Sri Lanka Internet Usage Statistics – Updated for 2016


Looking for the latest internet penetration statistics for Sri Lanka? Well, has updated their numbers as of June2016, and according to them there are  6,087,164 Internet users in Sri Lanka which is a 27.4% penetration into the total population of Sri Lanka.

In December 2014, IWS reported a total of 5,689,800 internet users in Sri Lanka. If that number is correct, this only a 7% growth in 18 months. For over 5 years, Sri Lanka maintained over a 20% year over year growth in internet penetration. Last 12 months, we saw a clear increase in Social Media engagement in Sri Lanka with Facebook crossing 4 million monthly active users. In such a context, the latest published number of 6,087,164 is a little too hard to believe. All these years, IWS credited International Telco Union (ITU) as the source of information to report internet users count in Sri Lanka, but in this latest updated report they fail to credit the source to a credible organization like ITU. Instead they are crediting themselves (IWS) as the source of this information.

At Neo@Ogilvy we estimate about 7 million to 7.5 million internet users in Sri Lanka. We have multiple sources to derive our estimation. Yes, we based IWS’s last report of 5,689,800 users as of 31st December 2014 as our starting point, and then we cross checked it with Facebook and Google advertising data. Facebook reported 3.8 million monthly active users as of June 2016. Assuming 50% of all internet users are on Facebook this will be 7.6 million total internet users. Then, from the Google Display Network statistics we can see close to about 8 million to 10 million unique cookies for an ad plan covering Sri Lanka for all topics on GDN targeted. We can safely assume, 1 cookie is less than 1 person (given that people access internet from multiple devices with multiple logins) so even according to that the closest number of internet users we can estimate would be around 7 to 8 million. Therefore, in my opinion the latest published number is a little bit under estimated by IWS.

According to, nearly 68% of all internet visits happening in Sri Lanka on a mobile device. According to Facebook, 70% of Sri Lankan Facebook users use only a mobile device to access Facebook. This shows how mobile biased this market is. This is an indication of how marketers should think ‘mobile first’ when making decisions about their campaigns. Gone are the days you have to worry about the aesthetics of your website layout on desktop view (or is it?).

Your customer will now browse your website most probably on a mobile device inside his car, while he is waiting for a traffic light to turn green. He surely doesn’t have any time to critically evaluate your website’s color platter or it’s creative aesthetics. However, this doesn’t mean in anyway that you need to have a ‘mobile strategy’ for your company. Mobile is just an access point of your content, so there can’t be a stand-alone strategy for mobile.

What other implications are there for the marketers?

As I’ve said in one of the Neo@Ogilvy DigiCasts, internet is now penetrating into the rural Sri Lanka. The mobile dominance, high demand for Sinhala language content are the indicators of this fact. You are going to experience a new breed of internet users, who have never touched a desktop or laptop computer before, and who doesn’t have clue about who Mark Zuckerberg is but spending 5 hours a day browsing Facebook on their mobile. They have no clue about their own privacy on the internet and they have no respect for the privacy of others. We are entering the most chaotic era of Sri Lankan internet (Nation’s Trust Bank incident was just a teaser. Wait for more irresponsible disasters). This opens up the debate, “should government get involved in monitoring internet usage in Sri Lanka?” and this debate will heat up the online communities for next 12 months.  This is where the first 3 million users of the internet have to come forward and start talking about ‘responsible use of Social Media’. Need for educating the new internet users about basic internet etiquette, taking care of their own online privacy, and respecting to other’s privacy online will be the areas of focus for next 12 months for the newly formed ministry of Digital Infrastructure Development.

What do you think? Can 6,087,164 be the actual number of internet users in Sri Lanka as of June 2016? Or, could this be higher? Or even lower? What’s your view?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

10 Globally Renowned Digital and Social Media Experts to Follow

Digital Marketing and Social Media are fast evolving topics. It’s hard to keep track of things for many people, so we always look up to some kind of an ‘expert’ or a ‘go to person’ to get the latest knowledge we need.

