India is at a crucial moment in its digital story where it is slowly emerging as the most important internet audience in the world. While the global number of internet user growth has more or less peaked at around 10 percent annually, India’s internet users grew by an incredible 28 percent up until 2016. Currently, there are about 450,000,000 internet users in India and going by current trends, 635.8 million Indians will be online by 2021. These developments offer both a unique opportunity and a challenge for brands. In order to make full use of the growing digital audience, brands need to find the best strategy to engage with the next billion internet users in India.
Indians are a sizeable presence across almost every major digital platform. Facebook is, by far, the most popular social media platform, with 240 million Indians users and most accessing it through their phones. These numbers prove that Facebook is a goldmine for brands looking to engage with their audience in the most impactful way. By effectively utilising the top tools for social media analytics, brands can understand their consumers better and create more targeted campaigns.
There are currently 225 million Indians on YouTube, making it the second most used digital platform in India. This is significant, because YouTube ads can be a very effective way to attract and engage new consumers. There are also 50 million Instagram users in India, while there are 45 million Indians on LinkedIn. WhatsApp has quickly surpassed the previously used SMS as India’s favourite text messaging service. 240 million Indians use WhatsApp daily to send around 50 billion messages globally. This points towards the use of WhatsApp for business becoming increasingly important for brands.
While internet usage in India has been steadily growing over the years, there was a definite tipping point where the number of internet users in India exploded. There are two main catalysts for this development: the availability of low cost smartphones and most significant of all, the launch of Reliance Jio. Jio started its services in September 2016 with a bang, offering its users free data. Even once the offer ended, the data plans for Jio remained much lower in comparison to other network providers. This sudden easy access to the internet led to India having the highest amount of data consumption in the world. Of the 150 crore GB consumed by Indians, 100 crore GB was consumed through the Jio network alone. What is perhaps the most exciting part is that internet penetration currently stands at only 27 percent. This means that the number of Indians online is only going to grow from here, offering a huge advantage for brands.
With India’s internet audience growing by the minute, the stage is set for brands to tap into this huge market and engage with their consumers. Consumer engagement requires brands to realign their priorities from solely revenue-generation to actually creating value for their consumers. In India, brands can do this in a number of ways.
In order to create content that consumers will actually find valuable, brands need to know who they’re speaking to. By 2020, almost 40 percent of all internet users in India will be women. This points towards the growing importance of creating content that women will find relevant. Doing so will also involve challenging long-held assumptions with regards to gender and interest areas. For example, 60 percent of those who shopped for sporting goods and viewed related videos on YouTube were not men, but women. Additionally, 60% of those who searched for car-related information online were also women. Having an intimate understanding of audiences can help brands generate content that their users will actually find valuable. This is a crucial step in building a relationship with audiences.
Brands can create user-centric content to rank organically on Google as well as on YouTube. For tips on how to rank your videos, read our in-depth article: YouTube SEO Tips: The Secret Sauce to Ranking Your Videos in 2019.
One of the most interesting characteristics of India’s internet usage is that most Indians haven’t followed the general pattern of internet adoption. While globally, most people first used a computer and then migrated to mobile phones, Indians seem to have skipped the computer stage completely. According to a survey by Statcounter, Indians use their phones to access the internet almost 80 percent of the time. This means that brands should be producing content specifically designed for mobile phones if they want to engage the next billion internet consumers.
While the number of English-speaking internet users in India is largely static, the number of regional language users is growing at a breakneck pace. One of the key reasons for this growth is internet penetration in tier II and III cities, along with villages. Digital marketing is constantly evolving in tier II and tier III cities and brands need to take note of this growth. In fact, Google estimates that about 30% of users in India are from rural areas. If brands want to develop a personal relationship with their consumers, then a strong regional language strategy is crucial. Tamil is the leading regional language used among internet users in India with 42 percent while 39 percent of users are Hindi-speaking.
Voice search in India might still be in the nascent stage at the moment, but it is growing at a steady rate. Google estimates that 28 percent of all searches are voice searches. Even more promising is the fact that there has been a 400 percent growth in Hindi voice search. Voice search has vast implications for SEO because traditional keywords aren’t used when speaking naturally. For brands, this means that they have to find new ways to become discoverable through voice search results to stay visible on digital platforms.
Adding call extensions to your ads can significantly increase click-through rates as well as conversion rates. But with a sizeable number of mobile users in India, especially in smaller cities and towns, using prepaid connections, the cost of making a call might stop them from contacting your business. This is why AdWords has recently rolled out a ‘Missed Call’ feature which can help address this concern. When a user selects the Missed Call option on an ad, a call is placed and is then immediately cut. After this, the user will receive an automated call telling them to stay on the line while their call is connected to the business. During the same time, the business will also receive a call from Google. Once both the user and the business are on the call, they will be connected to each other. This feature can help brands engage with their consumers better as well as track conversions more effectively.
Digital marketing allows brands to not just speak to their consumers, but also to listen to them in return. This unique opportunity for a two-way conversation is crucial for building consumer engagement. To be able to have a meaningful conversation, brands need to understand exactly who their audience is, where their interests lie and what their concerns are. In the context of the current Indian audience trends, brands can only reach out to the next billion internet users once they look beyond the urban metros.
