Answering, What Is Social Media
Understanding social media is a very important factor for marketers. More for those who are looking at adapting it as a tool for business or marketing. A marketer needs to understand that there is a vast difference between social networking sites and social media. Social networking sites are online networking hub where people connect with each other. Social media is the content created on these networks while connecting or posting, the connections is done to initiate conversations and socialize within the network. It can also be defined as an interactive communication tool that allows users to share information and create communities of their choice of people. From a business perspective, social media is the creation of content and technical applications that are valued by brands or consumers, which can be shared online by the means of social networking sites.
Social Media Is a Chai Party!
Social media is almost equivalent to the Indian evening social gatherings where a couple of men meet at a tea stall or bar and a couple of ladies meet at a common place in their locality to discourse daily life. In a real life incident, usually people discourse conversations with the known individuals of the same locality (network), sometimes with the individuals recommended by other members in the locality (recommendation/referral based) and sometimes when there is someone new in the locality and he/she joins the conversation in the group by introducing himself/herself (friendship request/seeking for networking).
In the above incident, all the individuals are creating conversations and are listening to each other’s opinion. Sometimes conversations are fun, sometimes it is a gossip, and sometimes it is around the tea that is being served and everyone leaves back with the taste, with conversational memories and some discussion remaining, which they continue in their next meet.
In chai party, the conversations are made through word of mouth; it is still limited due to the platform limitations. In social media, platform is huge and opportunity to network and converse is more. Chai party is merely speaking and listening whereas social media conversation materials are more such as YouTube videos, blog posts, tweets, status updates, photographs, and polls that result in technologically advanced conversations.
These elements of conversations can be categorized according to the different purpose they serve (Table 2.1)
Table 2.1: Social Media Channels—Purpose They Serve
|Tools||Purpose they serve||Categorization|
|Blogs, Microblogs||Blogs are popularly known as online personal diaries. They help you share your thoughts in detail (unlim- ited words). Microblogging sites limit content sharing per update. Examples of blogs sites are WordPress, Blogspot, Livejournal, and Typepad.
An example of microblogging site is Twitter.
|Maximum used for authoring.|
|YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest, Instagram, SlideShare||They are hubs that host rich media content and play a vital role in creating the ‘attractiveness’ and ‘various forms of content’ on social media.||Maximum used for sharing.|
|Facebook, Google+, Twitter||These hubs are responsible for networking. Be it they appealing to mass or creating one-on-one buzz, they are the most used social networks in the world. They are where the major chunk of the audience, especially in India is found to reside.||Used for social networking.|
|LinkedIn, Xing||In these networks, there are no photo sharing and no conversations over petty issues. LinkedIn showcases the professional side of a person. The platform is designed in a way that can help you highlight your professional attributes to the world more evidently and network with like-minded individuals globally.||Professional social networking.|
|Wikipedia, Google Docs||Globally people use this platform to share content/ documents and collaborate them with other people to work out on the same content remotely at the same time. Officially many project managers remote to each other use these tools to work on a common topic.||Collaboration platforms.|
|Foursquare, Google Latitude||These networks allow people to check in a particular location online and find out nearby areas and great deals provided by the different stores in the locality. One can also observe the reviews of the place and learn online from the other visitors of the place. These networks can be mainly accessed via smartphones.||Location-based social networking.
Media in India
Communication is an art that every Indian has mastered!
Indians communicate in numerous ways; every Indian loves to converse, mingle, network, and socialize. In spite of being the most linguistically diverse country in the world, India has no barrier to communicate. For instance, people are taught to welcome others with warmth and affection; the Indian hospitality is unique, reflects the reverential culture, and is beautifully spread across the country.
In India, communication via media has been relentlessly evolving, giving us newer and wider options. We have been lucratively encouraging, emotionally engaging, and precisely leveraging every media until today.
History of Media in India, Evolution!
In the olden days, our ancestors used hosting pigeons as messengers (the foremost eco- telecom service, isn’t it?).
- Postal services in India began in 1764. The foremost postal service was initiated in Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. Today, there are around 1, 54, 866 post offices.1 A whole lot of people still continue to make use of postal services. With stamps, envelopes, and red postboxes, Indian postal service is still very close to the heart.
