Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Social networking: Waiting to explode

Recent finding flies in the face of conventional wisdom that social networking is predominantly a teenage phenomenon. This is also contrary to the findings of another survey carried out by Synovate globally, which showed that 58 per cent of people across 17 countries do not know what social networking is.Naturally, some companies are latching on to this trend. At the height of IPL frenzy earlier this year, the Mohali team made a very savvy move to connect with fans. “We used Facebook in combination with mobile applications for the Kotak Kings XI Punjab team, resulting in thousands of cheer messages pouring in,” says Meera Sharath Chandra, President & National Creative Director, RMG Connect, a JWT Group company that does digital, direct and CRM marketing.Big marketThis is not at all surprising given that there are already an estimated 17 million Indians who visit or use social networks. “This number is bound to grow once Orkut starts actively marketing in India. So, India is not yet in the top 10 globally, but should be by next year,” says Mahesh Murthy, Founder, Pinstorm, which is an independent digital marketing firm with seven offices in six countries.Despite this—and despite the media hype over the social networking phenomenon— ad spends, the major, and often the only, source of revenue for social networking sites, remain small (at an estimated Rs 20 crore) in absolute terms. “Our audit in 2007 showed that the digital marketing spends (Internet+mobile) in 2007 in India was around Rs 450 crore. We think that this market will grow almost 100 per cent this year to Rs 850 crore,” says Murthy.A more conservative estimate, by Lintas Media Guide 2008, however, places the market at only Rs 215 crore. This is only a drop in the ocean—the total advertising spend in India, spanning print, audio visual, out-of-home and digital media, was Rs 17,356 crore in 2007-08. In fact, the share of digital media in the total ad pie is only about 1 per cent. But the market is growing at a fast clip—according to Lintas Media, ad spends online are growing at over 40 per cent in India.“The interesting thing to watch is that almost 57 per cent of online users are part of social networks,” says Leroy Alvares, Country Head, Tribal DDB India, the digital arm of the Mudra Group.
Where are the Ads?
So, why aren’t advertisers flocking to social networking sites in larger numbers? “Social media works, and big time. But I would measure it not just in numbers but in the kind of affinity groups it builds. These groups are the cyber currency of the future. But overt brand messaging is a counter-productive strategy,” says Chandra. She suggests that the way to go is to find social glues that bind people together and then let the community form naturally and at its own pace. “You need to seed this community with stories, conversations... even controversies, and allow the group to express itself,” she says. The idea, then, is to ensure that brands become a part of the stories.So, for every company that creates a flutter about starting its own community portal, such as sunsilkgangofgirls by Hindustan Unilever, there are others like Samsung India Electronics or a Dabur India who have restricted their online tryst and not yet jumped on the much-hyped social media. “Dabur Gulabari has always been associated with beauty and is the only personal care brand in India offering the goodness of rose for soft and fresh skin. We have taken Dabur Gulabari’s association with beauty a step further with college beauty pageants in Uttar Pradesh. The contest was widely promoted on the Net with a special contest microsite that invited online entries. This website was popularised through various on-ground campaigns. It was a huge success and we received over 3,000 entries from across UP,” says Disha Asher, Product Manager, Dabur India.“I’m surprised that key youth-focussed brands like Coke, Pepsi, Levi’s, Lee, etc. don’t have much presence on social media,” adds Murthy. Why? One reason is that the booming satellite channels offer competitive rates luring most players. Also, most marketers tend to stick to a media they are familiar with. But this is still surprising, since the BTSynovate survey suggests that 80 per cent of all social networkers do notice advertisements placed on their sites, though only 52 per cent of such people know who the site sponsors are.That an addressable market exists is beyond question—and it’s not only the teeny-boppers who people this space—but the impression that social networking is a teenage phenomenon persists. Says V. Ramani, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Ignitee (that was until recently called Connecturf): “There is an increase in the absolute number of the 35+ age group on social networks, but because of the sheer pace at which younger people are taking to social network, their percentage remains small.” That said, sites like Facebook allow advertisers to advertise according to demographics and this, he feels, is an effective way to reach out to the elder age group on social networks. “I am sure other social networks will follow suit,” he says.Interestingly, one industry segment that is taking to social networking in a big way is the executive search sector. “In India, social networking is largely used for research and to obtain profiles and names. We don’t actively use these sites to seek candidates but use them once in a while for contact information,” says Purvi Sheth, VP, Shilputsi.
The most popular sites Orkut remains the most popular social networking site in India by a wide margin—more than 90 per cent of our respondents are members, and there’s no major deviation across age groups. YouTube comes second and BigAdda third. Interestingly, and contrary to popular opinion, there is no evidence to suggest that LinkedIn, considered a favourite haunt of “older people”, is actually attracting its supposed target audience, at least in India. In fact, LinkedIn has a lower traction among 35+executives (at 15 per cent) and decision makers (at 12 per cent) than among executives in the 25-35 age group.So, has social networking as an advertising platform, reached an inflection point where it is waiting to explode? “Yes,” says Murthy, “social networking-related advertising market will touch Rs 1,300 crore soon.”But the real beauty of social media, according to Chandra is “that you get responses realtime and on-the-fly,” she says. And that, in a country where even the epics have been passed down the generations by word of mouth, means that social media will probably explode once the dark clouds over the economy begin to clear.


  © Free Blogger Templates Blogger Theme by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP