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How companies figure out what Facebook likes [The Economic Times, India]
[July 04, 2011]

How companies figure out what Facebook likes [The Economic Times, India]

(Economic Times (India) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 04--Last week, the world's largest social network, Facebook took down the pages of Cadbury Bournville and FCUK India, only to restore them -- with the fan base and wall intact -- back two days later. It was not a sweet surprise for the chocolate maker that is still wondering what they did to earn the suspension. "Cadbury is working with Facebook and agency partners to ascertain the reason for the move. What was the reason and why the page was taken down weren't specified," a Cadbury spokesperson told ET on Sunday.

With Facebook hitting the delete button, albeit temporarily, a full blown debate has erupted about the growing clout of social media and how companies use and in some cases, misuse social networks like Facebook. "Most of the brands don't fully know Facebook norms and regulations and even if they do, they tend to ignore it -- until now. And Facebook's move to temporarily disable big brand pages makes everybody sit up and take notice," says Adhvith Dhuddu, founder and chief executive officer of AliveNow, a Bangalore-based social media management firm. "Facebook was forced to do this because many brand pages were not following guidelines and it was only a matter of time before Facebook came down heavily on them." This is not the first time that Facebook has taken punitive action against a company. Even Fastrack pages were temporarily disabled for contest violations.

In early June, Facebook clamped down on Pizza Hut India's page as it found an old application on its Pizza Hut Delivery page that was akin to a contest.

According to the Facebook rule book, if a brand wants to release promotions or run contests, they should do it by building an external application or tab.

This idea is to clarify that "the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook." "It was an old promotional offer that was still on our wall," says Sandeep Kataria, chief marketing officer, Yum! Restaurants India that owns Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell in India.

"The site was temporarily disabled until the old content was deleted," adds Kataria.

The restaurant chain is now in touch with Facebook administrators to ensure that they comply with the social network's revised guidelines.

Clearly, no one wants to alienate the Facebook fan base.

Good Connections And there is only one reason for that -- Facebook is the six-hundred-pound gorilla of the social networking world. In April 2011, Facebook users in India crossed the 25-million base mark, well ahead of all social media players, including international ones like Orkut, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, SlideShare, and its smaller, regional competitors like BuzzCity and Bigadda.

Its closest rival Orkut is languishing at approximately 19 million users with little signs of growing. With everyone from the person next to you to your favourite brand to even the Municipal Corporation of Delhi getting on Facebook, the California-based social networking service is the biggest marketing platform to be in.

"Earlier, the case for digital marketing was not supported by numbers, which never justified that as a separate component in the marketing budget," says Albert Pereira, president (digital) and chief marketing officer, Genesis Burson-Marsteller, a leading public relations firm's social media management arm.

India has over 8 crore internet users, which is expected to grow to 25 crore by 2015. Given these numbers, and high social media adoption in the country, it is not surprising that the likes of MTV India, Pepsico India and Pizza Hut view India as the big game in the space. Like Pizza Hut's Kataria puts it, "We have to go fishing where the fish are." And going by the numbers, there is a lot of catch in the Indian waters. PepsiCo India has 13,42,058 fans; MTV India has 27,65,005 fans and Pizza Hut Celebrations has 11,83,357 fans. The standard profile of a social media user according to Global Web Index 2011 is 16-35 city slickers.

"The numbers are no longer small. Even YouTube has 4-5 million hits on a daily basis," says Sandeep Singh Arora, executive vice-president (marketing, cola), PepsiCo India. The soft-drink giant currently works closely with YouTube for generating and populating content and with Facebook for sharing it. Between January and April 2011, PepsiCo India was the fastest growing Facebook page globally.

Intel was among the first tech companies to start a Facebook page along with setting a YouTube channel and a Twitter account. Intel has a global Facebook page and is networked with 1.9 million people and 40 country pages. With a fan following of 2,20,469 in India, Intel's India Facebook page is among the fastest growing for the Asia Pacific region for the company, says Jamshed Wadia, interactive manager, Asia Pacific marketing and consumer sales, Intel.

Even FMCG major Nestle has realised the power of the new media, especially when it comes for consumer-driven initiatives like their Maggi campaign. Currently, the company is networked with 4,05,076 people on its Meri Maggi page. "Social media is enabling users to demonstrate their preferences and loyalty for brands and products and that's why brand websites, Facebook, mobile and SMS are good touch-points to engage with consumers in the new environment," says a Nestle spokesperson.