- In 1780, the first newspaper was published in India – Bengal Gazette. The Indian newspaper industry has flourished and eventually grew to become the second largest newspaper industry in the world with a whopping 99 million copies being sold every day in 2007.2 Newspapers are still our great admiration.
- In 1882, India has launched its first telecom services. In 1997, Indian telecom had 14.8 million subscribers. In 2007, there were 269 million subscribers. In 2010, Indian telecom has leaped to more than 846 million subscribers. India has the world’s second largest mobile phone user base with over 951.34 million users as of March 2012.3 Today, telecom is an integral and inevitable part of our lives.
- The first Indian radio 7BY was launched in 1927 in Mumbai.4 In 1970, there were 14 million listeners; in 1994, there were 65 million listeners; and in 2010, there were 140 million listeners in India. All India Radio (AIR) boasts one of the largest networks in the world. With 231 radio stations, the radio market promises to grow.
- In the 1960s, television (TV) has entered Indian homes. The number of TV homes in India has grown from 120 million in 2007 to 148 million in 2011; more than 95 million access cable networks.6 In the international market, India stands fourth in TV broadcasting. TV has been our regular dose of entertainment.
- Can you guess the cost of the first computer (with 1k memory) in India in 1955? It was Rs. 2 lakhs; but five decades later, the number of computers in India rose to 15 million and there were 5 million internet connections. Indian population is 1.2 billion; it has increased 16 million more in 2012. About 56% of Indian population is under the age of 30 and about 30% of Indian population is below the age of 15 and that is bigger than the population of Japan. Internet penetration in India is just 11%, which is three times lower than the global average penetration of internet but still India has the world’s third largest internet user base with over 137 million as of June 2012.
- The number of internet users in India is growing by more than 1.5 million every year, there by adding a new internet user in every 2 seconds. With about 41% increase in internet users in 2012, we are the fastest growing online market in the world. About 75% of Indian internet users are below the age of 35, of which about 39.3% users are female. Males in the age group 15–24 account for about 21.9% of the total audience while the females in the same age group account for about 13.7% of the total audience. Similarly, males in the age group 25–34 account for about 23.7% of the total audience while the female in the same age group account for about 15.3% of the total audience.
- About 72% of Indian internet users live in urban areas; the main reason why they come online is to communicate and use social networking sites.25 About 38 million internet users belong to the rural parts of India, of which more than about 50% come for entertainment and communication.
- As per a report published in Times of India in 2012, on an average desinetizens spend 8 hours a day on internet and about 83% of netizens believe that they cannot live without internet for more than 24 hours.21 As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, with more than 150 internet services provided in India, we have 23.1 million Indian households accessing the internet today, of which about 14.57 million households are subscribed to broadband services.
The Social Media Revolution in India, a Promising Beginning
In India, every media has had a humble beginning; however, over time, they grew stupendously. We sent doves, we wrote letters, we listened through radios, we watched through TVs, and started networking through internet. What next?
With an astounding technology support and the desi-zeal imbibed in every Indian, we have welcomed and are nurturing yet another media! This media enables us to chat, write, listen, watch, and network on a single platform— “the social media.” What socializing was in the past, social networking is today! Some might disagree to this statement. A survey conducted by a popular antivirus company in March 2012 among 500 Indians has revealed that the internet users in India spend online an average of 58 hours a week and they suffered from the absence of the internet within three hours of being cut-off from the web. As per the survey, about a period of 15–20 hours a week is spent on socializing and e-mail activities on the web
By Nielsen’s count, there are more than 60 million active users on social media sites such as Orkut, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, of which about 80 percent spend more than 15 minutes on social media every day.18 As per ComScore, one in four online minutes is spent on social networking sites by Indians
As per another report by AC Nielsen’s research in July 2012, there are around 27 million smartphone users in India, of which 22 million people use smartphones mainly for social networking. The major smartphone user age group is 18–24 years. As per ComScore report in August 2012, social networking is the primary drive for online activity in India. There is massive growth in online and social gaming industries in the country
Professionally, social networking sites are popular among Indian users. As per the Cyber Media Research Social Media Survey done from December 2011 to February 2012 with 300 business executives as respondents from different business industries and verticals, more than 90% of respondents in India use social media; of which, about 82% use social media at their workplace, about 15% indicated that they do not access social media at work, while 3% are non-users. About 88% of ‘users’ classified their primary purpose of accessing social media platforms as ‘professional networking,’ about 75% indicated ‘social networking,’ while about 18% go online for ‘job search.’ Social media takes up a good part of an executive’s day—time spent online ranges between 30 and 60 minutes and goes up to 6 hours a day; however, it helps executives multitask productively
As per the report by a popular anti-virus company and by Cyber Media; people mainly access social media through laptops/PCs and fairly equal number of people use it through smartphones and some use it via tablets too. The above facts shows how the usage of internet is rapidly growing in India and as internet penetrates through mobile and other means the socializing possibilities via social networking sites will be on the rise in the years to come.
