We are now being thought of as a marketing platform: Kirthiga Reddy

We are helping brands reach the right audience with the right message at scale. Brand messages in the news feed are competing with messages from friends, says the Head of Facebook India

e4m by Rashi Bisaria
Published: May 22, 2014 8:56 AM  | 6 min read
We are now being thought of as a marketing platform: Kirthiga Reddy

Even after touching 100 million active users in India, Facebook is far from being complacent. India is the second market outside of the US to have reached that milestone, but Kirthiga Reddy, Head, Facebook India knows there’s a long way to go. The biggest driver behind this phenomenal growth has been mobile, and that’s the focus area for Facebook.

In conversation with exchange4media, Reddy speaks about how this milestone was achieved and how Facebook is fast becoming a favourite with marketers.

Facebook has reached 100 million users in India. What does it mean for Facebook?
It’s an exciting milestone. India is the second market outside of the US to have reached that milestone. It is also a clear sign for us about how much more there is to do. It’s a great acknowledgment that people are using the platform to fulfil a basic human need to connect, to share and to be a part of the community. But there’s a long way that we have to go.

How was this target achieved? Was it very consciously worked upon?
Yes, it was consciously worked upon. We have a whole growth team focused on driving user growth. The biggest driver behind this is obviously mobile. It was a key part of our strategy, whether it was working with operators, mobile device manufacturers or the VAS ecosystem.

In terms of marketing of FB, what were some of the initiatives you undertook to make it more popular, both with the user base and with brands?
Going back to the 100 million number, what it signifies for brands is that’s where their consumers are. They are in large numbers, so that’s where brands need to be. From the user side, people were telling us with their actions and preferences for brands as well as about their behaviour with friends, etc.

We are helping brands reach the right audience with the right message at scale. That’s a key part of popularising brand messages with the user. Brand messages in the news feed are competing with messages from friends and that’s the creative bar that brands need to have.

For brands, this is a platform that allows you to do three things. It’s a combination of targeted reach, the number alone is huge, the kind of targeting that we have, the amount of time people are spending on the platform, and our ability to prove the results.

Do you think media planners have understood the potential of this platform? How can they integrate it in their marketing plans?
The biggest question that I get asked, whether I talk to the CEOs or CMOs, is about education. They ask me how to best leverage the platform. It is a new platform, which is evolving very rapidly and they want to know about the best practices, case studies and help us understand. So, it’s a journey and conversations like this are critical in helping them see how people are using the platform. We are starting again from the principle that that’s where consumers are and that’s where marketers need to be with their messages. So, it’s a matter of building that ecosystem and equipping people to go out there and having a personalised connect with the user.

You think social media marketing is going to become mainstream in the next few years?
The term Social Media Marketing will be used less and less. We are now being thought of as a marketing platform, which can be used to drive brand and business objectives.

How are you monetising the platform? What are the tools that you are using?
One is the native targeting tool, another is the Custom Audience Capability Tool. We also have product capabilities such as Mobile App installed ad units. We have the ability to reach out to unique user bases for different kinds of targeting. All this comes together from the vision of making business personal again. We all relate to the notion of a kirana store and personalised shopping experiences. After that era came the era of mass awareness, where personalised messaging was lost due to broad messaging. With the world that we are living in now where we have the ability to target the right user base in the social context, we can make business personal again. One example is the Samsung Note 3 launch, where they wanted to target men and women in a different way. That’s the kind of personalisation this platform can do. No other medium can do this for you.

Our biggest strength comes from three things – the targeted reach that we have, the kind of engagement that we see, and the kind of results that we are able to prove for the business. It is that combination.

Digital is a small part of any brand’s marketing mix, and social is an even smaller percentage of that. Do you see that changing in the near future?
Something fascinating happened in 2013 in the US, where more content was consumed on digital than on television. The last time something like this happened was in the 50s, when the crossover happened between radio and TV. Within digital, mobile is the fastest growing medium. That drives the need for marketers to be on platforms like this and marketers now have a very holistic approach where it is not social within a digital package, but all media investment as a whole. At a 100 million users, we are comparable to the top GECs. Our daily reach of 45 million monthly active people is seven times larger than the English newspaper. We can enable you to see the direct impact of your investment. Out of a 100 million monthly active people 84 million are on mobile. For us, we consider mobile as digital.

Today, if a marketer is thinking about digital strategy, it is synonymous with mobile. Our brand experiences will be had across multiple streams. 2014 is the year where a lot of that experience will be seen on the mobile device. It is causing an interesting shift in how marketers think about the platform as well. Earlier, there was the notion that if you had to reach out to a million people you had to wait for that prime time ad slot on TV. Today, with mobile, prime time has become “all the time”. We had Coca Cola Coke Studio Season 3 launch as an example where they developed exclusive content on Facebook. They leveraged our property to reach 17 million people in a single day. So, there has been a notional shift. We are very excited with where the country is with respect to mobile and how marketers can reach their consumers.

What is the Facebook for Business Initiative?
It came from the need to educate people and how we could allow people to access our case studies and help them achieve their business objectives. It’s a portal that we launched 6-9 months back. It’s a significant step for us to help with our education. We also have something called Facebook Studio, which presents the best creative work on Facebook.

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