The question most Sri Lankan marketers face is that they don’t have too many trusted ‘go to people’ in Sri Lanka to learn what they want. When you are totally clueless about whom to follow to get latest knowledge about Digital Marketing and Social Media , you can easily get misguided by some self-proclaimed “world-class expert” who have no much of recognition even in their own home country. 

Let me make your job easy. I am going to list 10 truly globally renowned Digital Marketing and Social Media experts who pioneered this field. They have proven their expertise in the field over many years by helping brands all over the world succeed in the digital age. They have written books with substance (anybody can write a book without substance and claim to be a published author), and sold millions of copies of their books. They have spoken at big global events like SXSWTEDSMMW, and many more. Above all, you can find enough knowledge about Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and about converging digital tools with traditional marketing by only reading the freely available blogs written by these people or by watching some of the videos of speeches they have delivered. Best thing is, you can learn all of these things without having to pay a cent. They write blogs, and they do podcasts!

Here’s the trick. Appoint a junior executive (or a management trainee) from your marketing team and assign them the responsibility of following these 10 people on a weekly basis. And then ask them to circulate a summary of what they have learned. Maybe they can do one hour training session every month, to pass the knowledge he gathered to rest of your team. This way, you can save hundreds of thousands of money you would otherwise waste on workshops and training programs which covers nothing more than what is available free of charge on the internet.

Here goes the list in no particular order.

I first started following Rohit’s ‘Influential Marketing Blog’ back in 2006 during my early career. For last 10 years, Rohit had been really consistent with his blog, and has published a large number of valuable articles about ‘digital influence’ and social media. He has written many books about digital influence and social economy, including bestsellers like Personality Not Included and Likeonomics. For anyone interested in hearing the latest digital trends from a person who had been truly consistent in predicting future digital trends, Rohit surely is the go to person. Read his blog here.

Ann is another digital age marketer I followed for nearly 10 years. I first discovered Ann’s writings through, a community website for marketing professionals around the world. Today, Anne is one of the most influential authority figures in the field of Content Marketing. If you need to learn more about what’s the big buzz about Content Marketing, then Ann is the person you need to follow closely.

Mari is one of the best go to persons on everything about Facebook pages. For tips of getting more organic likes for your fan page, to get your fans deeply engaged with your content, Mari will teach you a great deal of social media engagement strategies for Facebook. Of course her expertise doesn’t limit to Facebook, but I have bookmarked Mari as my number 1 source of knowledge about Facebook fan pages.

He sounds a little drunk in his podcast (err… pubcast!) but that doesn’t hinder the quality of content he has to share with you about anything related to Facebook ads. Just as I look up to Mari Smith for Facebook pages related knowledge, I totally rely on Jon for everything about Facebook ads. Jon Loomer is a true master of the Facebook ads platform!

“After mediating a crocodile family dispute, look at what Micheal Stelzner has found!”. That’s one of my favorite lines from his Social Media Podcast Micheal is the best resource composer I’ve seen in the field of Social Media Marketing. His podcasts features the best minds in the world of Social Media and Digital Marketing. In my bucket list, I hope to attend his Social Media Marketing World conference in San Diego someday (let’s hope the long distance air travel costs will come down very soon).

Author of the books ‘Engage’ and ‘Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy’, Brian Solis is a Social Media professional having roots in traditional PR. If you are someone who ended up in Social Media from a marketing background, here is a person who will bring a totally different perspective to your worldview about Social Media. I highly recommend you to check out Brian’s personal website and read some of his books.

The man who inspired millions of digital marketers around the world! I first started following Seth in 2005, and his book ‘Permission Marketing’ is the first ever book I’ve ordered on As a young marketer 11 years ago, I was fascinated by his philosophy of ‘Permission Marketing’. I remember I was talking about Permission Marketing with some Sri Lankan marketers in 2008/9, and most of them said “that will never happen in Sri Lanka!”. 10 years since I read his book, I teach the concept of Permission Marketing in every Digital Marketing class I teach at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.