As seen above, every form of media and communication mode in India has grown up to a phase where we pioneer; social media is still in the growth and nascent phase, yet growing rapidly.
Factors and Popular Incidents Favoring the Growth of Social Media in India
What social media is today viz. communication and media has been relentlessly evolving, giving us newer and wider options. We have been lucratively encouraging, emotionally engaging, and precisely leveraging every media until today. There are various cultural, economical, and behavioral factors that can be considered as factors favoring the growth of social media in India. In India, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Orkut are not just sites but statements! We just do not talk about them or use them; we create possibilities that the audience on social media will enjoy. The new generations peoples have started living on social media than in real life; they are socializing more on social networking sites than in reality. Social media has given us freedom to be democratic, expressive, entertaining, and responsible. Some reasons of social media’s rapid growth in India are discussed in the following sections.
Recall your last travel experience via flight/train and your interaction with your co-passenger, your in-depth questions to him/her, or conversations on general topic resulting in exchange of cards, business, and casual or personal relationships. We are from a land of socializing; it runs in our genes. Relate it to the Chai party incident where many others join the party casually for conversations. In school, parents interact with other parents to understand if their kids have completed the project and what marks their kids score in the subjects. We love to interact with other people in the same colony and exchange sweets during festivals and delicacies on ordinary days. People in India love to converse, interact, and help other people; social media channels are the easiest platform for them to connect, converse, interact, and help likeminded individuals. Families in India have started becoming nuclear; however, they are still joint because of social media. Friends from schools, colleges, and workplaces are no more just part of memories; they have become a part of your social network forever. Social culture has made communication easy and is immensely helping preserve the culture in its own foundation.
Be in News
For many of us, being in news channels or newspapers is always a fantasy but not everyone is able to succeed to reach there. Social media has helped people create their own news channel and have their network of known individuals as its subscribers. ‘Showing off’ or ‘flaunting’ has become a part of our lives these days. I still remember my neighbor buying a car not because I saw him driving, just because he shared a picture of it directly from the showroom to Facebook even before he drove it. We are invariably becoming part of the new social culture that is compelling us to share more and be in the limelight. People no more click pictures and give it for printing; they rather upload it on social channels and preserve and share memories with the world around them. As a general human tendency, we love to flaunt (I know, many would contradict!) and social media has made it easier. Just observe your social network today and you will notice many of them sharing pictures from festivals they have celebrated, places they have visited, new things they have purchased, and the reviews of the movie they have experienced—why so? Answer yourself!
In this book, I have given a few case studies that will showcase how some Indians have used social media extensively to highlight their talent and become popular in their area of expertise.
We Love Gossiping!
If you are an urban Indian and are reading my book, you may do this task for sure! While you go to a posh restaurant or a popular food joint in your city, keep your ears open to the conversations happening in the table next to yours. Listen to the conversations carefully and you will notice people talking about activities their friends do on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I have always observed this and it has proven to me that social media channels give us enough tidbits to gossip about people. If there are individuals flaunting, there are people gossiping. The ecosystem is well balanced.
