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Manoj Varghese

Manoj Varghese, Director — User Operations, Facebook India

1. Do companies see India as a huge market for social media?

Facebook’s mission is to keep the world open and connected. With more than 950 million users worldwide on Facebook and 50 million users in India, this is one of the biggest growth markets for us in the region.

Internet is moving from what was an information web to what it is today, a place where people and the world get on to keep connected. With people becoming the center of all activities, social networking has become a world where real people connect and share with the people in their lives.

Over the last eight years, we have built a network with the greatest reach of any online service. In a country such as India, where there are a large number of our users accessing Facebook through mobile devices, mobile is key. Usage distribution of internet and mobile devices accurately reflect where our users are anywhere in the world and India is no exception. According to eMarketer’s Worldwide Social Network Users: Market Size and Growth Forecast report, India will have one billion mobile users by 2014, and more than 50% of them will access the internet on mobiles. This makes the country a huge market for us.

2. What is driving the growth of social media? Is it different for India as compared to the rest of the world?

People have a fundamental need to connect and share. Information is growing at an exponential rate and providing context to information has become critical. This is driving the growth of social media. In that sense, India is no different from the rest of the world.

What is exciting in markets such as India is that internet users are increasing at a faster pace, and the reducing price points of smartphones and low-priced data plans are driving a bigger shift, which is further accelerating usage of social media. The segment of the population that uses social media represents a very important demographic that no marketer can ignore. This provides a compelling opportunity for the demand-generation and demand-fulfillment segments.

Social design in marketing and businesses is one of the driving forces behind this socially connected world. In the social web, brands are an important part of the social graph and 100 million connections are made on Facebook pages every day globally. Increasingly, brands are putting the social aspect first and people at the center of their marketing campaigns to create significant brand impact. Today, Indians are spending more time on social networks than on personal email.

At Facebook, our mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. We hope to fulfill this mission in India by creating the best possible Facebook experience through streamlined integration with our mobile partners and collaborating with public figures to assist them in using Facebook to reach out to their constituents. We are also looking forward to building relationships with India’s strong network of developers and entrepreneurs, who are increasingly using Facebook to create unique sharing experiences on the social web. Our focus is on increasing the number of users in India and building a social graph — web of sharing relationships on the internet.

3. What is India’s contribution to the global social media scene? What is the growth profile of social media companies in the country?

Facebook recognizes the fact that there are significant growth opportunities in India. This is a country where most users are “heavy” mobile users. The growing penetration of smartphones is a prime factor boosting social media. According to a report produced by Nielsen Informate Mobile Insights, almost 93% of smartphone users in the country access social networking sites via their mobile handsets.

With this scenario as the backdrop, Facebook will continue to focus on making the world more open and connected through our platform.

4. The current business models adopted by companies are predominantly advertisement-based. Do you see a subscription-based model emerging in India?

Personally, at this point in time, I do not see a subscription-based model emerging in India. Of course, we will see some start-ups trying different business models, but growing or scaling a subscription-based model in this space will be hugely challenging.

From the beginning, the people who founded Facebook wanted it to be free for everyone. Showing ads is how Facebook continues to support its growth and development. Facebook enables advertisers to reach more than 950 million people with ads that are relevant, engaging and have social context. People have a better experience when ads are relevant and useful. Advertisers can ask Facebook to show ads to an audience, based on demographic factors such as location, age, gender, education, work history and the interests people have chosen to share on Facebook. Advertisers can further engage their audience by incorporating social context into their ads, such as by displaying when a person’s friend has liked an advertiser’s Facebook Page.

5. The growing trend of price declines in smartphones and data plans is fueling internet consumption in India. What are the key metrics social media companies are developing to acquire, retain and monetize eyeballs on these devices?

Facebook is a relatively new medium in the relatively new Internet marketing world. We are helping brands measure their success on Facebook, but it is important to note that there isn’t just one metric brands care about. Their success is dependent on a campaign’s objective and the industry. There are three main measures that brands primarily care about, and have always cared about, even before Facebook came into being. These include Reach, Resonance and Reaction.

  • Reach: How many people saw my message, who they are and how often did they read it?
  • Resonance: Brand awareness and recall, and purchase consideration
  • Reaction: Sales

6. On one hand, there are factors pushing mobile usage, on the other hand, there are infrastructural shortcomings in terms of speed, connectivity, etc. How do you plan to overcome these shortcomings?

