How Facebook marketing will transform brand awareness in India - Interview with Advit Sahdev, CEO, OdigMa.ODigMa is a performance based social media marketing agency which has focused primarily on Facebook and helped several small and mid-sized brands create a massive brand awareness campaign on Facebook. Read more about Advit here.
1. Has Facebook helped Indian companies connect with their audiences?
Facebook provides a great platform in terms of Facebook pages for companies in India to connect with users, so, it offers a community where people can directly engage with clients – they can ask questions, put in complaints, talk good and bad and by this the companies have a chance to answer and engage with the people, educate them, provide customer service and admit/accept faults (if any)and so on.
This is a very fair and open medium for companies as well as users to interact with each other. This also gives a sense of credibility to the brand.
2. What do you feel is the scope of marketing through Facebook in India?
In India, the scope is huge, especially for brands that don’t have the money to spend on media like TV, Print and Radio. This is because Facebook first of all, is much cheaper for people to create a page start building their communities in terms of very innovative methods and it’s also viral, so, if you do a great job, you can suddenly have a larger number of people following you.
It depends on how you engage and not on how much you can pay. That’s why it’s a great medium for mid-sized brands and start-up companies especially. Anyone and Everyone who is creative and innovative can do a great job on Facebook.
3. Have the Indian consumers accepted this new form of marketing?
The company doesn’t have to market itself; it needs to engage with the people. So in a way, it’s an indirect way of marketing. It’s not like watching a TVC, listening to a Radio advertisement or seeing a Print advertisement. The company should treat social media marketing as a platform where you can engage with people. You need to follow a lot of steps, you need to make the users aware of brands, get them to engage, create product awareness, get good ratings and reviews.
You need to be prompt in answering and then get the person to become your customer and actually buy whatever it is that you’re offering and in the process get that fan to become an advocate for your brand/company. If people have had a good experience they will influence others through word-of-mouth, which is much stronger as compared to an advertisement on any other marketing platform.
Definitely, a brand has to always be on its toes when it comes to social media marketing. They cannot ignore their Twitter account, Facebook Page , Youtube or any other channel for even a day. They have to constantly monitor what people are saying about them and quickly respond to it. If it’s their fault (in case of a complaint), they have to accept it and if there’s a misunderstanding, they have to explain to the complainant why what happened, happened.
4. What if a customer is still not satisfied with the company’s attempt to rectify a wrong and continues to bad-mouth it online?
Companies have to put in a constant effort. There will always be some guys who would be genuine and some who just want to create a bad name for your brand. For all you know, they might be people from your competitor’s team. You have to handle it in a diplomatic manner. You cannot start talking in the same tone as the complainant because you are the company.
If you have a customer who is not satisfied, you could always tell them that you would be more than happy to give them a further explanation and that they could contact you through email. But if you are not able to handle the situation, you could say that you would get a hold of the management to come and chat with them directly. If this doesn’t work and you realize that the person concerned is not convinced no matter how hard you try, there’s nothing else you can do. You’ll just have to wait and hope that the person gets influenced otherwise.
5. Is there a tangible difference before Facebook marketing was launched and after?
Yes, for many of our clients there has been a tangible difference. One of the things that brands should track is – what was my website’s traffic like two months ago and now?
You cannot contribute all of it to social media, but you might see certain trends. If you see a sudden shift in a trend then it can definitely be attributed to social media. You will also see a lot of people talking about your brand on other forums like technical forums, blogs, articles, etc. You need to constantly monitor all of it and see if there has been an increase. If you have an offline store like a retail outlet, you need to see has there been a change in the number of people visiting your website or calling up customer care enquiring about your products.
6. Do you think Indian brands could ever be at par with International ones? If yes, how can they get there?
I’m pretty sure many of the brands are already there, when it comes to social media. If you compare numbers in terms of percentage, they have definitely reached that point. For example, the top Facebook brand in India, have acquired more than 6 per cent of the entire Facebook community in India as fans. Now, 6 per cent is a huge number. So, if there are 20 million people in India, then they would have about 1.2 million people as their fans or more.
In the US, if there is a community of 300 million people, 18 million would come up to around 6 per cent. It’s very rare that one would come across a Page with that many fans. I doubt there are very many Pages which have 6 per cent of the entire US online traffic. So definitely, Indian Facebook Pages are there, but absolute numbers will always be less because of the size of the online community.
This will however increase with mobile presentations and location-based services. In the next few years, everything will be available on the mobile. In terms of mobile, the reach will be much wider in India as compared to the US. The target audience is much bigger and that’s where the absolute numbers will also be much bigger.
7. What about those brands that still haven’t reached that position yet? There are some brands that dive into social media without having any marketing strategies in place and who just seem to be following the herd mentality. What should such brands do?
Ideally, the first thing they should do is pause all their social media strategies and think about their objectives. Most companies don’t have any marketing objectives out of social media which is very wrong. What they should do then is, figure out what objectives they want to fulfill and see whether social media can help them with that or not. If the answer is yes, then the brand should go ahead. However, if it’s a no, then there’s no point.
8. The overall usage of social media in India is very low. Why is that so?
The primary reason is that not everyone has access to the internet in India. Overall, in India, I would say that out of the 40 million people who are online, 20 million are on Facebook. As soon the online presence of brands increases, these numbers will automatically increase. Today, there is a huge trend in India which I have not seen before in any other technology. People in and above the age of 50 years are getting into social media and they seem to be quite active. So, if that generation can get the hang of social media, then I don’t see why Facebook cannot get bigger in India.
9. What kind of future do you foresee for Facebook in India?
In India, I definitely see location-bases services. In the US, there’s a service called Facebook places, which actually helps a Facebook user to check into a location and avail offers from there. For Example, If I’m in the US and I walk into Pizza Hut. I just log into Facebook and update my status saying, ‘I have just checked into Pizza Hut’. By doing just that, I can avail of some special offers from Pizza Hut.
This is something that has huge potential and there are hundreds of ways of promoting location-based services. As Facebook mobile becomes more popular and active, the user base will definitely increase, more now with the advent of 3G. Even from a company’s perspective, it is much easier.
If I am a retail outlet owner somewhere in the South of Bangalore, I would not target the whole of India. I would only target a small focused community and engage with them. So, Location-based services is definitely the next big thing.
10. Now that Facebook has recently opened up its office in India, do you see any changes/ benefits for users in India?
That will definitely make things a lot easier for everyone. Today, if someone has an issue that needs to be resolved or a complaint to be made, it’s extremely difficult to get a response from Facebook any sooner that at least a minimum of two days. What happens is, the complaint/query goes to the Facebook office in the US and then to some back office somewhere in Malaysia or something and then back again to the US office. All that time wasted, can now be considerably reduced. I’m also hoping that it’ll be a direct conversation.
Secondly, Facebook will get a lot of valuable insights into how the Indian market behaves, what are the things that are different in India and the US in terms of traffic on the weekend, on a weekday and on a holiday. I’m sure they will create certain features around that. At the same time, they will also get a lot stricter on certain things. Now, they are being lenient because they aren’t focusing on the Indian market too much.
11. Is it true that Facebook marketing is only good for niche products?
No, I don’t think so. Any and every product/service can be marketed on Facebook. It depends on how you market it. As I was saying earlier, you cannot market any product explicitly on Facebook and never treat it like an advertising platform. It all depends on your creativity and innovativeness. You can market a soap, a car, anything if you know what your audience like and what will keep them happy.