We Follow and Get Addicted to Trends
Orkut was the charm once upon a time when the ‘keeda’ of social media got into us a few years back. We used to scrap, create albums, share videos, and wrote testimonials to our friends. However, today, not any would like to say that they are active on Orkut (even if they are, discreetly), as that is no more part of the trend. Celebrities from India dominating Twitter encouraged more and more people from the rural parts of India to join Twitter to get updates from their favorite celebrity. I have personally observed many of my friends complaining about Twitter not being a good social network just because they do not get responses when they tweet and when I observed their tweets, it was a question posted to a popular celebrity who has got lakhs of followers and thousands of questions each day. My mother is not a Facebook user and she is not at all computer savvy; however, whenever there is an event at home, she insists to post pictures on Facebook—for the world to see! I always wondered how she knows how Facebook works when she is not a part of it at all. I just blame it on the trend. A cousin of mine is facing a ‘notification syndrome’; this comes soon after she posts a status update of pictures on social media channel. She often logins to see how many people liked or commented on the recent share and gets really upset when she does not get enough responses! Social media trend in the country has just started; if you are an urban youth and are not part of Facebook, do not even say this in public, as they shall give you a weird look and say, ‘Jeez, you are not on Facebook?”
We Love Getting Entertained!
More than anything else, social media channels have become a source of entertainment. With different features it innovates everyday, people are getting glued to this medium more and more. On Twitter, people love to gossip with the mass on a particular topic that is trending. In addition, on Facebook, people love to share and watch photos and videos (the most entertaining activity); YouTube is becoming a compulsory tab on the browser while accessing the internet; Instagram has made photo sharing sexier and easier; Foursquare is making travel experience more social; and blogs are always busy establishing your brand in detail. Overall, social media, a free medium, is just becoming a reason to spend some time with the world
Social Media Playing Politics
Many politicians and political incidents in India have brought social media into the limelight. When leaders use this medium, they acknowledge this to their fan base or followers and thus bringing various moments, movements, and controversies for people to participate. The following quotes are some of the interesting instances.
- Narendra Modi’s strong social media presence especially on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. His Google+ Hangout incident hosted by the Bollywood actor Ajay Devgan allowing a common man to ask him a live question; it had hosted millions of viewers curbing mainstream media completely and directly connecting with people by means of social media and internet.
- Shashi Tharoor’s Twitter activities quoted in mainstream media and statements such as mentioning an economy class travel as cattle class created a whole lot of chaos.
- Digvijay Singh’s tweet on comparing Arvind Kejriwal with Rakhi Sawant going mainstream and provoking Rakhi Sawant to file a case against Digvijay Singh.
- Mamta Banerjee’s Facebook presence for seeking support to have Mr. Abdul Kalam as president again and further using this medium to share her views on different incidents.
- Kapil Sibal’s statement on censoring social media making social media population ferocious and created comic moment around him. I remember #IdiotKapilSibal was trending on Twitter for consecutive two days, with some hilarious cartoons and tweets made about him
- . Opinions of public and conversations over 2G scam, CWG scam, Parliament toilet, Coalgate, Robert Vadra’s DLF scam, presidential elections and so on.
- Anna Hazare’s social media campaign against corruption, which was the prime incident in Indian politics showing the power of social media. The India-against-corruption activists hosted a splendid social media presence with every movement live updated.
- The arrest of a Pondicherry-based businessman for posting “offensive” tweets against Karthik Chidambaram, son of the Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, stroking the free speech and internet governance debate.1
- Arrest of popular cartoonist Aseem Trivedi who made cartoons on the Indian constitution and symbols, stroking the freedom of expression debate.
- On M.K. Stalin’s (son of the DMK’s leader) 59th birthday, there were posters all around the Chennai city with a logo of Facebook alongside; Stalin’s photo stating that he has got maximum friends on DMK’s Facebook page.
- The blocking and suspension of the fake Prime Minster of India twitter account: PM0India spoofing tweets of the original account of PMOIndia.
- The arrest of two girls from Palghar who updated their status against Mumbai Bandh during the death rally of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray. One girl was arrested for raising her voice against the bandh on Facebook and the other for liking the status update that went highly controversial.
