A life beyond Facebook

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on December 17, 2015

Youth power Exploring platforms that connect better with the young

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Surfing through the next wave of social media action

Instant coffee should brew instant communication! And that’s happening with Nescafe, which this September migrated all its international and local websites to Yahoo-owned photo blogging platform Tumblr. In a sense, Nestle let go of controlling the content of its top performing brand on social media, allowing users to drive the conversations around Nescafe instead of the old formal and slower dotcom approach of a brand talking to people.

As Gurmit Singh, VP and MD, Yahoo India, says, “Being the first global brand to shift its entire Web presence to Tumblr, Nescafe is changing the landscape as we know it.” He says the new global Nescafe Tumblr platform allows fans to share images, videos, GIFs and other coffee-related content uploaded by the Tumblr community.

For Nescafe, the move was also a way to appeal more to millennials and be more mobile-friendly. On the heavily visual Tumblr, which Yahoo acquired for $1.1 billion in 2013, there are over 500 million monthly active users spending an average 13 minutes a session through mobile. There are over 200 million blogs, publishing 80 million posts per day.

Closer home, several brands are trying equally radical experiments that involve social networks other than Facebook. Take the way Hector Beverages’ funky brand Paperboat is using photo sharing app Instagram (acquired by FB for $1 billion in 2012) to tell its brand story using creative doodles, videos and other visual imagery. It also cleverly uses two puppies named Hector and Beverages to add fun to the storytelling. Others, such as HUL’s Tresemme, e-commerce portals Grofers and Urban Ladder, are using Instagram actively. The numbers back their move. According to British consumer research firm Global Web Index, Instagram’s active usage figures have doubled since 2013. Today, 15 per cent of adults online, outside China, are actively using the service, up from 8 per cent two years earlier.

Kirthiga Reddy, Managing Director, Facebook India, says that the platform has more than doubled its user base here in the past year. She says that ever since Instagram opened up for advertising this year, businesses of different sizes and different verticals have been using the ad solutions with objectives ranging from “driving awareness to driving conversion to getting a loyal customer base.”

Significantly, Facebook has been pushing brands to use an integrated “FB+Instagram’ approach just as Yahoo is cross-selling Yahoo+Tumblr. The specialised smaller networks are already proving their money’s worth.

Smart marketers are already getting a social life beyond Facebook, and exploring these niche platforms that connect better with youth. It is helping that many niche networks are becoming advertising-friendly as well. According to Nimesh Shah, Head Maven at Windchimes, a social media agency, brands with a mature social media strategy are now using different social networks for different purposes. So, if a Nescafe is using Tumblr for content marketing, then it could be using platforms such as witter for influencer engagement or YouTube for brand building.

Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEO of Mirum, the digital agency of JWT, says, “For some brands, Facebook may not even be the central platform. Several brands are now consciously using niche platforms such as Instagram and SlideShare, as well as e-commerce and mobile apps as additional armoury.”

Four levels of change

Shah sees four levels of change in the way brands are looking at social networks. First, as more and more people are hanging out on hobby-based social networks, brands are beginning to follow them there.

“While Facebook is a more generic social network, new-age social networks are hobby-based,” says Shah. For instance, there are networks such as Endomondo that connect runners, others that connect cookery enthusiasts, or the fashion-focused and so on. “For advertisers looking at target-based campaigns, say, a shoe brand could look at running-based networks, these are interesting options to explore,” says Shah.

The second level of change, he says, is the way videos and pictures are powering ahead of text. “People are simply not consuming text today and the basic attention has moved to pictures.” Agrees Sanjay Mehta. “Consumer use of image-rich platforms has gone up dramatically.” More and more young users tend to download apps such as Snapchat through which you can click and share. Not surprisingly, marketers are turning their attention to platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube or Vine.

The third level of change, according to Shah, is that marketers are also looking at professional social networks such as LinkedIn and SlideShare to break through the clutter. Look at the way apparel brand Van Heusen broke through the clutter by creating a contest over LinkedIn looking for the most fashionable professional. “A fashion brand should typically be on Facebook, which you might think is a better audience fit. But it created novelty over LinkedIn,” says Shah.

Finally, the fourth level of change is the way influencer engagement is taking away a chunk of the budget allocated to social media. Brands are chasing social media influencers on various platforms, nurturing relationships with them.

Of course, Facebook is well aware of these consumer shifts and quickly adapting its strategy towards advertisers.

The way it has upped the ante on Instagram and is promoting an integrated approach says it all. The leviathan social network is also focusing on its FB messenger as well as investing in making FB video a big hit.

For instance, if users upload a video directly on FB rather than a YouTube link, the play the video gets is different and much better. Futurists predict that this is only the start of the social disruption. Watch out once taxi apps become social networks as they build car-pooling culture and connect people!

Published on December 17, 2015
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