Episode Fifteen

The Pulse of Indonesia:

Dwi Adriansah of Twitter

20 April 2021


ALAN  0:13  
Welcome to Season Two, Episode 15 of the Indo Tekno podcast. I'm Alan Hellawell, founder Gizmo Advisors and Venture Partner at Alpha JWC Ventures. Selamat datang kembali, semuana. Now, few would argue with the claim that Twitter has become one of our best indicators of the wider pulse of the world and what's happening within it. It has delivered new modes of communications such as the hashtag, thousands of new acronyms, turns-of-phrase, abbreviations... In short, it has been behind, and sometimes at the very centre of, change in the 21st century. It is thus a real pleasure to be able to invite onto the Indo Tekno programme Dwi "Ade" Adriansah, Country Head of Twitter, Indonesia. Thanks so much for joining us today Ade.

Thank you very much for having me, Alan. Pleasure to be here.

ALAN  1:03  
Great. Ade, would first love to get a sense of where you grew up in Indonesia, where you studied and maybe the earlier years of your professional journey.

Well, I was born in Jakarta and grew up in the eastern part of Jakarta. I completed my school and earned my degree in Information Technology at Pelita Harapan University in Jakarta. I consider my professional journey quite diverse. In the beginning from the broadcasting industry, agency, tech, telco operators and the social platforms. I started to work in one of the top radio stations in Jakarta, Hard Rock FM, in the programme division to develop programmes, and it was quite conventional media in the early-to-mid-2000's. And then I shifted into the tech industry in 2008, moved to a subsidiary company of Global Mediacom, or MNC, to provide solutions, mostly for telcos. I ended up in the mobile and internet space when I joined Sequoia Capital and Singtel Innovate-backed Bubble Motion to lead the Indonesia and Malaysia markets. Then I moved to Singapore to head the marketing in 2013, to run the global marketing for the company. At the time, we launched a social platform called Bubbly. It was an audio-based social platform where people can record their short audio and share it to their followers. And we also partnered with some celebrities and content publishers that aim to engage a broader audience and monetize their content. It was my first time when I encountered the social media space until I joined Twitter as the business development head for Southeast Asia in 2015. I have learned a lot during my professional journey locally, regionally, and even globally; which I think benefited me when I moved to lead the Indonesian market starting in 2018.

ALAN  2:55  
Well, that's indeed a very rich and eclectic, both personal and professional history. Now, Ade, what is in the broadest of terms, the composition of the Twitter team in Indonesia? what do we do on the ground in Indonesia right now?

Actually, no matter what functions we work for, we work towards the same goal to help create a healthy public conversation. The teams working in Indonesia are not just those sitting in Indonesia, we have regional and even global teams, who are also supporting us to grow our audiences and people's participation in the market. We are all basically evangelists with different external stakeholders, helping them understand how to leverage Twitter to connect with their audience.

ALAN  3:41  
Gotcha. Now Ade, can you share with us the unique ways in which people use Twitter in Indonesia?

In general, Twitter has always been an interest-based platform. It's the place where people connect with other people or communities that have similar interest. Twitter is a place to see what's happening, find information and get connected with the audience and community. In Indonesia, we see people using Twitter for the following four things: One is a place to connect with communities, whether you're into movies, K-Pop, gaming, travel, health, marketing, or even finance. Indonesians go to Twitter, follow and get connected with what's happening within their interests. And the communities on Twitter help them to do so. And the second one is a place to find new passions. As an interest-based platform. Twitter users always follow the latest developments for the things they are passionate about. For those who like to cook for example, Tastemade Indonesia uploads various practical recipes, ranging from comfort food to experimental recipes. And the third one is a source of inspiration. With the nature of Twitter users that are influential and receptive to new things, useful and unique content will always be interesting to see. The courage of person to start a new business that eventually results in success, for example, is a source of inspiration for other Twitter users. Even as simple as a thread of the bathroom makeover can also inspire Indonesians on Twitter. And the last one is a place to share expertise and educate. For example, Pinot a global Indonesian illustrator with the handle @Pinotski on Twitter, uses Twitter to educate his followers. Besides showing his latest artwork, Pinot also often shares knowledge and tips related to graphic design and animation, which has been an inspiration to his followers.

ALAN  5:46  
Excellent. Now Ade, what interesting demographic dimensions of Twitter's user base in Indonesia can you share, that are quite different from other major markets? Maybe its gender breakdown, age range, concentration in cities? What are some of the unique aspects of the Twitter demographic in Indonesia?

