The students of Singapore Management University have put together a nifty wiki on social media in Asia.
In my interviews, I talk about how the social media marketing scene in India is maturing –
:: Tell us about the use of social media by businesses in India.
About 5% of Indians have access to the Internet and 35-40% have access to mobile services. These numbers may seem small but actually it means 30 million users. For several businesses such as Pepsi and Reebok these 30 million internet users are sufficient because they are urban, educated, and upwardly mobile. For other business this number is not enough. Eventually we need to analyze who the target audience are for businesses. Hence, not everyone needs or wants to use social media at the moment. Further down the line, this might change.
:: Could you give us a brief comparison between the Indian and the U.S. market?
I spent the last year researching how users in emerging countries such as Brazil, Russia, China and India use social media. Emerging countries often lag developed countries in terms of penetration and in some cases the absolute numbers of internet users. But there is no lag in terms of actual usage behaviour. In fact, we find that in the emerging countries, especially Brazil, China and India, the percentage of internet users as a proportion to the whole population is small, but the proportion of social media users to the internet users is very high.
The difference between the most sophisticated internet user in India and the most sophisticated internet user in the U.S. is not much, but the variability in India is very high. There are those who are at the cutting edge of usage and thought leadership while others don’t even know what the internet is.
This means that a lot of the things you can do in the US market in terms of branded communities, collaborative workspaces and conversational marketing can also be done in India. In fact, research shows that Indians internet users are actually more willing to become members of communities and share their personal information while connecting with strangers than Americans are. This might seem surprising and counter-intuitive because India is a collectivistic society. But it’s true because all the cultural baggage we’ve come with is more than offset by the early adopter bias of Indian internet users.
What we can’t do in India is use the internet for mass market research because the internet user base in India is not representative of the general population as compared to the U.S.
:: From a marketing perspective, what do businesses do given that research on the internet is not reliable for the Indian market?
I said that I would not take the opinions of the 30 million internet users and extrapolate it as a representation of the rest of the population. But if a brand’s target population is these 30 million users only – users from the top cities – then this could work. It depends on who you are talking to. For example, if you are talking to Unilever, and I am talking about soap brand which 80% of its sales are accounted for by small towns, then of course anything you do on the internet is not relevant. But if I’m talking to Dell then most of their laptops, especially the higher end laptops, would sell in the top 8-10 cities. Hence, their entire target population is on the internet. The same goes for Microsoft if they’re targeting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) because their target population (the most profitable portion) is already on the internet already.
:: Are Indian companies (especially indigenous ones) starting to adopt social technology (such as wikis, blogs etc) within the organization? Or are they still resistant to using these tools?
Some companies are doing it. You must realize that a lot of Indian companies don’t even have well-run enterprise 1.0 programs (CRM, ERP, project management), so they aren’t quite ready for enterprise 2.0.
However, these are being widely adopted in the IT industry. Many of these companies utilize internal enterprise 2.0 systems which include blogs, wikis and knowledge management tools. A bunch of Indian start-ups and young companies are building products in the enterprise collaboration space; Zoho, Cynapse, Deskaway, Uhuroo and YouSuggest are good examples. But we still have a long way to go; much more than in the consumer space.
:: Do you often come across points of resistance to adoption of enterprise 2.0 or is it because internet penetration is not as high in India?
Here’s the funny thing about enterprise 2.0: it does not depend on internet penetration, as large Indian companies have internet access and several of these applications are hosted on company intranet anyways. Internet penetration is only an issue in terms of the consumer application of these technologies, and like I’ve said previously, for some businesses, 30 million internet users are enough.
:: What is the current state of blogger relations in India? Are companies taking bloggers seriously in their marketing agendas?
Companies are beginning to do regular blogger meetups and blogger outreach programs. However, the listening/ response and longer-term blogger relations aspects haven’t yet become ubiquitous. In the end, blogger meets are only effective if they are part of a larger long-term strategy.
:: Is India becoming more sensitive to social media?
There certainly is a lot of enthusiasm amongst everybody. People are open to listen, experiment and invest time and money behind this new technology. We’ve had a very good experience so far in terms of openness. There are also 40-50 social media agencies of all types in India now. The ecosystem is evolving and awareness is increasing about this space.
Cross-posted at 2020 Social: Because Business is Social.
As CEO of 2020 Social, I build and nurture online communities for Indian and international clients, connect their customers, partners and employees, and help them achieve their business objectives. Ask us how we can help you.
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