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Connecting and Engaging with Digital Indian Consumers
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Connecting and Engaging with Digital Indian Consumers

With 50+ million active social media users, Indians spend more time on social media than on any other activity on the Internet, according to Nielsen. In fact, 80 percent spend more than 15 minutes per day on social media every day. And social media usage on mobile phones is expected to exceed those accessing similar sites on personal computers in the coming year. But is this audience engaged?

At the Nielsen Consumer 360 Conference in New Delhi, India, Farshad Family, Nielsen Managing Director of Media, discussed how brands can effectively break away from the pack in order to differentiate and improve social media engagement levels.

More Consumers ? Higher Engagement

A Nielsen analysis among brands in the telecom, soft drink and auto categories reveals that a higher brand-page count does not translate to a higher level of engagement. In the study, engagement was defined as how a consumer interacts on the brand page: visiting, downloading and using an app on a page and/or sharing, commenting and “liking” updates on a timeline.

On a scale of one to 10, where a level of 10 is the most engaged, a Nielsen Engagement Index shows that all consumers in the study cluster around a score of seven—regardless of whether a brand page has one or 4.5 million fans. Clearly, brands are not differentiating on engagement levels. But how do I break away from the pack?

Top Six Drivers of Engagement

Company interaction and brand aspiration are the two most important drivers of social media engagement. Other key factors of engagement success include offering free giveaways, posting lively discussions and general updates about the brand, having a “hip” brand and being “liked” by friends.

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The consumer is open and willing for engagement, but marketers need to experiment and innovate with brands in order to build commitment. A Nielsen survey reveals that one in six respondents want brands to share updates with them on new products and services. More than half (53%) want announcements on sales/discounts and half want to hear about the latest industry trends. Consumers also want brands to provide tips and tricks about how to maintain and use products/services (48%), conduct a greater number of contests (42%), resolve concerns (41%), create more utility applications/games (35%) and conduct more conversations (31%).

And engagement is influential in the buying process. Of the 39 percent of consumers who consider a friend’s recommendation for a product on a social networking site when making a purchase decision, three out of four will often/sometimes purchase the products based on the review.

During the session, Brad Smallwood, Global Head of Measurement & Insights at Facebook, shared four key insights into what makes a good social media campaign.

He said to start with the concept of social. “Social should be baked into everything.” Smallwood said to speak with an authentic brand voice and not try to be something you are not. “Nurture relationships and focus on understanding where they are in the lifecycle,” he said. “And continue learning – listen to the community and evolve the campaign accordingly.”

Mobile is Changing the Game

In India, mobile is going beyond voice and short-message-texting capabilities as the number of active mobile Internet users continues to climb. By the end of next year, while more than 40 million users will access social media sites via personal computers, over 60 million users will access the sites via their mobile phones. And as smartphone prices continue to fall, penetration levels will climb.

Indian consumers are willing to spend more on mobile handsets. A Nielsen mobile insights survey finds that non-smartphone users are willing to pay 7200 INR on their next handset, which is below the current average smartphone pricing of 5,500 INR, suggesting that a smartphone will likely enter the consideration set for consumers in 2012.

In fact, Internet and 3G rank highly among Indian consumers on features most sought after in their next phone. After camera and FM radio, Internet ranks third with almost one-in-four (23%) consumers indicating a desire for this capability. Today, social networking is already prevalent on the mobile screen. Among smartphone users, three-of-four use social networking and spend more than two hours browsing and downloading applications and entertainment.

“The Indian consumer’s quest for a new phone is almost entirely feature driven and while the camera and FM radio remain favorites, consumers are now also looking for Internet connectivity via their mobile phone, hoping to finally connect to the growing online community,” said Farshad Family, Managing Director of Media, Nielsen India. “It is evident that going forward, the Indian consumer’s aspiration to upgrade will also be a strong driver.”

The Future is Promising

A confluence of factors—a growing social media user base, an increasing smartphone penetration and a mounting consumer desire to connect—is creating a perfect storm of opportunity for brands to make social media an integral part of the marketing strategy with engaging programs that elevate and differentiate their brand from all the rest.

During the session, Family moderated a cross-industry panel of marketers to discuss how brands are using digital platforms to successfully drive better engagement for brands. Vikram Sakhuja, CEO, Group M, Anupama Ahluwalia, CMO, Coca-Cola India, Arpita Menon, Head of Media Planning & Buying, Star TV and Sahana Sarma, Partner, McKinsey & Company agreed that you need to make the interaction special for the consumer. “This is a long journey and there are no short-term solutions,” said Ahluwalia. “You need to take the consumer on board and continue on the journey with them.”