Facebook SMB business is no different from a startup: Sachin Rao, Facebook India

From being a platform to talk to friends within the university campus to its recent acquisition of WhatsApp, Facebook has been the beast we all now love to hate It went from being a platform that connected friends, to a place of social discovery and the latest is the value it offers a business to reach out to potential customers. Perhaps it is no surprise then that 25 million SMBs are using Facebook effectively to maximize reach and build their businesses.

In India, Sachin Rao has been mandated the responsibility of growing engagement with SMBs and tapping them effectively to improve the connection between the social giant and netizens. YourStory spoke to Sachin to understand the plan for the country and his strategy of execution.

An introduction

Sachin Rao Country SMB ManagerFacebook IndiaSachin Kamalakar Rao is the Country SMB Manager for Facebook India. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, and in his current capacity is responsible for the SMB advertising business, including sales, marketing, service and partnerships. Prior to joining Facebook, Sachin worked with Google for five years as an account development manager.

India SMB business

The Facebook India SMB team is currently responsible for demystifying the platform to potential advertisers. SMB focus for Facebook in India is new, therefore Sachin and his team spend a bulk of their time interacting with advertisers, making them understand the product as well as understanding the needs they have. Facebook wants businesses to think of the platform as an important tool in fulfilling their marketing goal. “Facebook is not only about online marketing or social media marketing, it is about helping businesses reach their marketing goals, that’s it. What does any business care about? An online e-commerce store or an offline store wants to get people into their store. They are either looking at increasing traffic to their store, or increasing sales from existing customers. And our platform works brilliantly for any of this. Think of us as the way to meet your marketing goal – an important part – just like you think of TV, radio or print advertising,” explains Sachin.

Both big and small brands have found Facebook useful and continue to derive benefits from it. So on one end of the spectrum is Kaya Skin Clinic which used Facebook to do targeted ads in different cities and got 20% traffic from the site. And on the other hand, when Chumbak invested in Facebook, they had a good five times return-on-investment for their money, says Sachin.

One important part of the engagement strategy is to make the platform and its offerings simple to use for advertisers. Advertiser feedback has been constantly used to update and tweak their offerings. Sachin says the idea of ‘Promoted Posts’ came from such feedbacks. “Advertisers told us why do we have to create a new page if we want to reach out to the audience, why can’t it be done from the same page? We have taken the same philosophy and applied it to fans acquisition as well. Today businesses don’t have want to go through a different process to acquire fans and they can do it from a single page,” he explains.

Mobile is the next frontier they will focus on, and the process of feedback integration to help product refinement will continue throughout.

Identifying the target

From a product point of view, SMBs have always been part of the Facebook plan. “Anybody who has an idea and can lead business goals, to anyone who has consistent marketing spends and wants to grow the business, is our target,” says Sachin. Tools they built like ‘Promoted Posts’ which was originally intended to be directed to SMBs, have found good adoption with big brands as well. The cross-over effect therefore is very clear across products and features provided by the social network.

SMB

Passing the message

To educate users about the platform, Facebook mostly relies on one-to-one communication, by giving advertisers on the platform regular tips and introductions to new features being added on the platform. However, Sachin doesn’t rule out the one-to-many format (like workshops), and says they may look at the option in the future.

They have started a program called Start to Success, where businesses joining Facebook get 28 days to a month of onboarding support – here businesses are hand held through the different aspects of using Facebook. “The idea is to train SMBs so that they can be independent in the future. Businesses are in control here, they control the business and what they want to do. As it is early days we feel being a conduit of a good product, we can improve the customer experience,” says Sachin.

In general

Being a virtual product, there is not much time lag between features and tools released elsewhere in the world, and then being made available to advertisers in India. The needs of SMBs across the globe remain the same and therefore the way Facebook addresses the issues also doesn’t change too much.

The one million active advertisers who are on Facebook today, are double the number there were in 2012. As of December 2013 in India, 41 million users were daily active people (DAP) on Facebook, mobile DAP was 31 million. And monthly active people (MAP) on Facebook are 93 million of which 75 million are also mobile MAP.

While Facebook is proving to be useful across the board, Sachin admits that perhaps customer oriented brands and products find it more engaging. Therefore, a mobile phone brand or an apparel company can invoke more engagement among its customers rather than a satellite company or a power equipment brand. Travel, e-commerce, restaurants and education are among the biggest beneficiaries of Facebook engagement, he says.

His personal favourite from India is Pigtails & Ponys, a Bangalore-based venture, that Sachin says has used Facebook to drive as much as 70% of its sales. “They really exemplify what the platform is all about, they have leveraged their marketing goals, created a mobile strategy and have seen the value of the platform. It is one of our early case studies and even now they continue finding success and leverage the platform well,” he says.

While the mandate is to grow SMB advertisers on Facebook, the India team will use a combination of sales, services, partnership and marketing to drive results. “We are essentially a startup within Facebook, and I am not different from an entrepreneur who has setup shop and is trying to get momentum for his business,” says Sachin.


Preethi Chamikutty

Preethi Chamikutty

Preethi Chamikutty is a left-brain thinker, with a very intrusive right-brain. She enjoys many things typically girly. But mostly keeps her right-brain under wraps to focus on the strengths of her left brain. Preethi likes writing on a variety of subjects. Branding, marketing , advertising and personal technology are her forte. Follow her on Twitter @PCtalks