Second coming of social media has a business peg: Facebook India head

Reels (a short-video channel), which is available on Facebook and Instagram, is another platform which can be used for companies to target customers and it has seen 6 million videos being produced every day
Facebook Inc is making a big push to target businesses in India — from small entrepreneurs to top global brands — by leveraging its huge customer base with high engagement rates on its various social media platforms. 

According to data shared by the company for the first time, 416 million users in India access Facebook every month, out of which 234 million access it every day. This provides companies with a massive target customer base for their products and services.  

Facebook also revealed that over the last one year, as the Covid-19 pandemic raged, the total daily conversations between people and businesses on Messenger (which is part of Facebook) and Instagram went up by 40 per cent.

What’s more, 90 per cent of the users of Instagram follow a business account, according to an internal survey undertaken by Facebook and market research firm, IPSOS, a few months ago. And 86 per cent of those surveyed said that Instagram has allowed them to interact more deeply with brands. 

Reels (a short-video channel), which is available on Facebook and Instagram, is another platform which can be used for companies to target customers and it has seen 6 million videos being produced every day.

The company says that there are already 15 million WhatsApp business accounts. And they send out over 100 million messages a day. And a  study undertaken by US reserach agency Harris Poll for India has shown that 75 per cent of Indian adults surveyed preferred to message a business when they needed to contact them now more than they did pre-Covid, while 76 per cent said that they would more likely do business with or purchase from a company that they can contact through messaging.       

Elaborating on the big push to target businesses, Ajit Mohan, managing director of  Facebook India says: “What we are seeing is the second coming of social media as the powerful medium for business which has been accentuated by Covid-19.”

Mohan says that there have been three areas of disruption in customer behaviour during the pandemic. “One, they are spending more time online. Two, customers are increasingly discovering brands and categories through Instagram and Facebook platforms either through friends or influencers or brands. This process of discovery has accentuated in the last 15 months,” he says. 

The third change, according to Mohan, is that customers now want to engage with businesses with the same ease as they do with their friends and relatives on platforms like WhatsApp. They would like to ask questions about the product, its efficacy and pricing before deciding to make a transaction. To support these transactions, Facebook has launched WhatsApp Pay, which is currently being perfected so that it is simple to operate.  

Mohan says that from a marketing and advertisers’ point of view, the transition is already happening. The reach that TV offered to advertisers will now be to available on digital platforms, he says. “The role played by TV will now be offered by digital platforms, because now we have scale which is more than what TV offers and is relevant for big companies, too,”  says Mohan, adding that this is evident from the sheer number of active users who spend a substantial amount of time on Facebook every day.

Social media also offers companies the opportunity to target customers without wasting money. Crucially, says Mohan, it offers a cost-to-reach per customer which is more attractive than TV ads. He backs it up by citing a study by Nielsen, which showed that while digital constituted 27 per cent of ad spends, they contributed to 41 per cent of revenue.

Facebook clearly has three different business models. First, to address the needs of small entrepreneurs and provide them with an easy and not too expensive option to acquire customers through the platform within India as well as globally. Second, to work with large companies such as MakeMyTrip, ICICI Bank and others by helping them increase their business through the use of digital platforms. And third, to tie up with a large e-commerce player like Jio Mart and work together to reach the kirana stores and enable them to use platforms like WhatsApp to do their business.   

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