Think Analytics, think Kaushik. He is the #1 Analytics guru on the internet (at least according to my ratings). I am someone who started following Avinash from his very first blog post on Occam's Razor, a long time before he became an ambassador for Google Analytics. Today, Avinash has evolved into a Data marketer; an evolution of being an analytics guy for a very long time period I guess. So, if you need to be in touch with what’s happening in topics such as big data driven programmatic marketing etc., here is the guy to follow!

OMG! How can I ever forget the friendly Australian who helps hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of bloggers around the world to do ProBlogging! When I started my blog nearly 8 years ago, I followed Darren closely to learn tips on how make a successful blog. Well, my blog never made a global list of top 10 of something but I have had some remarkable achievements in my life thanks to the blog I started using Darren’s tips. Darren still is one of the most influential authority figures on the internet about Blogging, and content marketing.

All the 9 other people I’ve listed up to now are practical experts of Social Media and Digital Marketing. But Dr. Dave Chaffey is one great academic you should not miss to follow. The author if the book ‘Digital Marketing’, a recommended reading by CIM for all their student members, Dr. Chaffey is someone who made significant contributions the knowledge body on digital marketing.

 Now, these are truly globally renowned Social Media and Digital Marketing professionals to follow. If you get a chance to attend a conference or a workshop where these people are speaking at, never hesitate to throw your money and book a ticket. You can expect a lot more than a 5 star lunch such a conference or a workshop.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Low Organic Engagement on Facebook for Your Brand? Here’s Why!

I recently saw a Sri Lankan Facebook community page with 50,000 fans reaching up to 600,000 people organically. Yes, I saw it right. Not a single cent was spent on boosting this post. Other than this post, the same page had many more posts with organic reach up to 20,000 people in some occasions (more than 40% of it's fan base). An average post on this page reaches up to 15% of its fan base.
But you heard, an average Facebook page post reaches up to 3% of the fan base, right? Can’t believe what I said? Here is a screenshot from the page I am talking about. I had to blur the exact content of the posts, as I am not permitted to reveal which community page this is.
Now, you want your brand page on Facebook to gain similar organic engagement, don’t you? Read on.
While community pages on Facebook attracts phenomenal rates of organic reach and organic engagement, most brand pages we manage for our clients struggle to attract more than 5% organic reach without a paid boosting. In fact, many Facebook marketing experts suggest the average organic reach of brand pages on Facebook has become less than 3% of the page’s fan base.
Many believe this is a gimmick by Facebook to compel the page admins to boost the post. I rather disagree with this belief. If Facebook wants to play such a low trick, why don’t they play the same trick on community pages?
I see the fundamental problem here as failure by brands to understand the Facebook ecosystem and newsfeed algorithm. Inability to understand Facebook as a social platform; not as another advertising medium is the first problem brands face on Social Media.
When planning content for a branded Facebook page, the brand’s social media manager must wear the hat of an editor of a newspaper, not as the advertising manager of the newspaper. And editor knows the importance of ads for a newspaper. Without ads, the editorial team won’t get their pay check at the end of the month. But, they know the primary focus of the newspaper has to be engaging content for its readers. Without engaging enough content, the paper will not attract enough readers. The advertising manager of a newspaper thinks different; they always focus on how much money the paper can make by selling ad space. In my experience, most Sri Lankan social media managers approach their Facebook pages as an advertising manager. They put too emphasis on pushing the brand’s marketing messages to the community, and pay less attention towards finding good quality content to keep the audience engaged. Facebook is a social platform, and it loves what the users love. If users are engaging less with too much of brand centric content, Facebook algorithm will automatically get adjusted to deliver lesser amount of your page’s content organically to its users. More you push your branded posts, and more it gets rejected, harder it will be for you to reach your audience organically. At one point, your page will get cornered into a ‘black hole’ in the Facebook universe. Nobody cares or notices your page…organically. This is the point where you have to keep boosting every single of your posts with enormous amounts of marketing dollars.
To overcome this vicious cycle, all you have to do is one simple trick. Dedicate 80% of your Facebook content for non-branded content, and use only 20% for your branded posts. Think of it as you create your own newspaper for your brand. 80% editorial, 20% advertising.
I know most brand managers get unhappy, the moment I mention ‘non-branded content’.
Typical question asked is, “Why should I post about what happened in Games of Thrones last week, if my brand can’t get a mileage out of it?”.
The answer is, if you want organic engagement for your page, you have to give social enough content for your fans. When your non-branded content gets more visibility organically, it creates a spiral effect on your branded posts too. Bottom-line is, not every single Facebook post on your brand page has to be branded or brand-centric.
What I mean by a “branded post” is, a Facebook post with a brand frame around it, or a clear promotional message. If you post about Game of Thrones and still use a branded frame around it with your logo on the lower right hand side, that post is still a branded post. The moment you put that frame, and your logo, your fan gets to know it’s an ad. The thing about ads on Facebook is, people don’t share ads on Facebook. People share socially interesting content. That’s why you have to make your posts look more like socially interesting content, not like a newspaper quarter page ad.
Take this example from Volvo Facebook page.
They haven’t put a corporate color frame around this post, and they haven’t pasted their logo in this. In fact, this is a picture taken by one of their fans. The car in the picture is a Volvo, but you can hardly see the logo. The social media marker here has clearly focused on what the fans want. Fans want car pics, not Volvo ads. Those who know will know that this is a Volvo. You don’t have to make it too obvious by pasting a big Volvo logo on one corner of the image.
To sum up, secret to attract more organic engagement for your brand’s Facebook page is to create more socially interesting content on your page. Make your content look less like advertisements, but be clever enough to retain your brand’s identity in the post. If you want to study the masters of this strategy, follow   Volvo, Oreo, Pringles, GoPro and Red Bull on Social Media.
Next time before you ask your Social Media manager “why is my page’s organic engagement so low?”, check whether you have given enough freedom to him or her, to experiment with the 80-20 rule of non-branded to branded content.
Friday, June 3, 2016
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

5 Myths about Digital Marketing in Sri Lanka

Did you know that if Facebook is a radio station, it will be the No 1 or No 2 radio station in Sri Lanka? (With over 3.9 million listeners). Did you know that internet can reach up to 50% of the total TV viewers in Sri Lanka? Did you know that some of the niche websites operating in Sri Lanka can reach a bigger audience than some of those niche print magazines in Sri Lanka?
These are only some of the lesser known facts about how powerful the internet as a mass communications medium in Sri Lanka. Even though the numbers reveal this, the popular belief among marketers in Sri Lanka is that the internet and digital channels are way too insignificant in their impact, in comparison to the traditional channels of mass communications.
Here are some of the popular myths about Digital Media and Digital Marketing in Sri Lanka.
1. Digital is a Low Reach Medium
I’ve already debunked this myth in my opening paragraph. Internet as a medium has grown at a significant rate of 20% to 25% year over year during last 5 to 6 years, but the awareness and knowledge about digital media among our marketers hasn’t grown that fast. That’s why in people’s perception, the picture about the media landscape in Sri Lanka is good five years outdated. In fact, Facebook can do a bigger marketing impact for your brand than the top 5 English language radio stations in Sri Lanka, if your target audience is SEC A,B English speaking Colombo upper middle class. But yet, some companies are spending 20 times bigger budgets on these radio stations in comparison to what they spend entirely on digital. There are estimated 7.4 million internet users in Sri Lanka, and 3.9 million of them are engaging with Facebook at least once a month.
2. Social Media is a Youth Phenomenon
“ My TG is more matured and affluent people. I don’t want to waste my budgets on Social Network sites frequented by a bunch of teenagers who live purely on their parent’s money”. This is a common expression I hear when speaking to people about Social Media, and this is the no 2 most inaccurate assumption about digital media in Sri Lanka.
In reality, 53% of all Facebook users in Sri Lanka are aged 25 or more. Only 19% of all the Facebook users in Sri Lanka are aged 13 to 19 (teenagers). Contrary to popular belief, housewives are one of the most active content contributors on Facebook who shares lots of content on public Facebook groups.
We ran a lead generation campaign for one of our clients, targeting Sri Lankan pensioners (aged 55+). That Facebook campaign was performing better in terms of generating inquiries about the service offered by our client, than the newspaper ads they published for the same campaign. They spent 10 times the budget they spent on Facebook, to buy these newspaper space. There are over 100,000 Sri Lankans aged 55 or more active on Facebook.
If your audience is the “achievers”, aged 39 to 50 to sell your high value high involvement product (a luxury car?, a luxury apartment?), then there are 340,000 Sri Lankans in that age range active on Facebook. If you convert 1% of them to buy your high involvement, high value product, it would easily hit your annual sales target wouldn’t it?
3. Digital Can Only Reach the Urban People
This is another popular myth about digital in Sri Lanka. “My TG lives in Kakirawa or Bibiley. Those people aren’t on Facebook”.
