From early adopters to marketers who are only just waking up to the potential of Facebook, this is a platform waiting to be tapped.
Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform has scripted its own success story in India. From its beginnings as a Harvard student’s hobby project to conquering a major chunk of the world, Facebook has come a long way. On March 31, 2014 it reached a mammoth milestone of winning over, a 100 million users in India. But Facebook’s phenomenal growth has led to a variety of unique opportunities for brands that have found a platform to connect with the user base. As Kirthiga Reddy, Head, Facebook India, explains, “Facebook has brought about a mindset change and is helping marketers make business personal again.”
There was a time when businesses thrived due to the personal touch. Your corner store knew which brands you liked and helped in delivering the same to you. But with the onslaught of mass advertising and marketing, the personal touch was lost. But with digital platforms being used successfully for marketing, business is becoming personal again. It is a win-win for both the consumer and the brand. Facebook is one such platform that has been helping brands reach the right audience with the right message at scale but not at the cost of the user experience. Speaking about the user experience Facebook is trying to create, Kirthiga explains, “Brand messages in the news feed are competing with messages from friends and that’s the creative bar the brand needs to have. We take great care of the user experience . We closely monitor how users are reacting to the brand messages.”
It was only nine months ago that Kirthiga moved to Mumbai and shifted her focus from operations to marketing. The team started focusing on vertical specific needs of marketers for different sectors and there has been no looking back. Marketers have started using the platform for targeted messaging. “We are now being thought of as a marketing platform which can be used to drive brand and business objectives,” she says. According to her, the phrase “social media marketing” will be used less and less in the future.
Facebook is focused on giving brands the necessary tools and environment to connect with the target consumers. The Facebook for Business page that was launched a few months back is an effort in this direction. “It came from the need to educate people and how we could allow people to access our case studies and help them achieve their business objectives. It’s a portal that we launched 6 or 9 months ago. It’s a significant step for us to help with education,” says Kirthiga.
Brands like HUL, Nokia, Kaya , Samsung have already integrated Facebook into their marketing strategy. When Nokia used Facebook Ads to promote its Lumia range in India, there was a 15% rise in the adoption rate among those exposed to the ads compared to those who were not. The goal in this case was to generate awareness about the Lumia range. As a result, 31 million people were reached through this initiative. “With Nokia we have had a long standing engagement. They wanted to launch the 205 device. They wanted to sell more phones. We looked at the right target audience. We identified them to be people who were currently using feature phones. We considered this to be the right upgrade for them. So we crafted the message that directly resonated with this target audience. It drove tremendous results for them,” elaborates Kirthiga.
Each brand has a different and very specific objective which Facebook tries to understand and meet. It is the combined effort of the brand, creative, digital teams and the agency. But have Media Planners understood the potential of this platform or is it still early days? “ CEOs and CMOs wish to be educated and want to learn how to best leverage the platform to their advantage. Its a new platform which is evolving very rapidly and they want to know about the best practices and case studies. It’s all about building that eco system for both the brands and the consumers,” answers Kirthiga. According to her, there is a mindset shift which needs to take place. For some brands it is already happening. “Nokia has gone from maturity to maturity. They started by using very precise targeting to using the figure of sales and wanting to grow further. It’s been great to see the journey from 4 years ago to now when the platform is being used in the largest plans of big brands to those of SMEs.
What has also contributed to the growth in the user base of Facebook is the phenomenal growth of mobile users in India. More Indians are logging on to Facebook via the mobile phones. Within digital, mobile is the fastest growing medium. This drives the need for marketers to be on platforms like Facebook and they are adopting a more holistic approach towards division of media spends. “Earlier , if you had to reach out to a million people you had to wait for the prime time ad slot on TV. Today, with mobile, prime time has become ‘all the time’. At a 100 million users we are comparable to the top GECs. Our daily reach, 45 million monthly active people is 7 times larger than the English newspaper,” says Kirthiga.
It is an exciting time for Facebook in the country. With brands like Coca Cola, HUL integrating Facebook in their marketing strategy among many others, an interesting shift seems to be taking place. People’s perception about Facebook simply being a social networking site is undergoing a change. Facebook’s ability to reach out to unique user bases for different kinds of targeting has pulled in brands from almost all sectors. How Facebook tackles all the brands with their unique needs will be worth a watch.