Social Media and the Movies
- Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi: It is a popular Tamil movie, which got immense popularity when it was release a year back on YouTube as a 10-minute short film, widely appreciated by audience on social media, which made the director believe in the story; finally, the actors and actresses were hired to make a complete movie on the short film. The movie also quotes several incidents of the usage of Facebook by the parents of the lead actors in the movie.
- Popular movie Golmaal 3 named the pet dog in the movie as Facebook and made Kareena wear a T-shirt with message ‘Lets Tweet,’ thus giving enough social media chunks for people to talk a about and raise curiosity.
- A low-budget Tamil movie ‘Yen Ennada Mayakkam’ is all about a girl falling in love with a stranger on Facebook, which turned out to be disastrous.
- The movie 3 Idiots of Aamir Khan, which is the most popular one, showed how he has used to learn about his friend’s success from his information technology blog; at the same time, this movie set the trend by giving Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube media partners’ credit in the beginning of the movie.
- Amitabh Bachahn’s initial blog debut that was followed by popularity on Twitter and then entering Facebook in 2012 with more 32 lakh fans in just 1 month of time has always been the talk of the town and mainstream media.
- Abhishek Bachchan’s announcement on Twitter about his baby girl became a moment of celebration online with five trends dedicated solely to Bachchan’s family on Twitter: BigB, BabyB, Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Aradhya, BetiB, etc.
- Celebrity fights on Twitter that always got mainstream media’s attention, ex: when Ayesha Takiya and Siddarth Mallya had picked up a quarrel on ill treatment of Ayesha’s sister by a Kingfisher Airlines staff bringing a lot of support to Ayesha’s concern and criticism to Siddarth’s ignorance.
- The first episode of a popular TV show by Aamir Khan called ‘Satyamev Jayate’ had made Indians to come together on Facebook with more than 6 Lakh people joining the movement on the first week of the show, more than 3 Lakh people talking about it on Facebook at that instance, 35,306 tweets on topics female feticide making #SMJ, Satyamev Jayate, Female Foeticide, and Aamir Khan trends on Twitter. On May 6, 2012, SMJ became the most searched topic on Google and the videos uploaded on YouTube had more than 3 Lakh views on the first day of the show, thus creating some history in social media
- The popularity of the song ‘Why This Kolaveri’ of the popular Tamil movie ‘3,’ which was an accidental social media case study, has been extremely successful in setting the social media marketing standards high. The song was released on November 16, 2011 and within five days the song had got more than 56 lakh views on YouTube, #Kolaveri was trending for 3 consecutive days on Twitter. On Facebook, this song was shared round about 20 million times in just five days. The virality of this song via social media took it all the way to radio stations in Mumbai; it was one of the important Tamil songs played on MTV. This song got most of the music sensation awards for the year 2011 and this song was the most talked about by celebrities on Twitter. This song was first shared on YouTube.
- In the year 2009, when we had very few social media and internet savvy users in India compared to what we have now, #Chetanblocks became a sensational topic across India. On December 7, 2009 (Monday), sometime in the evening, the Indian author Chetan Bhagat blocked a few people from his Twitter account. He (@chetan_bhagat) was having a debate with a journalist (@jojiphilip) on books and piracy, when he had received some tweets that did not gel with him. The result has made him blocking those people from his Twitter account. This conversation started a massive surge of tweets with the hashtag #chetanblocks. There were many who were related and many who were not related to the incident; however, everyone found an opportunity to talk about the issue and tease Chetan Bhagat and made #Chetanblocks trend, thus spoiling his reputation. This was the first Indian trend that was in the list of the hottest trends and it did show India how social media is leveraged by Indian to showcase the power of expressions.
Social Media and Cricket Strokes
Cricket is India’s weakness; assume that there is a disaster or any other epic moment in the country when Indian team is playing cricket on the same occasions, the internet world is dominated by the conversations on team’s performance, not on any other important events. Whenever India is playing, the hottest trends on Twitter are dominated by cricketers or incidents relevant to it. Some of the important instances are as follows.
