Marketers are increasingly looking at new ways and means to reach out effectively to their target consumers, even as they continue to reach out through the conventional routes. Fast emerging as a good medium to reach out and connect are the internet-based social networking sites such as Orkut, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Ibibo and Twitter, and homegrown sites such as BigAdda.
By extension, since they are socially interactive too, gaming sites and apps on social networking sites are also becoming good marketing avenues, offering focused targeting and interactivity. Rahul Sharma, VP - brand solutions, Ibibo.com, says, “A large subscriber base helped us unveil promotional campaigns for Bollywood movies, including Paa and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. We are now looking at social games as the next big thing.” Ibibo has five million registered users.
Besides, a series of new online services such as Foursquare, Yelp and Gowalla are building upon the mobile platform by incorporating ‘location’ into social networking. Foursquare already has a footprint across the world.
Go where the consumers are and interact with them, is the marketers’ growing focus. Mahesh Murthy, founder, Pinstorm, an integrated digital marketing company, says, “Social networking sites such as Facebook and Orkut offer an opportunity for brand engagement, where the audience can experience a brand through an application or a status update. Business networking sites such as LinkedIn and Xing offer brands the ability to do specialised B2B targeting and corporate campaigns. Microblogging services such as Twitter and Identi.ca allow a brand to broadcast entertaining or informative updates to fans and followers.”
Parminder Singh, business head, Google India, says, “Social media are increasingly becoming an integral part of marketing strategies. They offer advertisers micro-targeting opportunities and the means to engage the user through communities and other applications. Social media networks have gained importance with big and small advertisers. In the last one year, it has extensively picked up with small advertisers who’ve ramped up their budgets.” Google owns Orkut.
Reliance-ADAG’s BigAdda.com COO Shivanandan Pare believes social media automatically becomes integral to a marketers’ strategy if the target is youth (18-35 years). “The measurability is scientific and wastage of media spend is less. With high engagement and increasing use of social networking sites, more advertisers are coming back to us. Progressive advertisers are increasing their media spends on social networking websites.” BigAdda has done campaigns for Hindustan Unilever’s Axe, handset makers and telecom players.
Pinstorm’s Murthy says significant social media users in India include the country’s biggest banks, leading travel services companies and consumer electronics brands. “Pinstorm helps Sharekhan, Jet Airways and leading financial, travel, consumer and business brands with digital brand management, including social media.”
Noel Swain, VP marketing, Cleartrip.com, says, “Our digital spend has gone up from two per cent earlier to 70 per cent. The social networking space is seeing more allocation.”
Amitabh Pandey, president and head – ebusiness, Thomas Cook India, says his company is looking at a dedicated ad spend for online social media and may also offer discounts through them.
At Nokia, the digital platform has been popular, including social media that Nokia uses extensively to create a buzz around its product launches. Viral Oza, Nokia India’s head – activation, media, online sales and marketing, says, “Social media are an inherent part of our digital marketing strategy. We use various touchpoints on them to influence active online users.”
According to market estimates, around 25 million Indians are now on social platforms and growing at 20-30 per cent per annum. These consumers are the influencers for their friends and, therefore, advertisers too. Alok Kejriwal, CEO and co-founder of Games2win, says, “Our in-game ad network allows us to talk to consumers and influence them to either see commercial ads or click on other game products. Typical advertisers are FMCG, youth-centric marketers and Internet brands. In interactive gaming, the apps are branded very subtly and appear without disturbing the consumer.” Games2win has created applications for many social networks and claims they get around 10,000 visitors daily from India.
Marketing spends on online social media are still small compared to other online alternatives. But there is agreement that it is a space set to gallop with marketers as they find its interactivity and measurability, along with sharply focused targeting opportunities increasingly attractive. Kejriwal concludes, “Today, an e-mail, SMS or a message on Facebook from your friend, telling you about what she bought, has 100 times more value than the most expensive 30-second television ad.”