Did you know that 63% of all Sri Lankan internet visits happen on a mobile device? Did you know that Sinhala language websites attracts more traffic in the recent past than English language websites? The reason is quite simple. With the mobile devices and data prices becoming lower and lower every day, more and more rural people can afford to have internet connectivity. A recent chat I had with few top executives from (Sri Lanka’s most popular classified site) revealed to me that most of their newly acquired users are increasingly from out of Colombo or out of Western Province. A quick search on Facebook for the keyword “Matara” returns more than 100 groups, and some of them are having more than 20,000 members and highly active. If a brand can get into some of these communities, they can reach to these rural and sub-urban markets through social media led word of mouth.
4. Digital Media is Cheap
Despite the fact that internet can reach up to the 50% of total audience of TV in Sri Lanka, less than 3% of the size of the TV ad budget is allocated by brands for digital media. The reason is, there’s this popular belief that “Digital Media is Cheap. You can reach the entire internet with couple of hundred thousands of rupees”.
I see this as people confusing “scalability” for being “cheap”. There is a fundamental difference between a medium being ‘scalable’ and being ‘cheap’. A scalable medium is something you can start with a total budget of US$5 and then scale it up to US$5 million. In fact, you can run a Facebook ad campaign with a total budget of 5 dollars, but it won’t obviously give you the same results as a campaign done with a 5 million budget. Whereas on TV, the station will laugh at you if you say your total ad budget is just 5 dollars. TV, Radio, Print…. These are not scalable mediums. You need a certain minimum budget commitments. But on the internet, most advertising tools are scalable. You are not committing a certain amount of money to anyone.  You can start your campaign with a decent budget, and if you see positive results you can scale it up by adding more budgets on the go. If you see your campaign doesn’t deliver what you want, you can immediately pause the campaign and invest that budget in somewhere else it can work. There won’t be anyone to hold you against the wall saying “you committed for a minimum 10 million budget!”.
5. Social Media is Free
Most people believe in this notion that ‘social media is free’.
“Facebook doesn’t charge for having a brand page on their platform, so why your agency charge such a high fee for maintaining our Facebook page?”. This is a feedback I usually get from new clients we approach.
Most people believe, simply because the platforms are free on Social Networking sites, the marketing activities on such networks have to be free too. The reality is far from this. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and almost all Social Networking sites have deployed strict guidelines and policies how you can use their platforms for marketing activities. For example, if you are accessing the Facebook or Twitter API for a social media monitoring process or post scheduling, there is a limit you can use their API’s completely free. Beyond that point they charge the tool vendors a fee, and that fee has to be incorporated into a client’s Social Media marketing spends. On top of this, managing Social Media for a brand requires qualified people. People qualified in branding and marketing, who has a proper sense to use Social media in a marketing context. Such competent talent is hard to find in Sri Lanka, and obviously such talent doesn’t come cheap. These are the reasons why a decent Social Media agency has to charge a sizeable fee to deliver a good quality service to their clients.
These are just five points I noticed over the time, working in the field of digital marketing in Sri Lanka for over 10 years. Are there any more myths like these? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment with your experiences.
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Saturday, May 7, 2016
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Finding the Right Digital Marketing Talent for Your Company

