Facebook is deeply entrenched in the cultural fabric of India: Avinash Pant

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Culture has gone virtual and so have the festivities. In 2020, more than 4 mn people discussed Diwali through 7.5 mn+ posts & comments on the platform, said Pant, Director – Marketing, Facebook

For the first time, Facebook has a regional cultural moment for its ‘More Together’ campaign in India. Avinash Pant, Director – Marketing, Facebook India, talks to e4m about the campaign, the importance of languages, how India is home to one of the platform’s largest communities with almost 416 million people accessing Facebook every month.

Edited Excerpts

Our short film on Onam is based on a true story and spotlights the members of the Ayyanthole Desam Pulikkali Sanghataka Samithi, showcasing how they came together to perform the first-ever virtual Pulikkali dance through a Facebook live amidst lockdown restrictions. The film highlights how we are all keeping up with our conversations and celebrations as culture becomes virtual, further demonstrating our brand belief that ‘people can do more together than alone.’

Can we expect more regional campaigns going forward? How important is the regional market for Facebook in India?

India is home to one of our largest communities with almost 416 million people accessing Facebook every month. With the evolving consumption patterns and consumer trends, and keeping in mind the large and diverse audience base, the regional market is a key focus area for Facebook.

Our consumer marketing efforts are focused on showcasing the true value of Facebook and the role that the platform plays in our lives. Our core belief is that ‘People can do more together, than alone’ and over the last year, we have seen this reflected in the innumerable ways people have come together on our platforms to help and support one another. Our campaigns are focused on spotlighting and celebrating people who tapped into the power of their connections and communities and we will continue to draw inspiration from instances like Ayyanthole Desam Pulikkali Samghataka Samithi.

We see Facebook’s ‘More Together’ campaign focus on the power of communities through its various phases. Can you please share how Facebook is enabling communities to come together on the platform? 

Our Apps are playing a critical role during these times as people leverage our platforms more than ever to connect with friends, family and communities. Over the past year, we have seen people use Facebook groups extensively – ranging from coordinated relief efforts to hosting FB lives, to pre-existent groups like Project Mumbai shifted their relief efforts towards COVID-19 related issues, and other groups like Humankind Global (previous Caremongers India) to raise support during the pandemic. According to Facebook and NYU’s GovLab report, more than 1.8 billion people (globally) use Facebook.

Groups every month, and more than half of all users are in five or more groups. Other findings go on to show that at least 43.8 percent of Indians find a sense of belonging in online groups and for 42.1 percent of Indians the most important group is online.

In the past year, we have connected over 2 billion people globally to authoritative COVID-19 information through our COVID-19 Information Centre and have also introduced a tool to connect people to information about where and when to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and expanded official WhatsApp chatbots on COVID-19 to get people registered for vaccinations with health authorities and governments. Moreover, Facebook features like the blood donation tool helped in connecting with donors with blood banks amidst the stay-at-home restrictions.

We have also seen creators like Saransh Goila launch initiatives to provide meals to those in need during the second wave of Covid-19, while others including Chef Meghna Kamdar have been curating easy-to-cook recipes with few available and simple ingredients for people to cook at home during lockdowns.

Have you noticed any changes in content consumption patterns by users on Facebook during the pandemic?

Our community in India has grown dramatically over the last few years, as more and more Indians have come online. We have seen the way people have used our platform to reach out, get help, be there for one another, share happiness, celebrate together and achieve personal growth. With the world practicing social distancing, we saw a rise in people using our platforms last year. In fact, for live video, there are now more than 800 million daily active users engaging with live streams across Facebook and Instagram for workout classes, concerts, faith services, and more.

An uptake in online activities on social media platforms has given rise to various trends in content consumption and creation. We have also seen content creators of all hues – from digital-first creators, public figures and celebs to publishers and media companies innovate and use our platform in several interesting ways in order to engage and entertain their community.  We saw an increase in video consumption around categories of food (especially. recipe content), education, DIY videos (arts & crafts), comedy and home improvement with a spike in Indic language content especially in languages such as Bengali, Odiya, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam apart from Hindi.

Moreover, culture has gone virtual and so have the festivities. Last year more than 4 million people talked about Diwali through over 7.5 million posts and comments on Facebook. We have seen people connecting and engaging around sports on our platforms. According to ICC, the India-New Zealand final in Southampton was the most-watched on average across all series that were part of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship. With India bagging its highest ever tally of medals at the Olympics, India topped the chart of countries that cheered the loudest and drove maximum conversations on Facebook during the course of the Games.

Can you talk to us about how Facebook’s consumer marketing strategy has unfolded till now?

India is a key market for Facebook and our broader consumer marketing strategy is focused on building trust with people who use our products and services, and to build value around each of our apps. We are deeply rooted in the fabric of India. From WhatsApp becoming a commonly used verb for how India communicates, to Instagram celebrating the culture of the country, to the birthdays and anniversaries and big life-events that get celebrated on Facebook every day.

About the author / 

Tasmayee Laha Roy

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