Well, based on the latest GWI (GlobalWebIndex) data, Indonesians on Twitter are 48% women and 52% men. Actually, it's quite a balanced mix. Most of these people are in the age range of 16 to 34 years old, with 16 to 24 years old being the dominant age group. So I would say people on Twitter in Indonesia these days are young audiences.

ALAN  6:34  
Understood. Wondering if you can share with us maybe the top five abbreviations that every Twitter user in Indonesia really needs to be familiar with to use the platform competently, and to be cool.

There are several interesting terms that we often see from Twitter users in Indonesia. And most of these came from our young audiences. One is "mutualan". It means to invite other Twitter users to be your friends, simply ask to be mutual friends and to invite each other to follow. This is actually a friendly gesture of Twitter users to ask other people to be their friends. The second one is "sebuah utas", or a thread. Since Twitter launched the thread feature, many Twitter users have suddenly become "celeb-tweet", because the threads they publish have gone viral. This term refers to tweets that link together to form a story. Usually a thread is used by people when they want to tell a long story but are limited by the number of characters. And another one is "sobat miskin", or "poor buddy". For Twitter users, they must be familiar with the term and hashtag "sobat miskin". This term is intended for groups who often exhibit a luxurious lifestyle. The habits on this timeline were responded to in a comforting fashion by other Twitter users showing off and boasting about their own poverty. Another one is "plot twist". Twitter users want their followers to stay loyal to their posts. One of them is by throwing out unexpected content in their storyline. Usually, the plot twist is about a funny story that has succeeded in making followers laugh out loud. Last one is "tweet war". In English, it's also "tweet war". This term is often used to denote a heated conversation between Twitter users. A tweet war will easily go viral, involving certain public figures about Twitter user dramas, artists' gossip, or just complaints about Twitter users.

ALAN  8:46  
And so I suppose it's your role, among others to be a "tweet pacifist", is that correct? I'm joking. Now, which accounts in Indonesia have the largest number of followers?

We don't consider the number of followers as something that is significant because we don't really tap into who has the most follower numbers these days. An account with only 1,000 followers may have better engagement compared to those who have more than 100,000 followers. It really depends on how the account owner connects their audience with engaging content. That's why instead of highlighting who has the most followers on Twitter, our "Year on Twitter" report has now focused more on the most talked-about accounts. These are the people who constantly create content and drive conversation on Twitter in Indonesia. Last year's most talked-about account in Indonesia was the handle @FiersaBesari.

ALAN  9:43  
And can you tell me who is that individual? Just give me a bit of background.

It's actually a singer. He is one of the top musicians as well. Twitter itself is basically an interest-based network, so people come to Twitter to share and search for something they are interested in. And these people will likely only follow and converse or have conversation with people who have similar interests.

ALAN  10:08  
Staying on this line of discussion, what are the top Twitter topics these days in Indonesia?

Okay, so globally, there are four key topics that are dominating the conversation on Twitter: 1) entertainment, 2) sports, 3) news and 4) politics. In Indonesia, entertainment is the key conversation driver. It's an evergreen topic that's always there on the platform. It's always on. And under the entertainment topic alone, we have other sub topics that are constantly creating buzz among Indonesians such as K-Pop and anything related with the local movies or TV. For example, K-Pop is trending almost every day, be it about an album launch, a BTS member's birthday, Blackpink's new song, or when they are dubbed as brand ambassadors by Indonesian brands. Local TV drama series such as "Ikatan Cinta" has its hashtag trending every time a new episode is on air.

ALAN  11:08  
So a real media and entertainment slant to Twitter usage in Indonesia. Now Ade, can you share with us: what has been the single longest Twitter thread in the history of our operations in Indonesia?

Twitter has been the place for people to see what's happening, popular tweets and most talked about threads. But to measure the most talked about threats we do not see it from how long the thread is. An interesting thread contains content that is relevant with the audience, creative and generates high interaction with the followers. And when it comes to creating threads, Indonesian users are very creative. I've seen threads about horror stories, daily meals that the wife cooks for her husband, health-related tips; even threads about how to do a room makeover with a limited budget. In 2020, horror stories threads generated high interaction with the audience through re-tweet and also quote-tweet and likes. And it reflected a person's story about his experience witnessing a ghost with his very own eyes. And he drew the images and told the story on Twitter. One horror story that generated people's attention was "KKN Desa Penari".

ALAN  12:28  
Interesting. Obviously, we have this podcast programme. Some of the genres you talk about are also quite popular in the podcast domain. What is the level of corporate engagement on Twitter? How do companies most commonly use the platform?