Two years ago I wrote a blog post on my blog when Sri Lankacrossed 4 million internet users milestone. In that post I forecasted, many companies will struggle finding the right digital marketing talent in few years’ time, unless they start training their marketing staff for the digital world.
Two years later, in a market there internet penetration is over 30% (with closer to 7.5 million internet users) the enthusiasm among company top executives for digital marketing is really kicking in. Comparatively to two years ago, today companies are spending almost double the marketing money on digital. This still doesn’t even come closer to at least 10% of their total ad money. But still it’s a significant growth for the digital ad industry.

With the ad spend on digital increasing year over year, the next questions most companies are facing today is how to find the right people to manage these ad budgets. Marketing staffs at most Sri Lankan companies are not fully geared to handle a serious digital budget. They survived with smaller budgets by simply letting their ad agencies to make decision; if t doesn’t work, it’s only a couple of hundred thousand rupees, so nobody really cared. But today, the digital ad budgets come in millions. We see lots of occasions where companies blindly spend almost 80% of their digital ad budget on some fancy rich media take-over on a local news website (and that are it! That’s digital).

This why every marketing department today needs at least one qualified digital marketer. Eventually, your entire marketing team has to be trained for the digital world, but starting with at least one recruitment specialized in digital is important.

On the other hand, companies should not appoint people as ‘digital marketing managers’ for the sake of filling that vacancy. It’s important to find the right people. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, you don’t find plenty of people with real digital marketing competencies, because there is no single yard-stick to measure their qualification. If someone comes to an interview and introduce themselves as ‘hi! I am a digital marketing expert’, only method you can verify that claim is by counting the number of buzzwords he or she uses in the interview.  Because, most interviewers doesn’t have the enough experience to gauge the talent of a digital marketer.

This leads in to many problems for the company. You hire someone to the post of ‘digital marketing manager’ and then that becomes your benchmark for digital marketing.

Within last six months I was approached by more than a dozen companies, asking for help in finding the right digital marketing talent for their marketing department. It wasn’t easy to find people. At the same time, our agency gets regular calls from headhunters to tap into the talent base we managed to build over a period of three to four years. It isn’t easy to retain good people either :-)

During the year 2016, marketing fraternity in Sri Lanka has to do some serious contributions to uplift the quality of digital marketing talent in Sri Lanka.

In 2013, our agency (Neo@Ogilvy Sri Lanka) signed a MOU with the University of Sri Jayawardenepura, to introduce a Digital Marketing subject in their final year. We have successfully completed three batches, and maybe this is one source your company can tap into when recruiting Digital Marketing talent. All 200+ graduates passed out in 2013, 14, and 15 were given a three months crash course type of a training in digital marketing.

Since 2012, I have been involved with eBusiness Academy to train more than 1,500 marketers in Sri Lanka for Digital Marketing. Most of these people were trained at one-day bootcamp sessions, but there were around 50 people who completed the six months certificate course offered by EBA. Due to the busy schedule of the people involved, EBA went inactive for quite a sometime, but we kept getting calls asking for the date of next certification course batch.

Now we have decided to totally revamp our courses and planning to launch a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing in association with Sri Lanka Technological Campus (SLT Campus) in March. 

