How an early bet on digital marketing is helping Chennai-based agency Social Beat reap rich rewards

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Before a rapidly growing smartphone user base and rising internet connectivity propelled digital advertising and marketing as an effective tool for brand promotion, few had expected online media to take off the way it has over the past few years. Back in the early 2000s, the number of brands trying the effectiveness of digital advertising channels were far and few in between.

So, when Vikas Chawla saw his company — a leading bicycle manufacturing company — dabbling with digital solutions and social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook for brand awareness, he was surprised to know the insights that were in store for him.

“I learnt a lot about how one can leverage these digital platforms and target specific audience groups like teenagers. We also saw that while there were several global agencies, very few Indian companies were offering digital and social media marketing for local brands,” recounts Vikas, who has years of experience in the advertising industry. He got together with his brother Sunil to launch Social Beat, an end-to-end digital marketing agency based out of Chennai in 2012.

A consultant who had launched his own e-commerce company, Sunil was the perfect business partner as he had the experience of working in the digital spectrum, he feels.

Decoding digital marketing for brands

The two brothers doubled down to build a presence for the company across sectors, but a rude shock awaited them. “We had a tough time convincing our clients that the digital medium is here to stay and they need to leverage it. Back then, the digital medium was not seen as important as it is today. During the first 2-3 years, we spent a lot of time not just selling our services, but also convincing clients about the potential of the digital medium,” says Vikas.

The nascent stage of digital marketing also made it difficult for them to find the right talent for their company. So, how did they tackle these challenges? With a ROI-driven approach where we focussed only on business outcomes and not on metrics like the number of likes and social media followers our campaigns were garnering, answers Vikas.

“In fact, our first client was one where we were to be paid only if we delivered the results. Plus, we diligently followed up on our clients' feedback which helped us refine our own business model,'' he adds. Plus, their focus on leveraging data-driven marketing has been a key growth driver for the company.

The two brothers groomed professionals from the ground up and showed them how digital brands are built and the approaches that work.

“We encouraged a culture of experimentation and let your team unlearn and relearn. Today, it's the agility of the team that is the secret sauce behind Social Beat’s success,” says Vikas.

Leveraging a .in domain name for online growth

While starting a digital-native brand, both Vikas and Sunil knew that an interactive website could be instrumental in demonstrating the impact Social Beat was trying to create. Going against conventional advice, they opted for a .in domain name that is offered by the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI).

“We wanted a domain name that stressed on our Indian origin while helping us boost business growth and engage with the Indian audience. The other reason behind the team's decision was that they wanted the name 'Social Beat', come what may," says Vishal.

The move helped Social Beat not just ramp up its online presence and audience engagement, but also draw clients from across sectors.

NIXI has helped hundreds of businesses across sectors and sizes distinguish themselves as a brand with its .in or .Bharat domain — which is India’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). It’s among the only internet exchanges in the world to offer a ccTLD in multiple languages.

Recalling his experience with a .in extension, Vikas said, “When we registered for a .in domain, we had heard that search engines like Google prefer a .com domain name. But, it turned out to be just a myth as we started getting a lot of organic traffic right from the get go as the domain name made our connection with India very clear,” he adds.

Social Beat was among the businesses who were able to find the silver lining in a dark cloud like COVID-19 crisis. He said the pandemic pushed digital mediums to become a mainstay for marketing campaigns. “Earlier, digital marketing was usually a part of the overall strategy,” he added.

The agency looks forward to developing its influencer platform in the near future and helping more brands scale with the help of digital marketing.

The ‘Shaping India Inc's Online Growth’ series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.


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