- In 2010, Indian Premier League (IPL) was the first sporting event ever to be broadcasted live on YouTube. By the end of the tournament, YouTube was reporting 55.7 million channel views and 31.7 million video-on-demand views. With over 93,000 subscribers, the channel was rated as the “#1 Most Subscribed Channel (All Time)—India.” Fans from over 200 countries watched IPL 2010 on YouTube—India had the most views, with the United States in second place.
- IPL’s social media presence also hosted a lot of official bloggers for each of the teams; the invitations for nomination of bloggers are always announced in public.
- The IPL matches in 2012 were even more social media savvy with teams actively participating on social media platforms engaging their fans on regular basis; at the same time, the screening of IPL on Set Max channel had also displayed tweet scores, best tweets of the day, etc. Thus, it was connecting the live incidents to social media. IPL is one of the most entertaining sports reaching to the cricket fans all across the country.
- .Suresh Raina’s tweet against Pakistan’s defeat in T20 World Cup created a spur of controversial moment, which he later clarified as a tweet made by his nephew and not by him. The damage to his sportsman reputation was already done by then.
- ESPN hosted a contest to choose a commentweeter, sponsoring two winners to South Africa to live tweet the match.
Crime, Disasters, and Quotes on Social Media
- Nowadays, in India, you will always find some of crimes or criminal instincts being connected to social media channels. I have read enough on mainstream media on how successful the CBI or Indian Police have been in cracking a case by using profiles of the murderers or the culprits.
- Delhi Traffic Police’s Facebook Presence: This was a trend started by the Delhi Police and followed by many others in the country. It was a key highlight point for the government officials on ‘social media’ put to good use. On the Facebook page of the traffic police, one can register a complaint by posting photographs of the vehicles, report about rash drivers, faulty number plates, get queries solved, and seek information on the traffic status every day
- A few tweeters were recently arrested in India for making vulgar tweets about popular singer Chinmayi Sripada and her mother, which regulated the people from posting anything and everything they feel is right
- Indian Express has a separate column for the tweets of the day, highlighting a few tweets. In a similar way, Times of India (TOI) and Deccan Chronicle had also started quoting tweets from celebrities to the mainstream media.
- Earth Quake Reporting, Mumbai Blasts, Neelam Cyclone, and many other incidents in India have always encouraged citizen journalism and people who share live news out to the world with involvement of mainstream media. In fact, NDTV encourages people to post videos and pictures from their area during the times of disaster, thus making the news a complete social news!
Social Media and Business in India
Many Indian brands have started investing in social media; on the one hand, brands are thinking of different ways of engaging; on the other front on marketers and branding managers. Business school students have started in investing time or money to learn more about this medium to get certified or to become an expert in this field and pursue a career in this field. Job hubs such as LinkedIn Jobs, Naukri.com, and Timesjob.com are all flooded with requirements for individuals with social media and digital marketing skills. Social media, which was once considered a time pass medium, has started taking a serious shape in the country with brand allocating budgets and resources, corporate roping in training programs, and business schools considering social media marketing courses or modules for students.
Professionally, there is enough pressure on marketers, PR professionals, branding experts, and journalists to start using social media to be ahead of competition. Social bakers have listed more than 1,000 Facebook pages of brands whereas Media2win has highlighted more than 250 active brands on Twitter in India. Many of the Indian brands on Facebook are now having million-followers-mark and more. The numbers of pages on the popular channels Facebook and Twitter would be fairly high if small businesses, freelancers, social businesses, and organizations are taken into consideration. The social media and business sidelines have been phenomenal in the country.
In 2009, there were hardly 25–30 (as observed and listed on my blog www.soravjain.com) fully-fledged social media agencies in India; however, now the number has crossed 100, which involves full-fledged advertising, PR, SEO, digital marketing, and web-designing agencies having a social media wing serving their clients demanding social media services. As per survey released by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), in October 2011, India Inc. is increasing their marketing spend on social media marketing to a whopping Rs. 1,200 crore, which is expected to cross Rs. 10,000 crore during the course of the next three to four years.25 From a global perspective, goods and services worth about Rs. 23,000 crore are traded currently through social networks across the world. In addition, the figure is likely to swell to about Rs. 1.35 lakh crore by 2015.