This is probably the best digital marketing training you can give your marketing staff in Sri Lanka. We selected Sri Lanka’s most experienced digital marketing professionals; each specialized in their own area of expertise. Resource panel consists of myself and Suranga, and expert marketers like Rohan Jayaweera (former Googler), Gamika De Silva (former SLIM president), Manupriya Jayathilake (Google Analytics Certified Expert),  Mohenesh Buthgamuwa (Mindshare Sri Lanka), Gayathri Seneviratne (eCommerce Manager for Jetwing), Chamara Peiris (UI/UX expert), Upeksha Premathilake (Google Certified Adwords Consultant), Milinda Tilakaratne (Manager eSales at Dialog Axiata) and many more guest resource persons. (Check all the resource persons profiles here)

This Diploma in Digital Marketing Course is an outcome of over one year of research and efforts by me, Suranga and Rohan and other resource persons are adding an immense value in delivering the course modules we developed by carefully benchmarking several international courses.

If you are looking for a good training program for developing the digital talent in your marketing team, check out the detailed courseoutline and make an inquiry here.

Our aim is to train and certify at least 70 good quality digital marketers before the end of 2016. This will be a real career booster for them, as the demand for qualified digital marketing professionals is increasing day by day.
Friday, February 19, 2016
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Latest Internet User Statistics for Sri Lanka - 2015

UPDATED: 2016 Statistics are in this latest post. has published the latest figures for internet users worldwide and according to them the latest internet penetration figure for Sri Lanka is 25.8%.

This is a total of 5,689,800 internet users in Sri Lanka as of 31st December 2014. Mind you, we are in the December of 2015 and these numbers are already one year old. If we apply a modest 20% year over year growth rate (YoY growth rate for Sri Lanka was always higher than 25% in past five years), we can expect this number to stand at 6,827,760 internet users in Sri Lanka as of 31st December 2015, which will be a penetration of 32% of the total population.

For last three years, I have been publishing an analysis about Sri Lanka internet penetration figures on my blog. Previously, I’ve blogged about when Sri Lanka reached double digit mark in internet penetration, and then I wrote this blog when we reached 3 million internet users in SriLanka. Last year I published a blog when Sri Lanka reached the 4 millioninternet users.

Here's the latest. Sri Lanka has officially crossed 5.5 million internet users as per International Telecommunications Union.

In all my previous analysis, I took and International Telecom Union (ITU) as my source of data. However the credibility of these sources was challenged by some people.
We live in a country where there is no proper institute carrying out research and surveys on internet usage. We don’t have ComScore reports for Sri Lanka, we don’t have eMarketer reports, no BuzzMonitor or anything reliable as an information source. Whatever the local initiatives we have here are far less credible and reliable than ITU and

Central Bank of Sri Lanka reported, that the number of internetconnections in Sri Lanka counts to about 2 million end of 2014. If we apply an average of 3 people using one fixed line connection that will be roughly about 6 Million internet users.

According to Google Adwords Display Ads Planner tool, advertisers can target 5.5 Million to 10 Million unique cookies (a cookie is assumed to represent one person, but there can be duplication).
Facebook reports 3.5 million monthly active Facebook users in Sri Lanka. If apply the global Facebook penetration (to internet users) figure of 50%, we can forecast roughly about 7 Million internet users in Sri Lanka.

If we put all these sources of information on the table and take a look, we are seeing a number in the range of 6.5 Million to 8 Million as the total internet user base in Sri Lanka.

Where there is no absolutely accurate source, people may still argue the credibility of the estimations we come up with available sources of data. But, we cannot wait until all the systems become perfect to keep up with the rest of the world.

Implications for Marketers

In my 2014 post about this topic, I mentioned it’s not going to be easy for any newcomer to compete on Digital Advertising platforms. This will remain to be true for 2016 as well. Already we see the CPM rates are increasing on most digital advertising platforms, even though it’s still not as expensive as TV or Print. Engagement rates and organic reach rates on branded Facebook pages keep dropping; meaning just having a Facebook page for your brand is not going to count as a proper digital advertising tactic.

