by Vietnamese people, with 61% and 59% of the population respectively. Google and Facebook also account for nearly 70% of the digital advertising market share in Vietnam.

Social media is now a channel of great influence on society. If Vietnam does not have social networks used by and run by Vietnamese people, it will be dependent and controlled by foreign social networks. Minister of Information and Communications (MIC) Nguyen Manh Hung affirmed: "It is time for us to create a new social network and a new search engine, which are more convenient, more humane and more user-friendly for the Vietnamese people."

Finding market niches for Vietnam’s social network

Regarding opportunity for Vietnam’s social networks, Director of Viettel Media Vo Thanh Hai said, “If Vietnam’s social networks are modeled after Facebook, Youtube or Twitter, they will surely fail. Although we cannot compete with international technology giants, we still have different advantages. For instance, Vietnamese firms may seek market niches and create social networks based on the tastes and expectations of the Vietnamese people.”

Many experts said, as all existing social networks are all free for users, newly-created ones must successfully resolve social network users’ big concerns, such as information security and safety. The new social networks should also have more interesting contents and unique features so as to attract users. This advice is very useful for Vietnamese social network developers. Vietnamese-created social networks should be more creative, more convenient, more interesting and more suitable for Vietnamese users than other international ones. At the same time, Vietnamese social network operators must prove that their social networks will firmly protect the users’ privacy and interests, and that their social networks have the best solutions to control ethical and legal violations.

In a recent meeting and exchange with technology start-ups, Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung suggested, a new social network should respect and protect the users, and contribute to building a more civilized and prosperous community. 

Regarding the role of large technology enterprises in developing social networks for Vietnamese people, Mr. Vo Thanh Hai said: "In the race to regain the market share of the domestic market, large technology enterprises should participate in two processes: Building your own social network and investing, supporting Vietnamese-created social networks with new and different ideas. Vietnamese social network developers certainly need capital and technical support from big Vietnamese technology companies. If Vietnamese social network developers seek foreign partners for capital and technical supports, their social networks will sooner or later be controlled by foreigners."

Another important factor for the development of social networks is the issues related to mechanisms and policies. Currently, Vietnam's laws still do not facilitate the development of Vietnamese social networks and even cause difficulties and disadvantages to Vietnamese social network developers in the competition with their foreign rivals. According to Mr. Vu Hoang Lien, Chairman of the Vietnam Internet Association, in order to facilitate the development and operation of domestically-made social networks, the government should back Vietnamese social network developers by issuing preferential policies on infrastructure, tax, and financial investment. Other supports, including legal counseling and training from State management agencies are also very helpful for Vietnamese social network developers.

Particularly, Vietnamese-made social networks should be promoted to all Vietnamese people. Mass organizations and professional associations should also encourage their members to use Vietnamese-made social networks. Finally, Vietnamese people should be aware of prioritizing Vietnamese products and services.

Translated by Thu Nguyen