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In India, Social Media Is Not Always Social Enough

  |  February 22, 2012   |  Comments   |  

Advertisers need to understand the role social media plays in their marketing mix rather than go by pure hype of the Facebook phenomenon.

We all know that social media is omnipresent now in our digital marketing communications. Advertisers have started paying full attention of this aspect of digital media because of the sheer "reach" it provides in any market. They all want to do "something" in social media irrespective of their own knowledge of the social space itself. In India, the majority of them end up creating a Facebook brand page, which qualifies as a social media presence for them. The situation has dramatically inclined toward Facebook, which brings me to write this article, which is all about how social media is becoming "facial media" (Facebook + social= facial), dominated by Facebook in this market.

Source: Hubspot blog

Let me start by giving some highlights of the conversations I had with two different advertisers.

He briefed: "We want to do something in social media, as you know it is the buzz word today. We don't want our brand to be left behind in the race."

I asked: "What do you want to do in social media?"

He replied, "That is your job to suggest us what to do but we should be present on Facebook for sure."

I call this brief as a typical client expectation and the motivation to go social is clear in the statement. From all the advertisers I have met so far, 90 percent fall in this category - those who want to do something but do not know what.

In another situation, an advertiser said "Let's acquire as many fans as possible on our Facebook page, let's "buy" fans if need be. We want to be the leading brand in the social media space."

Out of the above 90 percent, almost 80 percent belong to this category of what I call as facial media. This thought itself is scary, and the concept of "buying" fans defies the basic logic of social media.

In an even more eye opening conversation, I asked an advertiser, "Are you using social media for your brand?" He replied, "Yes, we have a Facebook brand page."

Now let's understand the factors influencing the social media scene, especially in India:

  • Facebook is the largest social networking website in India. As per comScore, it has around 28 million users in India. And if we go by SocialBakers' number, the users are 41 million. This makes it the most lucrative option from an advertiser's perspective.
  • A majority of brands either do not have any web destination, or they do not have a "decent" web presence where they can send their users to. These brands use Facebook brand pages as pseudo websites till the time their main websites are up and running.
  • The number of "likes" itself gives advertisers a benchmark of evaluating the success of their Facebook page.
  • There are a number of agencies now available in India that are "selling" fans. You can actually buy fans in India.
  • Other social networks haven't really taken off in India the way Facebook has. If we see Orkut numbers, which is the second largest (comScore data) after Facebook, it stands at only 8 million users now, with LinkedIn at 5.8 million and Twitter at 3.8 million. All these numbers make a strong case for Facebook to take a dominating lead in this market. Many advertisers think that it's not worthwhile to explore these other networks.
  • A good number of advertisers are not aware of how digital media can help their business grow. The role it plays in the digital media mix is not clear to the majority of the advertisers.
  • Many advertisers are not aware of numerous social media tools, or platforms that they can use for their social media marketing. Agencies "selling" social media to these advertisers often themselves lack a complete understanding of the medium as well as various tools.

Who Can Help?


Advertisers need to understand the role social media will play in their digital marketing mix rather than going by pure hype of the Facebook phenomenon. Yes, users are there but they are there with a purpose. And they are not necessarily waiting for your brand to come on Facebook. Maybe Facebook is the ultimate solution for your business problem, maybe it is not and then they should explore other options as well. Social bookmarking, blog seeding, micro-blogging, social listening, social gaming, discussion forums and bulletin boards, aggregators, RSS readers, etc. are various social tools and platforms available to make a brand's presence in social media more meaningful. And please, they should stop "buying" fans immediately.

Digital/Media Agencies

Especially with India as market, digital doesn't happen naturally to most of the brands, given the traditional media domination in this country. The partner agencies of the advertiser should educate and evangelize the advertiser about the use and role of social media rather than washing your hands off after creating a Facebook page and then diverting all efforts to acquire more and more fans. From whatever interactions I have had with advertisers, most of them are willing to listen and learn about social and its implications, agencies should use this motivation to let them know of the full picture.

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RP  Singh

RP Singh is a digital marketing specialist with over 12 years of new media experience working in India, China, and Southeast Asia. As the CEO of Sirez Group, RP looks after 4 companies under Sirez: Sirez Infosystems, MRP Digital, Apptology and Sample&Try. He has worked at leading media networks WPP and Starcom MediaVest Group including organizations such as GroupM, Starcom, Ogilvy, Trident Group, and Smile Interactive. RP has worked on brands like P&G, General Motors, Amex, Diageo, Qualcomm, Nokia, Lufthansa, Pepsico, Economist, British Airways, GSK, Tourism New Zealand, HSBC, Ford, Perfetti Van Melle, Akzo Nobel, Apollo Tyres, GE Money and Hero Honda among others. He believes digital is about the consumer, not technology. RP has trained over 600 marketers in digital marketing so far and also a member of advisory council for World Brand Congress. A lead trainer and mentor for afaqs Campus, an active blogger, and a visiting faculty at leading B Schools.

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