Social Media Networks and their Strategy for India!

Digital Marketer from Google, Bharti Airtel and Zdnetindia.com; Saurabh Pandey is a technology and media enthusiast. Saurabh runs his own blog at http://www.atomthought.com and is currently writing a book: ‘Social Media Marketing-Illustrated and Actionable Steps for Digital Marketers’.

Saurabh Pandey

Why are we on Linked-In but not on Apnacircle or brijj?
I guess it’s not just one single ‘thing’ but a mix of many factors that influence us to join a specific social media site.
In a nutshell, and in a more organised lingo, we choose to be on a social networking site largely because of:

  1. Presence of Opinion Leaders
  2. Presence of a large no. of Our Type of people,
  3. Opportunity to Collaborate and Co-create or achieve an objective   and
  4. Tools to collaborate and co-create efficiently and effectively

Once we are comfortable with the above we then slowly create our own network, and reputation within that Social Platform.
Now, creating a network and reputation takes time and effort. Remember how much time it took you to reach that 500 contacts landmark in LinkedIn?
That’s precisely why anyone would think twice before just latching on to just another social network. This makes things really difficult for any new entrant. And that’s why it’s important to be either the ‘first’ or the most ‘disruptive’ in order to win members.
So, what happens now in India? Now that there are already so many of Social Networks, how does a new Social Platform survive?
Needless to say Indian Social Networks have largely been ‘followers’ and have failed to create need driven technological innovation or disruption. This is sadly true in most of the internet verticals.
Anyways broadly I have always maintained that Social Networks should excel at making the conversations among users most efficient-through the use of tools, technology, applications and co-creation opportunities. There is still a gap here, and there is still an opportunity here!
We shall understand the above in slightly greater detail as we move further.

So what’s the story of Big Adda and Ibibo?
Big Adda – You already know it: Amitabh Bachchan (Opinion leader) got the crowd in. Not a bad strategy at all, but how do you create stickiness?
Ibibo – People came in because they were incentivised for not just joining in but also on creating a network and frequent content update. Good and well thought out strategy. But what happens when the incentivisation gets over? Do people remain there or go back to the Facebooks and My Spaces?
More importantly did incentivisation help create good content regularly also? If not, then there will be no stickiness again!
So while full marks to both Big Adda and Ibibo for starting off with a bang, I still think they need to be working upon targeting an entirely new set of users (could be school children, to be tapped early in the lifecycle when they do not have exposure of any other Social Networking site) or target unique local needs (gaming, citizen journalism, collaborative authoring of a book or a movie, etc.).
So, summarising and adding a few more points, in order to be successful in the Social Networks game:

  1. You need to address a unique segment (unrepresented or under-represented) or
  2. You need to address a unique need (unrepresented or under-represented)
  3. Create tools for effective collaboration and conversation
  4. Create opportunities for co-creation (remember the members of social networks are here for an objective-networking, finding jobs, making music, selling their e-book, making friends, going for dating etc.)
  5. Lastly, as a Social Platform you need to provide the platform for members to get recognition.

If you have been following ibibo lately, you would have observed that through their fashion photographer, and superstar programs they are exactly following the above principles.

Caution!
New set of users (like school children) are in a phase of experimentation and hence may dabble with more than 1 social network. Brand loyalty could be low. Also once they reach a certain age and proficiency of usage they would want to graduate from a ‘bachchon ka’ social network to a “serious and bade logon ka” social network.
But I still think, given the size and scope of Indian market it makes complete sense to target new users with the following directions:

Target new users who are mature and relatively more brand loyal- e.g. women. NOW this strategy can allow a new entrant to co-exist with competition. So a lady will not exit/leave a facebook, but since this new site services a ‘certain latent need’ better-so she will ALSO be seen here to satisfy ‘that’ need.
or
Target new users like school children and evolve your product as your Target audience evolves.-Long term strategy, good when the overall category itself is in a growth phase. May not work in a mature phase.
or
Target new users like school children and stick to your positioning. There is an incessant supply of these young kids, and their influence is all pervasive

In a compendium:

saurabh’s chart

India has a huge need for social networks that can allow members to achieve their latent needs. These needs could range from dating and friendship through selling and buying to finding talent to creating a movie or music! What is also of a great relevance for India is the fact that in the next decade more people will use internet through Mobile, Touch and Speech platforms and Social Networks would be no exception.
Hence the Social Networks have to focus on innovation that can help people fulfil these needs effectively and allow this fulfilment through mobile, speech (regional) and touch accessibilities.

