Over the past months, both Facebook and Twitter have made a string of additions and improvements to their advertising inventory. These include new ad units, better targeting, more efficient tools for advertisers, etc. This comes at a time when both these social media giants are attempting to increase ad revenues from non-US geographies, especially from developing nations like India.
For example, according to reports on Facebook’s recent earnings reports, only 0.23% of its advertising revenue was from India, which translates to about $12.5 million. A paltry sum if you consider that India hosts Facebook’s second largest user base after the US. Twitter’s revenues from India are not known but Rishi Jaitly, Head of India Business for Twitter had said that the current emphasis for the microblogging platform, which has around 20 million users in India, was to increase the user base.
Digital marketing spends have been increasing at a rapid pace in the country over the last couple of years. According to the 2013 PITCH Madison report on media spends, digital is expected to grow the fastest among all advertising mediums in 2014 at 32.4%. But most of these spends, when it comes to social media, have traditionally been spent on fan acquisition and engagement activities. The amount spend on actual advertising on Facebook and Twitter is still negligible, though digital agencies we spoke to expect it to grow in the future and the new optimizations and ad tools being available to advertisers could have a role to play.
Facebook remains advertiser favourite
Despite the nascence of the new advertiser tools, Facebook is still the favourite option for advertisers between the two, say agencies. To be fair to Twitter, they have been present in India for far less amount of time. Facebook, with its years of presence, has built more trust with brands. Also, there are more case studies that brands and agencies can refer to.
Apart from this, Facebook also provides more ad options for advertisers than Twitter. To get an idea, Twitter has just three main advertising options available, which are, promoted trend, promoted account and promoted posts. Recently, Twitter released Amplify which is a tool that attempts to bridge the gap between TV and digital advertising. Recently, it was launched in India in partnership with Vodafone and Star Sports.
Agencies also agree that Facebook’s targeting is much better than Twitter’s. “Twitter just started targeting by location and one can still not target on the basis of gender, interests or age,” said Suveer Bajaj, Co-Founder and Director (Operations), FoxyMoron. Social Wavelength’s Co-CEO, Sanjay Mehta also said that Facebook takes away the bulk of ad money because of these reasons. “Twitter is a little more of carpet bombing. However, for campaigns of urgency, Twitter does work,” he said.
Similarly, Zafar Rais, CEO of Mindshift Interactive, opined that advertising on Twitter would increase if agencies start seeing 100% value in it. The reason why many advertisers are put off by Twitter is because it is more expensive and a certain minimum commitment in terms of ad spends is required by Twitter from advertisers, which further puts off clients say agencies. “What it(Twitter) does is more like a traditional media model rather than digital which allows you to scale up from small investments,” said Siddharth Hegde, Founder of Ethinos Digital Marketing.
Social ad spends growing
Vivek Bhargava, MD of iProspect Communicate 2 feels the numbers are low only when compared with global standards. “The growth rate that we have seen from our clients has really picked up in the last 6-10 months and we can expect the entire segment to be worth at least a few thousand crores easily in the next 5-10 years,” he said. Sanjay Mehta, Co-CEO of Social Wavelength also said that brands are keen to experiment with new ad options, whether it is app download ads, custom ads, etc. According to him, fan acquisition used to take away the majority of spends earlier but this is just not relevant these days.
A major chunk of marketing spends go into digital, says Rais. “There is a lot of hope for the new Facebook tools,” he further added.
But not everyone is convinced with the new ad units
Amit Tiwari, Director & Country Head (Media) of Philips India, however feels that not all the new optimizations introduced by Facebook and Twitter have 100% proof of success as they are still at a very nascent stage. “I don’t believe in generating conversations on the basis of payments. TV will continue to remain the main medium for advertisement in the country for years to come. Digital is a supplementary medium for most advertisers who want to draw more audiences,” he said.
The digital head of a broadcaster said that though they had been approached about using Twitter’s new Amplify tool, it did not make sense as the spends would not be justified. Rais also agrees that, unlike Facebook which has been around for years, there are still no valid Indian case studies for Twitter that brands can refer to.
Facebook has the most ad options available for advertisers and one would have thought that brands would have warmed up to them, but the same problem, which is lack of enough experience using them, also plagues them. The problem, say agencies, is not with the tools but just the fact that they are still too new.
For example, FoxyMoron recently did a campaign for Garnier using the new Facebook Missed Call feature. Though the campaign itself was highly successful, Bajaj, admitted that with only 1 or 2 campaigns having used the feature, it has yet to establish itself for advertisers. Interestingly, Twitter is also currently testing a click-to-call feature.
Facebook partners with ZipDial to launch new 'Missed Call' ad format
Similarly, when asked about the new Buy button that Facebook is currently beta testing, Bajaj opined that India is still far away from being a market that can see adoption of such tools due to credit card and internet penetration issues among other things. “If we had more case studies, it would help,” he mused. In fact, Bajaj told us that he expects client spending on Facebook to stagnate for the rest of the year. When asked for the reason he said, “People have spent a lot of money on fan acquisition and with Facebook organic reach now less than 1%, promoted posts are not reaching all these large fan bases they have built up,“ he said.
The free ride is over on Facebook
In fact, this reduction in organic reach has been seen as a key development in recent months forcing advertisers to rethink their strategy. However, agencies still maintain that Facebook is a cheaper option than Twitter.