India is the most strategic and critical market for social media giant Facebook. The importance is, however, not just because the country is home to its second-largest user base with 166 million monthly active users. India is also fast emerging as a critical market for ad revenues for it.
Capitalising on the increasing demand for "mobile first" campaign strategies of brands in the country, Facebook is working with several companies to help them boost brand awareness, increase brand consideration, increase in-store sales, boost offline sales by engaging with their target audience, among others.
"Great marketing starts with great creatives," said Umang Bedi, Managing Director, Facebook India and South Asia, adding that the company's biggest bet is on mobile growth, user engagement, and digital advertising.
Bedi may be right. Several of these initiatives seem to have shown good results for brands.
Recently, Facebook worked with cab aggregator Ola. Ola wanted to use Facebook to boost its brand awareness as part of its #ChaloNiklo brand campaign. Ola ran a series of targeted video ads and photo ads featuring content from its #ChaloNiklo campaign. The video content and photos contained calls to action that encouraged people to download Ola's mobile app. In five weeks, its Facebook ads strategy achieved 3X increase in Ola's customer acquisition rate, 4X increase in brand-related online searches and 60% increase in sales, Facebook claims.
"Video is a fantastic medium to tell the brand story, also to get people to remember your brand long after they stop seeing the content. Facebook was an obvious choice for us, in terms of a digital partner, with one of the largest penetration in India among smartphone users. It allowed us to set up and launch our campaign very quickly on a massive scale," said Sudarshan Gangrade, vice president, marketing, category and alliances, Ola.
Ads are extremely important for Facebook. For the year 2015, worldwide ad revenues at Facebook stood at $17.08 billion, while the overall revenues were $17.93 billion. These worldwide ad revenues are expected to touch nearly $25.9 billion this year, according to the estimates of forecasting firm eMarketer. This will make Facebook the biggest ad publisher after tech giant Google. This year, each Facebook user, world over, is expected to generate nearly $15.83 for the firm, eMarketer said.
While, Facebook has been registering noticeable increase in its ad revenues, the company had admitted a few days ago that it discovered a few bugs and errors which led to misreporting of numbers across Instant Articles, Page Insights and video.
"We believe in complete transparency. We have validation from third parties," said Bedi on the impact of ads in India.
Last year, Facebook launched three new tools for marketers - Blueprint, training modules for advertising on Facebook; Learn How, which is all about success in advertising through Facebook; and Ad Copy Cheat Sheet to improve ad copies. Since March 2015, Blueprint eLearning has hit 1 million enrolment and India ranks as the second largest country signing onto Blueprint.
In October Facebook had launched its enterprise messaging service Workplace, which will compete with Slack, Google Hangouts, Microsoft's Yammer, Salesforce's Quip and Evernote. India is one of the top five adopters of Workplace, besides Norway, US, UK and France.
There are over two million SMB (small and medium-sized business) Pages on Facebook in India as of October 2015, the company said in a media meeting on Wednesday, with over 2.4 billion interactions generated between businesses and people in India. More than 30% of active SMB pages on Facebook are owned by women.
Facebook says it contributed $4 billion and 335,000 jobs to India through its marketing, platform and connectivity efforts, citing a 2015 Deloitte report.