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India Inc.'s tryst with social media

Companies are promoting brands through social networks but it's early days yet.

Anusha Subramanian | Print Edition: September 19, 2010

They have been on Facebook for over a year now and already have 7.4 lakh fans. Their fan base is actually bigger than the biggest Bollywood stars. The Zoozoo YouTube channel boasts more than 70 lakh video views.

Think the world needs more humour? Then you may like Active. The funny and adorable puppet (brand mascot) of Tata Sky's interactive services says he's "on a mission to restore humour in this world" on his Facebook fan page. He has 20,000 fans and gets over 75 entries per post.

These are just a few interesting examples of how a few Indian brands and services are now using social media - social networking sites, blogs, forums, microblogging, video/photo networks - more efficiently. But by and large, India Inc., it seems, still gives social media a miss. According to digital advertising agency Media2Win's tracking tool for social media, there are over 200 Indian brands on Facebook across 20 categories.

It shows that Zoozoo by Vodafone is the No. 1 fan page in India, followed by MTV India and FasTrack (Titan). These are the only pages with a three lakh-plus fan base. Almost 65 per cent of the pages have under 10,000 fans, showing that this is a nascent channel that brands have yet to fully master.

So, what's holding Indian brands back? Clearly, the concept of listening and being in conversation with the consumer is unfamiliar terrain for brand marketers. Says Kunal Jeswani, Country Head (India), OgilvyOne Worldwide: "The key impediment for clients is moving from the mindset of focusing on brand campaigns to a mindset of focusing on daily conversations on areas of consumer interest."

No wonder then that most marketers still prefer the traditional marketing conduits. Also social networks like Facebook and Twitter are constantly evolving, making it tougher for marketers to keep pace.

But most companies and experts concur that in today's agile marketing environment, as marketers look for interesting ways to get consumer attention, online advertising is bound to grow. "In this medium, a marketer's cost can reduce if he engages the consumer well and makes the consumer his advocate. The consumer will then spend his time and energy, not the marketer's money, to reach out to the masses,"says Krishna Kumar, CEO, Media2Win.

Adds Anuradha Aggarwal, Vice President, Brand and Consumer Insights, Vodafone: "We need to go where they (consumers) are on the web and that is social media." Only it appears that it will be a gradual process over the next decade.

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