Changing digital ecosphere: Social media marketing now more about substance than numbers? – Exchange4media

In this series on evolving social media platforms, Exchange4media talks with digital marketing experts about how the creators, advertisers, and modern commerce are getting impacted. The first story in the series talks about the impact on creators.

From a young kid to established professionals, from celebrities to their fans, and from creators to brands, people across demographics are today on social media — a place that was figuratively non-existent a decade ago. Currently, over 624 million Indians are on social media, which amounts to around 45% of the country’s population. And it’s only growing every day! The vast potential such social media platforms have, therefore, also attracted large investments from brands and marketers in media spending. As per data by Dentsu, currently, the highest proportion (29%) of overall spending on digital is contributed by social media which stands at Rs. 4,596 crore.

Thus, to keep the advertisers, creators, and users flowing in, these social media platforms are constantly evolving. Just over the past 12-18 months, we have seen the emergence of a multitude of new platforms like MX TakaTak and Chingari, revamped features on giants like Reels on Instagram, YouTube Shorts & Super Thanks on YouTube, and Facebook going full meta. The rise of apps that cater to audiences comfortable with regional languages like ShareChat & Moj and social commerce platforms like Roposo & Meesho tell spectacular stories.

These burgeoning changes are going to impact the whole ecosphere of social media users and content creators. Exchange4media discusses with leading minds in the Indian digital industry.

Not anymore for numbers but for consumer experiences

Last year, Instagram gave its users an option to hide the number of likes on their posts to create a better user experience and just a few days ago, YouTube also announced its plans to hide the dislike button from its videos. Industry experts believe that the move is to make the social media places safer, reduce the amount of hate & negativity, and also give creators more control over their content. But above all, it is to keep user experience over numbers.

Digitas Senior Strategy Director Shashank Rawat says, “The creator economy in India is still after popularity rather than building value. Most of the creators judge the product/content they create through the currency of likes which is somewhat true for us marketers as well. The economy of creation will really launch when we start creating products/content which bring value to the consumers/audience rather than a bright blip on the virality radar.”

But will the lack of numbers create a problem for marketers who need the metrics to judge the success of their campaigns, hence the popularity of influencer marketing?

Vishal Mehra, Digital Head – North, DDB Mudra Group, doesn’t think so. “I feel these moves are to make social media spaces safer and reduce the amount of hate and negativity that many creators get on their posts. For marketers, there are a lot of metrics available to gauge the success of any campaign. We just need to put two and two together. For example, a very simple metric could be search volumes, which are always going to be directly proportional to the success of any campaign.”

Time is money, literally

Another big trend has been the popularity of short-video platforms, especially after TikTok was banned in the country. A number of made-in-India apps originated quickly and Instagram too came up with reels. Now, the platform has consolidated its video and reels platform under a single window, streamlining the experience. These short video platforms emerged because of the diminishing attention span of the users. Further, in this story, a number of social media platforms, including the likes of Instagram and Twitter, are trying to dabble in the subscription space.

CupShup Co-founder Sidharth Singh elaborates, “Instagram has seen over 35% growth year-over-year in the number of monetising creators and video publishers in India and over 160% growth in in-stream revenue earned by them. The more tools Creators get access to, the better the platform gets — is the notion in belief. While it is indeed true, it does remain in the purview of factors; primarily on the content being created by these accounts. Instagram is a Creator First platform — a title fit for the platform that has taken control of the content that is being consumed in today’s world. The more they get, the more brands get to leverage and improvise strategy and campaigns.”

Rajeesh Rajagopalan, Grapes National Business Head-Grapes agrees, “The higher the monetisation for creators means more content and hopefully high-quality content. Higher quality content will overall help the platform to be more attractive to the audience. High-quality content leads to better audience engagement that leads to more visibility for brands.” But will Indians pay for exclusive content on social media?

Mehra highlights, “Users are anyway paying for the time they are spending on social media with their time. And there is no currency bigger than that. Social media is getting crowded, both in terms of apps and creators, and people have a finite time in their hands. So, subscription models can be a big success as people will be making more conscious choices and deciding how they want to spend their time. Such attempts are already successful in countries like China (according to the Manila website and with apps like Patreon.”

In fact, Brand Consultant Rahul Ghosh feels that the subscription trend is only poised to grow further. “Digitalization and bulging social media platforms will accelerate the growth of the creator economy. Brands are exploring newer avenues to collaborate with creators to deliver brand messaging to potential customers. This trend will eventually grow further in the decades to come.”

To Be Continued… 

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