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Social Networks

How do Indians Use Social Media?

Kathryn Cave catches up with Hareesh Tibrewala, CEO of Social Wavelength, an Indian social media agency with presence across four cities. 

“Indians are very fond of lots of communication,” Hareesh Tibrewala, CEO of Social Wavelength tells me over the phone. “We like to go out and meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends. [This means] Facebook pages from India have a larger number of friends than say the US, which I think is very cultural.”

“You see a lot of people trying to connect with a lot of people,” he continues “and the responses we get on Indian brand Facebook pages include lots of paragraph responses. In the case of a foreign brand people just use short sentences. In India people write paragraph after paragraph of information.”

Today, according to ComScore, India is the world’s third largest internet user. Mobile and smartphone growth is escalating. Yet despite 88 million users, Facebook still only has 7% penetration.  And social media users are expected to rise 17% by the end of the year (since June). 

“I present a lot of seminars round the country and the general perception is that social media is only for consumers, however, we do a whole load of business to business social communication,” Tibrewala explains. “B2B social media communication is far better than B2C.” There are far fewer opportunities to reach out target groups “[yet] all my [business prospects] are typically on LinkedIn, Twitter or on some blog.”

“We see B2B communication generating good value for businesses,” he continues. This typically works by publishing information on a blog or a platform like Slideshare, then distributing it via LinkedIn and Twitter. “In B2B our Indian communications are pretty much the same as other markets.”

The social media landscape across India is still very early compared to other regions. Tibrewala sees global brands taking a far more structured approach than Indian organisations. The first phase of a social media approach is communication. The second is monitoring. And as India reaches a critical mass of social users, Tibrewala believes that organisations will have to start listening. He stresses that social media needs to get to the heart of any organisation because at present a lot of local businesses do not really understand its value. 

On the consumer side the most successful campaigns are “rich in gratification.” Many people have suggested that philanthropic marketing works especially well in India, however, Tibrewala takes the opposing view.  “Philanthropy driven” campaigns “seem to work for the more advanced countries, but in a developing market like India we don’t see any traction.” He goes on to explain: “People who see money for the first time want to buy all the things they can before they think about giving it to someone else.”

“There are growing numbers of people on social networks,” Tibrewala concludes “and now brands need to start evolving to stage two and three to really get the full value.”

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