15 thoughts on “Social Media Networks and their Strategy for India!

  1. Venkatesh Raman says:

    well said, Saurabh! I wonder if Ibibo and BigAdda will EVER become half as big as facebook! it seems what is required is someone to take over Facebook now! Even die-hard Orkut users are ‘upgrading’ to facebook!

  2. Completeley agree with saurabh!
    one very important thing for any Social networking site is the ‘coolth’ factor. Facebook is way cooler than MySpace which was way cooler than lets say Orkut and so on…
    I still dont think places like Wayn etc are ‘cool’ and in that sense, THAT segment is available for competition. As for facebook, its soooo well interwined into our systems, its so damn difficult to get soooo many users, who have already establised online socio-systems, to move to a new platform! but it should be fun to watch!

  3. Thanks Venkatesh and Param,

    I believe that Indian sites have the potential to become bigger than the facebooks of the world. With over 350m Indians being online or on mobile, if we can create a few social networks that target diverse segments and platforms and are able to convert 50% of them, collectively we will be bigger than Facebook worldwide.

    I have always believed in the power of localisation- look at Baidu-which is bigger than Google in Japan, Naver is more popular than Google in Korea. QQ is China’s largest social networking site-with over 200m users-bigger than Facebook worldwide.

  4. Correction- Baidu is bigger than Google in China. Yahoo is bigger than Google in Japan (even as search engines)- thanks to Yahoo’s preemptive local and mobile strategy.

  5. Allen Mathews says:

    but didnt baidu get a major push when china kind of firewalled Google?

  6. Hi Saurabh,

    I totally agree with you. There is a huge potential for social networking in India. I think uniqueness and innovative strategies can also take social networks forward in India.

  7. Hi Allan,

    You are absolutely right! Infact both Yahoo and Google (and perhaps MS also) suffered when Chinese govt. decided one fine day to divert all search request meant for Google and Yahoo to Baidu!

    But this only strengthens the case for localization.

    Google eventually launched a few local products in China: Guge Yinyue (Google Music Search, only available in Mainland China) and Chunyun Ditu (Google Map for Chinese Spring Festival travel season).

    Google also eventually succumbed to censorship pressures.(Not sure if this is official-but many reports suggest this)

    The official name for Google is Guge (means ‘song of harvest’ in chinese), and you can reach Google.cn by typing http://www.g.cn.

    All the Above including censorship of results are a part of the localization strategy of Google, and look it’s paying off Allen! Google’s share in China has doubled since 2005-06.

    So for Google to succeed, they need to become more Chinese than Baidu in China! I guess that’s a fair assumption to make!

  8. preetish says:

    Hi Saurabh,

    Nice observation on why existing loyalty reduces affinity of social n/w users to switch loyalty. I think yes Indian Social sites have a good chance to grab stickiness given that we have a good 35-40 million people online.

    I wonder if in the long run we would see the following types of social sites gain an edge

    1. Niche networking sites – that are category or vertical specific
    2. Language specific sites – in hindi, or any other popular language, while I understand there perhaps may not be specific demand in this area

  9. Thanks Pratibha. Preetish I agree with you, though there’s not enough demand right now, I guess with mobile, touch and voice technologies all these vertical/niche social networking sites would be a reality sooner than later

  10. rishab ghai says:

    “But I still think, given the size and scope of Indian market it makes complete sense to target new users with the following directions:”

    I agree with you here, saurabh! since the bulk of indian population is so young, we are open to experimentation and this may be a good reason enough to start a new social networking site. Orkut is still popular here, most havent yet been on myspace and facebook is just about coming up. what someone needs to do is find gaps in facebook’s satisfaction levels…

  11. shubho says:

    Superb. Learnt a lot here, thanks.
    My understanding is Indian players are more interested in ticking the boxes than listening to users, rewarding micro-celebrities, and so on. No strategy.

  12. Thanks Rishabh and Shubho! Infact in smaller towns, people are not much enamored with MySpace or Facebook, and there’s a huge opportunity there to entrench an Indianised social networking site.

    As shubho rightly pointed out- social networking sites need to recognize and reward micro-celebrities -this has a huge viral effect as well.

  13. Laree Ertz says:

    Justin Bieber may be my favorite! He’s really hot!

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