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Friday, 27 December 2013

Thinking beyond Facebook for your social media strategy

Last week on our new Facebook page, we featured an interesting article which talks about the growing number of teens abandoning Facebook as it has become less cool and more of a hangout for an older generation. Calling this the 'Levi's effect', social media expert Steven McQueen points out that Levi's lost its street cred with the younger generation when moms and dads started wearing it.

It's always true that teenage interest tends to wear out quickly as their curiosity leads them to search for something new and better. And we have been hearing for sometime that teenagers are moving away from Facebook. But what we must consider, is where they are headed next. And the answer seems to be - Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram - and a host of OTT messaging applications like Hike, WhatsApp and WeChat - read our blog post about the messaging phenomenon if you have not done it already.

It is interesting to note what Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram all have in common - they are more ephemeral, in the sense that newer and fresher stuff is always there to engage attention. Compared to Facebook, where it is increasingly becoming easier to search, classify and keep tabs of people. Also, all the three require some measure of creativity or skill - which is no longer a prerequisite for Facebook use. You need to be smart and concise to compose a good tweet, you will probably be interested in photography if you use Instagram. Snapchat, a brainchild of two Stanford graduates, lets users create video, photo or text messages that self destruct in ten seconds. We don't use it ourselves but it seems a great way to connect with humor, or play pranks.

Similarly when 6 second video-editing app Vine was introduced by Twitter, it was noticed that  the user demographic skewed younger. Sharp video editing skills are prized by the  younger generation. 

What is the implication for Indian brands? With 80 million + users in India, Facebook is already well penetrated among the internet user base. Penetration is high  amongst the youth as well as older working people, and decision makers. Definitely as mobile internet penetration grows, more small town and rural users will come onto Facebook. And among urban populations, penetration will increase amongst an older demographic and vernacular users. What this means is that Facebook will continue to be critical  in the social media strategy of a brand.

Most brands are getting a handle on Twitter,  but there is much more that can be done than just trending, which does create short term awareness but also requires a lot of effort or expense. Brands can look at exciting ways to use Twitter - like replying with humor, promoting brand personality or the personality of interesting employees in the organisation. Or by creatively using the many tools that Twitter has offered this year - promotions through tweets, purchase through tweets, use of Vines and in-tweet pictures. And much more. Organisations need to get their CEOs to tweet - many people are still on Twitter to follow celebs and leaders, and like to re-tweet what they say.

With Instagram debuting sponsored ads this year, its a chance for gripping and edgy art/ photography from brands - the kind of stuff that might not make it to mainline advertising, but would capture attention and get shared by younger people. And with Snapchat, it would be great to see how brands can actually make an impact if they only get ten seconds of attention! Maybe a thought for the day, a joke, a tongue twister or a contest? The possibilities are endless.

It's time to look beyond Facebook because it is getting crowded, and many users are already getting saturated with pages, groups and events that they have liked and are following. Yes, there is room for more growth. But its also interesting to explore parallelly in less-busy territories. The brands that venture there earlier, also stand to benefit.