Arora says effective partnerships for content creation will help harness this new medium. Currently they have tied up with Mo Films for developing short films for YouTube. "Leveraging the new medium depends on the right partners that you align with," he says.

Let it Grow Speaking at AdTech India, the premier global technology and advertising event held in Gurgaon in April 2011, David Fischer, vice-president (advertising and global operations), Facebook announced to a packed house: "Marketers do not need to market their products any more -- people will market it for them." It's this promised future that's whetting the industry's appetite. Sensing the potential, even Nasscom announced its first Social Media Summit 2011 in New Delhi. Calling it the social media age of 'Get to a million in a minute', the purpose of the summit was to make the marketers learn quickly the different ways consumers access the internet across multiple time zones, networks and devices. Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking -- businesses have had to change their ways.

Even though, it's relatively easy to garner a large fan following, the social media space has its own set of rules -- some clearly stated, some unsaid -- that companies need to follow. "When you are entering the social media space, you have to relinquish control because you are creating content and sharing it freely," says PepsiCo's Arora.

The cola giant, for instance, chose 11 people along with MTV India to blog, tweet and post updates for their World Cup campaign on Facebook. MTV hosted the programme as a reality show where a nation-wide hunt led to these 20-somethings -- the average age of Facebook users -- making the final cut. PepsiCo didn't moderate any discussion or any post. It's an approach social media management honchos agree with. "Just like your friend base, a Facebook fan base has to grow organically. It's one of the basic premises of this medium," Pereira says.

It is for the same reason that Facebook prevents companies from using its features like the 'Like' button for their promotions. Facebook's promotions guidelines as given on the sites' link ( clearly states: "...the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant." Pereira claims this is a common oversight that companies do to garner numbers. "Incentivising the 'like' mechanism forces people to spam," he adds.

Facebook norms are clear that you can't use like buttons and comment boxes to enter contests, but companies tend to ignore that. "Even major brands choose to ignore this clause," Dhuddu claims, adding that companies are myopic in their networking content on Facebook, rarely going beyond a contest. "Companies are unaware of the ground rules of this new playground," says Swapan Seth, founder of social media management firm ThisContent.

Social media management experts believe that companies need to learn the nuances of social media communication. "Till now, brands were broadcasters. Now they need to be conversational. That requires a special skill: listening and responding," says Seth. "These are tapped phone lines between brands and consumers. Everyone can hear the conversation - both fun and scary," he adds.

It's a new space brands are entering in, and doing so gingerly. "You are entering a private space between two individuals or a group of friends, you can't appear as an intruder or a bug," says Rohit Ohri, managing partner, JWT India. This space has gained importance for JWT so much so they are in the process of setting up a joint venture with Wunderman International -- a global social media management firm. Ohri advises brands to approach social media spaces as facilitators, something that will better the interaction between two friends, for leveraging the site.

In some ways, that is social media's biggest challenge: how do companies plug their marketing and branding messages, without pestering users and yet keep things interesting? Intel keeps fans interested by adding new Facebook specific apps like Museum of Me. The app charts your Facebook timeline and puts it in a graphic form. "In fact, the popularity of the app reaffirmed our belief in viral marketing as we have had no adverts for this app. It went viral in five countries in five days purely on the basis of tweeting and sharing," Wadia adds. Intel also uses its walls for fielding queries, nearly 600-700 a day just in the Asia-Pacific region.

But companies, even smaller ones, are setting up Facebook conversations that would get more people on board. Shoes and apparel manufacturer Woodland talks about environmental issues in its Pro Planet forum even as its talks about new launches and sales. "We realised that the youth is bothered about the environment and our Facebook-driven marketing strategy targets this segment with the Pro Planet initiative," says Harkirat Singh, managing director, Woodland. Like most brands now, Woodland has a social media engagement division. Footwear major Crocs India uses social media to connect with its core buyers -- the 16-30 age bracket. "Our existing and potential client base is online. Crocs has introduced region specific pages to connect to the audiences locally," says Murali Desingh, managing director, Crocs India.

But companies need to think beyond contests, Dhuddu says. Think photos, think discounts, think short films. "The big challenge is how to convert fanbase into business. Facebook has the mindshare but can it help you get the marketshare," he adds. Singh though isn't bothered, "We just want to make friends not find buyers." Friends first, money will follow.

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Copyright (c) 2011, The Economic Times, India Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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