As the platform serves public conversations, companies or brands are well aware of the importance of connecting with their audiences or customers on Twitter. In an overview, brands or corporations use Twitter to do mainly two things: 1) customer relation engagement. Being a live, public and conversational platform, Twitter is the best place for businesses and customers to connect. In fact, there are millions of customer service-related interactions happening regularly on the platform. And this leads to increased brand loyalty and sales. 2) And then consumer campaigns are the second one. Many leading brands in Indonesia have been taking the opportunity to change their way of advertising in providing information, support and entertainment for consumers to launch a campaign and get connected to their audience afterwards. For the consumer campaign alone, we see the brands are launching and connecting on Twitter; first, launching something new. It can be the new products, new messages, a new promotion, or any kind of new things. Since the audiences on Twitter are influential, receptive and drive results; the audience tends to spark the conversation and even shape the culture. We see leading companies in Indonesia leverage this approach during their launches, And the second one is connecting with what's happening. This can be an occasion like Ramadan, events like entertainment or sport events, or trends like K-Pop. So we have seen the success of leading brands using these strategies to connect with the audiences.

ALAN  14:26  
A question on the minds of many individuals and jurisdictions these days: Ade, how does Twitter approach the concept of trust in the year 2021?

Twitter's purpose is to serve public conversation. That's our bread and butter. Whatever we do will be guided by that. As part of the purpose, our priority at Twitter is putting the people who use our service first at every step. That means ensuring the safety of the people who use our service. These people include the people in general, the communities, or our customers. In the past one year, we've done many things to create a safer environment for the people who are using our platform. But we understand completely that we will still have a long way to go. To put things in perspective, we've expanded our safety policies, tightened enforcement, deployed more technology, introduced more granular products and features, and improved our transparency. These changes are having a tangible and positive impact on the health of the public conversations on the service. And we recently launched the first Twitter Global Impact Report, an integrated report on the work on the environment, social issues and governance, since Twitter was founded in 2006. Maintaining trust through transparency and accountability is very important today, and is key in achieving our goal of serving public conversation.

ALAN  15:57  
Great, that's very helpful. Now Ade, what is Twitter's business mandate or focus in Indonesia currently?

As we grow in Indonesia, we not only have many opportunities, but also face challenges. With the huge internet adoption rate, we definitely have the opportunity to grow. However, this also comes with challenges of how we can stay relevant in such a diverse market like Indonesia, and an ever-growing competitive landscape. This is not a business mandate per se, in my opinion. It's more how we can grow and cultivate Twitter as a force of positivity and force of good for Indonesians, who happen to be very diverse people with different cultures and even languages. How can we keep on staying relevant for them?

ALAN  16:46  
Well, let's talk about challenges. What broader challenges does Twitter see in Indonesia as it seeks to grow its business and its relevance?

You know, as a global platform, there will always be challenges and opportunities on how a global product fits into emerging markets like Indonesia. Therefore, we need to be more creative to find a workaround, as per my answers in the previous questions. With the current competitive landscape and market opportunity, how can we as a global platform be relevant to Indonesians? It's a market with hundreds of millions of internet users. Its young audiences span five different main islands, different local languages and cultures. And during COVID, we actually saw more adoption from different types of users, either companies or personal users who have been shifting into digital activities. This is where the opportunity also lies ahead for us. I would say the challenges that we face tend to make us even more creative and innovative to create more impactful stories for Indonesia. Another challenge would be digital literacy, of course. Not every brand understands how to leverage different social platforms who actually have different audiences. And some brands are better than others. But this is also an opportunity for us to help educate brands or corporations on how to reach out to their audience on Twitter.

ALAN  18:15  
Gotcha. Ade, is there one specific event that Twitter was involved in in Indonesia over the past few years, that makes you proudest of leading the platform in Indonesia?

One of the key early partnerships that we worked with was Peta Jakarta, which has already evolved into Peta Bencana on Twitter. I believe it was one of our earliest partnerships. We partner with the smart infrastructure facility from the University of Wollongong in Australia, and BPBD DKI Jakarta to launch PetaJakarta.org back in 2014. So PetaJakarta itself is a system that helps the Jakarta government to report flood-related tweets and provide live updates for faster response time during flooding emergencies. This programme was a first-in-the-world collaboration between a disaster management agency, a university and Twitter to use social data to both build a working model and provide real-time response to a natural disaster. These flood-related tweets will then be mapped on PetaJakarta.org. Now it actually has already been changed to the Petabencana.id platform for citizens to monitor the live situations and stay safer while the same tweets will provide a real-time disaster response tool in BPBD Jakarta's incident control room.