The ideology behind Facebook betting big on mobile is to provide a great Facebook experience from whichever mobile device people choose to access Facebook. One of the things we launched last year was our Facebook for Every Phone App, which offers a fast and comprehensive Facebook mobile experience on more than 2,500 different Java-enabled phones. This App not only includes Facebook’s most popular features, such as News Feed, Inbox and Photos, but also enables users to upload pictures and find friends from their phone contacts. This app has eliminated the limitations of these devices. Furthermore, many mobile applications such as SMS Integration and Voice Integration are also available on feature phones.

In addition, the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) -based Facebook access service, which is available through some mobile carriers, make it easy and affordable for people to stay connected with their friends and family through Facebook. USSD is a menu-based system that acts as a browser to access content on mobiles. We also offer a lightweight version of Facebook for basic feature phones.

7. The world over, companies are using social media for extensive branding campaigns. In the future, do you foresee a change in the value derived by advertisers from social media to evolve to a higher degree of engagement, and why?

Absolutely. Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate and is now an indispensable part of our lives, empowering us to interact in real time across borders and time zones, and connect on a scale previously unimaginable.

Brands have become increasingly social with the move to the social web. They are engaging, deepening relationships with and beginning to have two-way conversations with their customers. Now, brands are moving to put people at the center of their marketing campaigns and conduct effective word-of-mouth marketing at scale. They are moving away from creating micro-sites and investing more in their presence on Facebook as the hub of their marketing activity. Out of the top 100 global advertisers, 92 have advertised on Facebook, and there are tens of thousands of active advertisers using the online system.

Businesses of all sizes are taking advantage of Facebook to make a positive impact. In India, these have also seen rapid growth in their user base, and obviously, that means more advertisers.

Social media is not about pure advertising alone, where advertisers can better target people, but more about marketing. Marketing is deeper than advertising, where you can create that emotional connection with your customers, connecting with people and getting them to connect with you and create content that is compelling enough for people to share it. More engagement means a better connect.

8. How differentiated are social media players for end consumers? Do you foresee Linkedin–Facebook and WAYN–Facebook/Linkedin converging at some point in the near future?

I can’t comment on specific companies and the strategy they will adopt, but there will be a lot of players in this space (and rightly so!), trying to fulfill their different social needs. This confirms our belief that the future of the wired world is going social. Then only will it accurately reflect the real world.

Therefore, one of the biggest opportunities we have is to create the identity and social layer that all new apps and websites can be built on — this belief forms the core of our platform strategy. As there is no way we can build all the experiences ourselves, we are focused on building a successful platform, which will enable developers to build great social experiences into their own apps by integrating with and exchanging information with Facebook.

One of our successful integrations is Spotify. Closer home in India, Gaana.com and Saavn.com are examples where one can log-in via Facebook, share songs and get to know which songs your friends are listening to and recommending. There are many more examples one can think of in other verticals.

9. What are the key consumer analytics metrics that are employed by social media companies in India? And how do they assist in business decisions and revenue enhancement?

One challenge is the lack of standardized metrics for digital media, as compared to other media, to enable comparison. For example, measurements and strategies that work in a traditional brand-building exercise cannot be blindly applied to social media. There is a need for a clear strategy and execution plan, where metrics capture how social media is connecting with the right audience, engaging with them, influencing their friends and building meaningful interaction among them. We have been working with third parties to advocate industry standard metrics. One of these is a product Nielsen debuted last year — OCR Online Campaign Ratings, which enables accurate and effective measurement of digital campaigns.

Facebook partnered with Nielsen to study more than 500 ad campaigns. These indicate that on average, Facebook ads drive 98% ad recalls and 31% higher brand awareness than non-Facebook online ad campaigns. Independent research also demonstrates that the social context significantly increases ad recall and brand awareness of Facebook ads. This is not surprising, since people are more likely to remember a message that comes from their friend. This is greatest advantage of social media.

Closer home, Chumbak, which used Facebook Page with the aim of driving awareness of its product lines and build a community of users who are passionate about the brand, found that 25% of its online revenue is generated from Facebook, with a very high degree of repeat purchases among Page fans. Furthermore, 5X ROI on total advertising spend with Facebook and 30%–40% of website traffic comes from Facebook.

Similarly, Myntra uses Facebook as a marketing channel to acquire new customers, increase its engagement with existing customers and create strong brand credibility among its target consumers. It found that 25% of its revenue is directly attributable to Facebook, 120% of the increase in its transactions is due to Facebook and there has been a 75% increase in the total website traffic from Facebook in the last six months.

These examples indicate that having a definite goal and clear strategy is the starting point to gauge the impact you can make through your social media efforts.

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