HONG KONG – Facebook, the world’s largest social network, announced it is opening a sales office in Hong Kong. It may be among the first hints that the company is gearing up for a move into Mainland China.
Facebook, which made the announcement at Social Media Week in Hong Kong, is clearly hoping to keep the move under the radar. It already has some 3 million users here.
Blake Chandlee, Vice President and Commercial Director, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Emerging Markets told a small group of local media, “We are excited about being a big part of the Asian market, in general.”
When asked about the company’s China strategy, Chandlee said “there are a lot of reason I do and don’t want to talk about China.”
The Chinese government currently blocks Facebook on the mainland.
Experts say after what happened with Google in 2010, Facebook has been staying away from both Hong Kong and China. Now, it is trying to very quietly set up an official presence in Hong Kong.
According to Charles Mok, Chairman of Internet Society Hong Kong, “the main reason why Facebook set up an office [here] is for business reasons and be where the advertising revenues are, but it is choosing to do it in a low-profiled way to minimize any political overtones or unnecessary speculations.”
This may also explain why Chandlee downplayed Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Beijing last year as a ”vacation” with his Chinese girlfriend Priscilla Chan, explaining “Mark is learning Mandarin.”
During the trip Zuckerberg met with the head of Baidu, China’s largest search engine.
Chandlee’s brief comments on Facebook’s plans for Asia provide some other insights into the company’s strategy for the region. “We are north of 500 million users and we are growing… and a lot of that is in Asia.”
Facebook opened it’s first Asian sales office in Singapore last summer.
When asked about the future, Chandlee said simply “mobile is the future of our business, especially in Latin America and Asia.”
A clear message, if anyone is listening.