The second panel at the India Social Media Summit 2009, held in held in Mumbai on March 27, focused on ‘Social Media: Is there a critical mass, or is this an elitist phenomenon?’. According to audience measurement firm Comscore, social networking websites in India saw a 51 per cent growth in traffic year-on-year in 2008, while total Internet audience grew 22 per cent.
Session 2 saw a case study presentation by Mahesh Murthy, Founder and CEO, Pinstorm. Murthy noted, “November 2008 changed the face of Indian social media forever, particularly post 26/11, which saw around 225,000 people gather in person to protest for a cause. I believe social media in India isn’t emerging, but has already emerged.”
Murthy cited the examples of Tata Tea’s Jaago Re campaign, which, he said, was a great success. He also cited the need for technology and not just users in social media and that if one did a good job and was part of the conversation, it would certainly give good results.
The panelists for this session included Ajay Kakar, CMO, Financial Services, Aditya Birla Group; Raj Nayak, CEO, NDTV Media; Yudhishter Gopalkrishna, Head - Sales and Business Development, India, July Systems; and Ratish Nair, Co-founder of Interactive Avenues. The session was moderated by Raj Singh, Executive Director, ActiveMedia Technology.
Commencing the discussion, Ajay Kakar said, “You may like it or hate it, but you can’t ignore it. Social media, according to me, is elitist, however, it is only a matter of time for it to achieve critical mass. It would be unfair to compare print and Internet users. In fact, I believe it has to be what per cent of budget is allocated to the medium and how your target audience is reachable. What we need is conviction and we need to start from the top, but above all, stop thinking of it as a new medium.”
Raj Nayak noted, “You have a critical mass in the Internet and it is most certainly a growing phenomenon. The problem with marketers is that people who use social media have actually moved beyond social media as the younger people understand social media much more than any one of us. My suggestion to the marketers is that this is a viral, therefore, it will take time to spread. From a long term perspective, social media will help, but if you are looking for short term gains, then it will not.”
Ratish Nair observed, “The Internet has for long been an accountable medium, social media has critical mass, but people perhaps, or even marketers, have not used this media the way it should have been used.”
According to Yudhishter Gopalkrishna, “There is a critical mass in Indian social media and we have got good numbers. I believe, we are at the threshold of the next level and it will happen from the rural markets as there are brands that have never been heard of and this market is starved for more information.”
Pinstorm’s Murthy felt, “Facebook and Orkut never get you the traffic. What you need to do is change the way you look at social media and change your metrics. Within the class, it’s a mass.”
Raj Nayak added here, “Internet spend is a mere 3 per cent of the total ad pie. The growth of social media will really be through mobile phones and not PCs, keeping in mind the high growth and deeper penetration pf mobile phones in the country. That is where your real growth is going to come from, and the only way you can engage a consumer is through applications that can seduce them.”