Social networking is gradually becoming the buzz word for internet users not just in India but worldwide. It is becoming more and more important for people to be social networking friendly, over and above being internet friendly.
A research by comScore, a digital market research company, suggests that the use of social media in India grew 43 per cent in one year to 33 million users in July, making the country the seventh largest market for social media, after the USA, China, Germany, Russian Federation, Brazil and the UK.
“The social networking phenomenon continues to gain steam worldwide and India represents one of the fastest growing markets at the moment,” said Will Hodgman, executive vice president for Asia Pacific region, comScore.
Another report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reveals that 23 per cent of Indians who are online access social networking platforms.
The telecom connectionWith people’s need to stay connected increasing, the use of social networking on mobiles has been gaining prominence, which was good news for both network services providers and handsets manufacturers.
For operators eyeing a piece of the data market to generate higher revenues, social networking came as a boon. Handset manufacturers, too, boast about the number of social networking sites their devices come pre loaded with.
In fact, internet usage on mobile is mostly limited to accessing social networking sites. Tata Docomo admits that the company noticed selective usage on internet on mobile where the focus of users has been to use social networking sites. Hence, they launched the pay per website tariff plan.
Twist in the taleSocial networking was always attractive to telcos, and now with Facebook and Twitter becoming a rage of sorts, especially among the youth, this space is becoming a new advertising frontier for the telecom industry.
Vodafone, Airtel, Tata Docomo, Virgin, BlackBerry, Nokia, Sony Ericsson…name the brand and it has a presence on almost all the popular social networking platforms.
D Shivkumar, managing director, Nokia India, says, “No company can ignore the digital medium in todayâ€™s world. We are very active on this front. It is very important to engage the customer.”
Lenny Musatov, chief marketing officer, MTS, says, “Digital marketing cannot be ignored. It is the best way to introduce products to the audience. Internet usage in China is very high and I expect India to follow the same route. Hence, the digital medium holds immense importance for us.”
Companies relying solely on traditional means to reach consumers are under estimating the impact that the shift to digital media is going to have. The commercial opportunities that social digital media presents are huge compared to the traditional ways, especially with most companies targeting the youth.
Rithesh Ghoshal, head, marketing communications, Tata Docomo, says, “We are by design a youth oriented brand and being on the internet and interacting with them sends a strong vibe – that we understand you and we are one of you. This is not the case with TV commercials.”
Obviously then, networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn etc. help companies to build a brand, but operators and handset manufacturers are aggressively tapping into social media to build loyalty for their brands, gather feedback, monitor consumer trends and engage and interact with the user.
Anurag Kontu, head of channel marketing, Asia Pacific, and head of marketing, India, Sony Ericsson, believes, “It is about doing things that we normally don’t do from a marketing perspective. It is about engaging users, talking to them, conversing with them, celebrating with them. Digital space is all about keeping a dialogue open with the target audience.”
Ghoshal agrees that the digital space also helps in two way engagement with consumers, which is important for any brand.
Shalini Sethi, head, corporate communications, Aircel says, “We are actively present on all SNS like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc. The main aim is to engage, to educate and inform consumers about our products. From time to time, we hold contests on products to educate the customer and let them experience it.”
She adds, “Telecommunication is all about communication and it is the best way to communicate and educate the consumer. It keeps you very well informed about customer feedback. This is a two way communication, both for the consumer and the brand.”
Sony Ericsson believes that it is about getting real feedback from real users regarding what they like and what they dislike about the product. The feedback in turn leads to product improvement.
Another key goal of having a presence in the social media space is to create a brand presence and build a base of followers who will keep coming back. Kontu adds, “We are not looking to convert everybody into a Sony Ericsson user; it is more about having talkability for the brand.”
MTS and Reliance Communications currently don’t have a presence in the social networking space but are working towards it.
An Idea Cellular spokesperson says, “Idea Cellular has focused on building brand awareness amongst the growing digital community, with a special focus on social networking sites. The initial response to our social media communication has been very encouraging. We have done many consumer engagement activities on Facebook and have received good response from the users. Within a short span of time, we have over 94,000 fans on the Idea network.”
The spokesperson adds, “Social media has been beneficial for Idea in understanding and listening to our consumers, and the overall digital community, which largely comprises of the youth. And in building effective brand activations and creating a consumer connect.”
There is no denying the fact that the social medium is of immense importance for everybody who wants to maintain contact with the consumer. It offers marketers endless possibilities to promote the product and also interact with the consumer. And, telcos seem to making the most of it.