Mumbai: On 14 March, Ching’s Secret, a Chinese cuisine brand, crossed 100,000 fans on its Facebook page, prompting 42 “likes” and 26 congratulatory messages on the social media site that is increasingly drawing the attention of companies as a way to reach out to the next generation of consumers.
And when General Motors India Pvt. Ltd launched its new small car Beat in the country, it first made the announcement on Yahoo, said Nitin Mathur, director (marketing) at Yahoo India.
As firms in India jump on to the social media bandwagon, they are increasing their digital media spending budgets to promote brands and products through online networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Click here to view a slideshow of Indian brands that are effectively using social media platforms as marketing and communication tools
“Social media has now become an entry point for most marketeers to foray online,” said Atul Hegde, chief executive officer, Ignitee Digital Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a digital media marketing company.
In the past six months alone, Hegde said the firm has seen the number of its clients looking at social marketing actively as a part of their online digital marketing plan grow from 10 to 45.
India has 60 million Internet users, according to a December report by the National IT Task Force, a government body. Facebook has at least eight million users in India, while Google’s social networking site Orkut has at least 17 million.
It is this population that companies are trying to target aggressively.
Vivek Nayer, senior vice-president (marketing, automotive sector) at Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, India’s largest maker of utility vehicles, said the firm is spending 5-8% of its marketing budget on social media outreach for its utility vehicles Scorpio and Zylo, including themed online games that have gained about a million users in two-and-a-half months.
“These games will act as brand evangelists as it will help in creating brand awareness and loyalty among prospective buyers and influencers of today. We want to catch them young and it also helps in engaging customers,” he said.
PepsiCo. India has created skins, or custom page designs, on Orkut and arranged live chats on Facebook with Ranbir Kapoor as a precursor to launching an online game—titled just that, “The Game”— that is being developed by Hungama.com.
“We are looking at creating a third pillar to engage the youth as they spend a lot of their time playing games and (are) online on social networking sites,” said Rohit Ohri, senior vice-president, JWT India, the advertising agency for PepsiCo India.
“Over the last two years, we have reduced our mass advertising spends (read as television) from 80% to 70% and these spends have been diverted to other mediums, largely digital,” said Punita Lal, executive director, marketing, PepsiCo. India.
Earlier, Tata Motors Ltd used social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Orkut in the run-up to the launch of Tata Nano, the Rs1 lakh car that has been hailed as a game changer for the auto industry.
Other companies such as Dell Inc., Intel Corp. and United Spirits Ltd have also established a social media presence in India to create alternative routes to reach consumers.
“In today’s agile marketing environment, as marketeers look for interesting ways to get consumer attention, online advertising is bound to grow. It provides marketeers the unique opportunity to communicate the right message to the right audience on a real-time basis,” said Nitin Mathur, director (marketing) at Yahoo India.
But these are early days, say others, and Indian firms are still finding their feet around the new medium.
“Around 60% (of) Indian marketeers are in a state where they are not sure about what to do in the social media, while around 20% has done some amount of work on social media,” said Gaurav Mishra, CEO of social business strategy firm 20:20 Social.
The rest, he said, are still thinking about what’s after the traditional marketing medium.
Consumer goods companies are normally separated from end consumers by five to six layers, said Ajaay Gupta, chairman and managing director at Capital Foods Ltd, which makes Ching’s Secret.
“Here (on social media) we have cut across and reached our consumers directly… We are using the social media for crowd sourcing and to track what are the next flavours to launch,” Gupta said, adding that they also use it to track stocks at stores.