Social media marketing in India: a talk with “Lighthouse Insights”
Lighthouse Insights is a leading source of info and researches for what concerns the digital marketing state of the art in India.
We interviewed its founder Prasant Naidu, in order to have a better picture of how brands can use social media to communicate in India, what are the best digital marketing practices and – more importantly – what are the future trends and opportunities in this rapidly-evolving scenario.
– Hi Prasant, Lighthouse Insights is a cool blog about a very important market. How did you start this project?
I have been blogging from early 2005 but back then it was more like an online diary. Later in 2011 my interest towards reviewing apps in my free time led to the initial start of Lighthouse Insights but then I had no clue that I would be writing about Indian social media.
Social media in India was pretty nascent. Along with a bunch of recognized agencies the industry saw a lot of startups jumping into the bandwagon. There was a lot of hype, experts, but the market lacked a platform that could talk about what was brewing in the Indian social media space backed with insights.
After some brainstorming with my wife – Vinaya Naidu, also Co-Founder and Editor – we decided to cover the space. What began with baby steps by writing reviews on social media campaigns, grew in three years to cover the entire Indian social media space with news & insights, campaign and app reviews, case studies, interviews among others.
– The Business Week predicted that in 2015 India will be the biggest country on Facebook; what are the current number of social media in India, and how fast are they growing?
Facebook is definitely the leading social network in the country, with 82 million monthly active users as per Q2 2013 data. Mobile, which has seen tremendous growth in the country, is cheerleading the growth with 62 million accessing via mobile.
This is one of the reasons why Facebook is strongly focusing on mobile in developing countries like India.
The state of social media has definitely evolved in India. With the country going to witness general elections this year, we have seen a tremendous growing interest and investments from political parties in the country. Besides brands today are not only investing more on digital and social but they are also building platforms and focussing on integrated campaigns.
Twitter is slowly strengthening its base in India with operator tie-ups and as a second screen, and the growth of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Hike, LINE, etc. in the country cannot be debated. The article on Indian Social Media stories from 2013 will give a much better picture.
Despite all this growth, social media has barely scratched the surface. It is still small when compared with TV and Print, but the growth at which it is penetrating and influencing people in the country is commendable.
– We recently wrote about digital-based projects in rural India; according to your experience, are social media and mobile technologies making urban areas and rural areas come closer?
In Q3 2013, smartphone shipments in India has grown by 229% year over year to 12.8 million. Mobile penetration has been beyond the rural and urban divide. Though the smartphone market has been spiking up in the country, feature phones still dominate the market.
Companies like U2opia have been working to bring the joys of Facebook on feature phones at a very low cost and minus the expensive data pack for the common man. The company recently tied up a similar partnership with Twitter too, where it is planning to bring the power of 140 characters on similar devices minus the data packs.
Definitely social media and mobile technologies are helping to make the urban and rural areas come closer. Going further I believe that Indian startups are going to contribute to this opportunity aggressively.
– Let’s talk about marketing: can you tell us the most disruptive digital campaigns launched in India in 2013?
In 2013 at our end we reviewed more than 100 social media campaigns. From campaigns being run in silos, the industry is now more focussed on integrated campaigns and at the same time are trying innovative ways to engage with fans.
My personal favourite campaigns have been the ones from Philips and Sony India. During the Philips LED launch on social media, the brand created buzz through leaked videos starring a popular actor. Here’s one of the videos:
The Project Resound campaign by Sony India has been executed – once again – with the help of videos by popular singers, as the brand sought to promote its quality headphones.
Another one would be the real time countdown Facebook cover photo by mineral water brand, Bisleri – the cover photo updated dynamically every time a fan joined the page, as you can see below. There are some more in the 2013 social media campaigns that have been listed out here.
– Usually big brands communicate in English on social media: does this shrink the potential target, in terms of numbers? Are there any cool digital campaigns run in local languages?
English is more or less the official communication language in the country, so most of the brands stick to it.
However, on and off, we have seen brands, political parties, government agencies conversing also in the regional and in the national language (Hindi) too. The Bangalore Traffic Police Facebook page is a great example where the page uses both the regional language and English to communicate.
Also, during the social media promotions of the Bollywood movie of Gangs of Wasseypur in 2012 we had seen the extensive use of the national language across the website, Facebook and Twitter, with a series of interactive initiatives involving the characters of the movie.
– Last question: the biggest DOs and DON’Ts for a global brand approaching the Indian market through social media.
I won’t be giving any advice on the DOs part to the global brands entering the social media market in the country as they are way smarter and I presume they would be working with the Indian agencies who very well know the pulse of the country.
However, one small suggestion in the DON’Ts section would be not to cover up issues when things have gone wrong. Today the customer, be it Indian or American or from any part of the world, is way smarter and will catch you. So accept and move ahead.
Finally don’t try to do things on social media without a clear objective since a majority of users are on social media for socializing rather than interacting with a brand. This anyways applies globally to all brands in the space.
– Thanks Prasant!