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A Look at India’s Social Media Landscape

In 2013, social media in India became one of the fastest growing markets for social media. Increased mobile and internet penetration have meant that more users have taken to social media like never before.

Here’s a list of things to watch out for across a few prominent social media players – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+ and LinkedIn. While Twitter & Facebook have had a head start in India with partnerships and users, Google+ is playing catch up.

Social Media Sites

Users India

Users Global

Facebook

114.8 M

1.19 Bn

Google+

30 M*

300 M

Twitter

20 M

230 M

LinkedIn

22 M

250 M

Youtube

Over 55 M

1 Bn unique visitors/mth

*Guesstimated number of users

Key trends

1. Telco Partnerships

In 2013, telcos took to boosting data services through collaborations with social media platforms. Reliance Communications did it in April, when it allowed users zero data services while accessing Twitter, and Vodafone followed suit in July, when users were given 3 months free access to the microblogging site. With the number of active smartphone users set to reach 2 billion in 2014, a higher number of such collaborations can be expected. Considering that Facebook drove 3G usage in India (and vice versa), it shouldn’t come as a surprise when telcos like Airtel or Reliance resort to such partnerships when they begin the large scale rollout of 4G LTE next year.

BJP Social Media2. Social Media Driving Voters?

Elections were a pivotal moment for social media in India this year. It is perhaps the first time in Indian history that politicians and political parties took to the Internet like never before. According to an IAMAI study, parties have kept aside 2-5% of their election budget just for social media. Here’s what social media deployed to woo the electorate:

Google+ & Youtube

  • Launched Google hangouts for politicians and the Google election portal for the people.

  • Launched Google election portal on December 4th. Claims to help voters understand the election process and act as a “one stop destination” for information on the 2014 elections.

Twitter

  • Politicians joined Twitter en masse gaining thousands if not millions of followers.

  • NOT a test of popularity though because more than 50% of politicians followers were found to be fake.

  • Twitter also took a BIG leap forward in their committment toward the 2014 elections by hiring a person dedicated towards it. The company announced that a former communications director at change.org, Raheel Khursheed will now be the Head of News, Politics and Government in India.

 Facebook

3. User Growth Vs Revenues

But does all this action translate into higher revenues? It’s win some and lose some if reports are to be believed. Take the case of Twitter, the company that filed a big bang IPO in November and listed as TWTR on NYSE, still hasn’t figured out a model to monetise itself. So while the company has quite a high user base in EMs, it feels that the feature phone usage in India will limit delivery of compelling advertisements, thereby affecting operating results.

However, Facebook’s fortune in India seems to be shining with reports suggesting that FB’s Indian user base will outdo that of USA. It even goes on to say that by 2015, Facebook’s revenues will come from emerging markets.

Social Media for Startups4. How Transparent Are We?

Meanwhile, the Indian Government didn’t give up on its attempt to keep a check on netizens. This is bound to increase in the coming years as the Government grapples to control the medium. Here’s what they did, and how the companies responded.

5. Shift to Mobile

Also trending this year, and will stand out next year is the shift to mobile. According to IAMAI, 19.8 million users were found to access social media via their mobile phones this year. In August, Facebook already had 75% of its users using mobile phones to access the social networking site. Telecom service providers like Airtel have seen their 3G customers in India double, while Reliance Communications had the highest number of 3G subscribers. Mobile data usage on Vodafone India, grew by 29% on the back of 3G growth. And to top it all off, telcos themselves have declared that data will be key going forward.

6. Television Partnerships

Social media and Television have also developed a nexus in the past year. Airtel Digital TV integrated Twitter in October so that users could watch TV while at the same time tweeting about their show. In the US, the microblogging site partnered with NBCUniversal and Comcast to produce ‘social TV’. It’s only a matter of time before Twitter starts employing the same in India.

7. Celebrity Route

Google+ banked on celebrities and big names to get their brand out this year. The highlight of the year is without doubt when 82,000 people across 116 countries watched BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s G+ Hangout on Youtube. Hangouts also had their TV debut in India with debates on hangouts streaming live on Indian television like that of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Anand Mahindra and others on a business channel in India.

8. Shifting Advertising Revenues

2014 will also see see a change with social media companies competing for ad revenues, While Google owns over 95% in the search market, it is getting huge competition from social media rival Facebook when it comes to ad revenues. Facebook is known for pushing to monetise off mobile ads.

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