These changes call for one thing; that is better expertise in digitally lead advertising and marketing strategies and tactics. Your company cannot afford to leave the digital marketing decisions of your brands to a set of interns with IT degrees. It requires better expertise, strategic thinking and common sense. 2016 is going to be a complete red ocean in Digital Marketing job market. Companies will try to headhunt expertise from other companies aggressively, creating more and more demand for Digital Marketers in the job market. As a buddying marketer, are you geared to cater this demand? 
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Have You Found Your Digital Nirvana?

When prince Siddhartha walked out of that royal mansion in Kapilvastu, in search of inner peace and a path to Nirvana, there were many teachers and schools of thoughts in ancient India about finding the noble path to Nirvana. Each teacher had their own way of defining Nirvana, and they practiced different rituals as methods of getting there.
Siddhartha explored all these alternate paths and realized most of those schools of thoughts about Nirvana were flawed in one way or another. He then realized finding his own path to Nirvana was the solution. He eventually found the path he was looking for as he enlightened to be the Gautama Buddha, and became the founder of the world’s oldest religion based on a philosophy preached by a human being.
Today, the field of Digital Marketing for me is somewhat similar to what it looked like in 600 BC India where many false thoughts and rituals about path to Nirvana was embraced as the absolute truth. Today we see similar confusion among people about what ‘Digital’ can do for their business, although hardly most these people understand a difference between ‘Social’ and ‘Digital’. In all honesty, I believe the phrase ‘Digital Marketing’ itself is flawed. Long before the traditional admen created the word ‘digital marketing/media’ to categorize all the things that they don’t understand and put them into one basket, we used to call this ‘e-Marketing’ or simply ‘internet marketing’. There again we had so many confusions. For some people, e-Marketing was electronic marketing, while for others it was email marketing.
There is no better example to show how confused the marketing fraternity is about the definitions of these words than how veteran Digital Marketing guru Dave Chaffey explains how he changed the titles of his famous text books on Digital Marketing.
“The books I've written have actually had three different titles, updated with the times. I started with Internet Marketing, then Emarketing and in 2012 renamed the original Internet Marketing book to Digital Marketing, about time too since I was involved in developing the syllabus as an examiner for the IDM Diploma in Digital Marketing back in 2004-5 when the term was hardly used at all - so it's been great to see 'Digital Marketing' adopted as the 'de facto' term!” (Source)
Now that the term ‘Digital Marketing’ is accepted as a legit sub-discipline in Marketing (Well, CIM offers courses in Digital Marketing, so there’s no reason to doubt it) let’s try to understand how it differs from Marketing.
The official definition of Marketing according to The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) is: “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” (I love this definition! It’s the best definition of Marketing for me).
Now the question is how digital marketing differs from marketing? Dave Chaffey in his book defines digital marketing as ‘achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies’. Perfect. In the end, it’s just about the application of a technology to achieve your marketing objectives.
It was long time back (in 2003) when Nicholas Carr wrote to HBR that “IT Doesn’t Matter” in business anymore, so why do we believe that technology really does matter in marketing anymore?
Yes, I use ‘Digital Marketing Professional’ as my LinkedIn title, but that’s just to differentiate myself as a personal brand among many other marketing professionals. But, prefixing ‘Digital’ to everything won’t necessarily help you to differentiate from your competition in your category, because there’s no competitive edge in using technology in business or in marketing anymore. 
I think it’s now the right time for people to stop thinking ‘Digital’ as a magic pill which solves all your marketing problems and focus more on improving the essence of your marketing strategy; that is to identify, anticipate and satisfy customer requirements in a profitable manner for your business.
There’s no Nirvana in digital, so don’t waste your time finding an end in merely a means. Stop being over obsessed with a ‘digital strategy’, but broadly be in focus on your ‘marketing strategy’ and seize the opportunities you see emerging in these digital platforms around you.
Originally posted on LinkedIn on this link. Please join the conversation on LinkedIn if you have opinions to share.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

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