ALAN  19:40  
That's a fantastic example. Now Ade, more broadly, what are the most important social priorities of Twitter in Indonesia?

Twitter's purpose globally and in Indonesia is to serve public conversation. We are measured by how we help encourage healthier discussion, and ensuring people feel safe expressing their points of view. And you'll see this from the various features and products that we have launched and will be launched in the future. In the past year alone, we've launched various features to help people stay connected with their interest and communities. "Twitter Spaces": Spaces is where live audio conversations happen, and bring Twitter to life. This is launching soon to everyone globally. And then "Fleets" (a.k.a. disappearing posts after 24 hours). There will also be "conversation control settings": people can choose who can reply to their tweets, and then see the full conversation with the quote tweets, tweet about a tweet also added to the conversation. This feature was made even easier by showing all quote tweets in their own timeline in the "Tweet Detail" view. This is available on Twitter for iOS and Android, as well as twitter.com. globally. There are also various updates about our efforts to help people get the latest and valid information about COVID-19, for example, which we can see now under COVID19.twitter.com.

ALAN  21:14  
Excellent. So a number of really cool recent innovations, and then some new upcoming functionality in the pipeline. Looking forward to that. On the topic of COVID Ade, how did usage of Twitter evolve during the rise of the pandemic last year?

There are not enough words to describe 2020 as a challenging year, as there were so many things that have happened. People were adapting to the conditions with new habits. Doing activities at home, wearing masks and social distancing are the most significant changes felt by global citizens. With these drastic changes, people come to Twitter to stay connected with each other while seeking the latest information, sharing inspiration, contributing in doing good or just cracking some jokes to ease the intense challenges this year. Whether to know what's happening around the world, participating in social movements or sharing inspiration this year, Twitter is really the place for Indonesians to get connected with each other. Indonesians on Twitter, for example, have started to adapt to the current situation. Everything that used to be done offline can now be done online. We see people sharing entertainment content, community, getting connected, and even brands using Twitter to do live concerts. And during last year's Ramadan, Indonesians on Twitter were also searching for more entertainment content compared to the previous year. As people need to stay at home, Twitter has become one of the key sources to find indoor entertainment content.

ALAN  22:51  
Interesting, Ade. Now, in what other ways has Twitter been able to play a significant role in Indonesia's battle against COVID-19?

As I've mentioned earlier, our purpose as a platform is to serve public conversation. And one of the ways to do so is to make sure that people receive valid information from the authoritative sources about COVID-19. Some of the efforts to help people get the right information from valid resources are one, Twitter's search prompt. It's a dedicated search prompt feature to ensure that when people come to the service for information about COVID-19, they are met with credible, authoritative content at the top of the search experience. In Indonesia, we partner with Kementerian Kesehatan, the prompt points people to Kementerian Kesehatan's Twitter account and their official website of COVID-19. Also, we have a dedicated bilingual event page. We launched an event page feature to surface real time credible and official information about COVID-19 from authoritative government agencies, public officials, civil society and media. Located at the top of the home timeline, the COVID-19 event page is now available in Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, with a critical mass of expert organisations, official government accounts, health professionals and epidemiologists on Twitter. Our goal is to elevate and amplify authoritative health information as far as possible. Another one is a search prompt for gender-based violence ("GBV"). When people search on Twitter for local keywords associated with GBV, they will see a notification in a local language, directing them to the hotlines of local organisations where they can seek help, together with a list of NGOs that can provide the support that they need. In Indonesia, we have partner we LBH Apik Jakarta, a nonprofit organisation for women's legal aid; and Komnas Perempuan, the National Commission on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. And the last one is our work against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. So, last March 2020, Twitter introduced the strike system to educate the public on its policies and further reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter; particularly for repeated, moderate and high severity violation of our rules.

ALAN  25:23  
Understood. Some very laudable initiatives that you guys have crafted during the pandemic. And what a wonderfully colourful and dynamic landscape that you've painted for us, Ade. Some really interesting anecdotes and insights into the daily lives of Indonesia's netizens. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Dwi Adriansah  25:41  
Likewise. Thank you for having me, Alan. Thank you very much.

ALAN  25:44  
Absolutely. We hope our listeners have enjoyed today's episode. As always, please consider sharing any feedback that you have about the Indo Tekno podcast with us. Terima kasih telah mendengarkan.  Sampai jumpa lagi!