The Indian internet audience is more diverse than ever before. Only by gaining a deep understanding of India’s unique audience can brands develop marketing strategies that will resonate with their consumers.
To mark its 10 year anniversary in India, YouTube hosted Brandcast 2018, an event to help marketers understand how Indians consume video content. Since it first launched in 2008, YouTube’s rising popularity has been inextricably linked with India’s own growth story, giving it a special understanding of the Indian internet audience. Today, around 225 million Indians actively use YouTube every month just through their mobile phone. This number is set to increase to 500 million by the year 2020. With such a rapidly expanding audience base, YouTube is becoming increasingly more important for brands to effectively leverage. Interestingly, YouTube’s reach is over 80% amongst the 55+ segment.
Brandcast 2018 provided invaluable insights into who is accessing YouTube, what content they are watching and how they are consuming it.
YouTube has become one of the most important platforms for brands to engage with their consumers. The most remarkable feature of YouTube is that ads here have a very high reach and a viewability rate of as high as 95%. The viewability rate refers to the number of audience members who have actually viewed the ad. YouTube’s audience is one of the most engaged across all platforms and is also the best way to create a brand story. Brandcast 2018 revealed how actively users consume content on YouTube:
Clearly, YouTube can be extremely effective for brands to capture the attention of their audiences. You can learn more about creating videos that rank on YouTube in our in-depth article: YouTube SEO Tips: The Secret Sauce to Ranking Your Videos in 2019.
Case Study: On1y #ForkTheBananaLeaf Campaign
The use of creativity and engaging content works very well on YouTube since audiences are more inclined to spend a long time viewing your video. For the #ForkTheBananaLeaf campaign, On1y created a funny, unusual video to advertise their brand and to keep their viewers engaged. On1y is a premium spice brand with a signature grinder to ensure you get maximum flavour. They chose to speak about their product USP in an unusual way and effectively use humour to capture the attention of their audience.
On1y wanted to steer away from the predictable storylines and advertise their product in a way that would increase brand recall among their audiences. To do this, they depicted a traditional South Indian wedding with the couple waiting to be served food on a banana leaf. However, instead of traditional South Indian food, they are served international dishes like pasta and pizza. While confused at first, they begin to love the food once they sprinkle seasonings by On1y over them. The idea of food with a twist was a unique play on the ‘twist’ of the grinder that is one of On1y’s biggest USPs.
This video worked phenomenally well for On1y and went viral in a very short time. The overall reach for the video was over 10,000,000, the total views on YouTube were over 480,000. Capitalising on the huge success of the video, they also release a ‘Behind the Scenes’ video which also garnered a high number of views. This clearly showed that audiences were so engaged by the original video that they were willing to watch the second video about the same product.
YouTube has a number of different features and advertising options to help brands achieve their business goals.
Bumper Ads: 6-second videos which can increase brand reach
TrueView: In-stream ads which play when a viewer is watching another video
Video Ads Sequencing: A customised video funnel brands can create to take viewers through a journey
Director’s Mix: Make different versions of background copy on the same video based on various parameters of the target audience.
These tools allow brands to increase brand awareness, brand recall, physical store visits and ultimately, sales.
Influencer marketing has emerged as one of the most effective strategies brands can use to build brand awareness and credibility. India has witnessed a growing number of powerful influencers in many different categories. Many of the biggest influencers today across all categories can be found on YouTube. From just 16 YouTube channels in India with over a million subscribers in 2014, there are now 300 channels. Indians today are using YouTube as a way to gain more information, rather than just for entertainment. They turn to YouTube influencers they trust to provide them with reviews, tips and tutorials. The Brandcast 2018 event revealed very important figures about how powerful influencers on YouTube really are.
These numbers prove that YouTube is an indispensable platform for brands trying to widen their consumer base.
The biggest avenue for growth is going to be regional audiences in tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India. While English-speaking audiences have almost peaked, regional language users online are only going to grow from here. Access to the affordable high-speed internet as well as the availability of low-cost smartphones has made the internet more accessible than ever before. Brandcast 2018 also revealed figures which prove that multilingual marketing is going to be becoming increasingly important for brands.
It has almost become a necessity for brands to explore regional language content in their marking strategy.
At Social Beat, we have witnessed first-hand the power of regional content on YouTube. For the ‘Good Netizen Good Citizen’ campaign by the Murugappa Group, we conceptualised ideas for a video that would resonate with their audience base. As they are based out of Tamil Nadu, their target audience would be able to better understand and relate to Tamil language content.
The goal of the video was to effectively utilise humour to spread a message about responsible sharing on the internet and to be a good ‘netizen’. They created funny, yet thought-provoking series of videos on internet etiquette. From a young woman who over-shares every mundane detail of her life with strangers to the way Whatsapp rumours are spread, these informative videos are aimed at raising social awareness on the responsible use of social media and the Internet.
These Tamil videos performed incredibly well on YouTube with one of the videos even getting over 570,000 views. Users also actively engaged with the video, leaving comments and sharing it on various social media platforms. Undoubtedly, the fact that the video was in Tamil, played a very important role in the fact that it went viral. You can watch the entire series of the Good Netizen Good Citizen videos here.
According to the latest numbers, Tamil is currently the most used regional language in India among internet users with 42, while Hindi follows with 39 percent. Clearly, unless brands incorporate a strong regional language strategy in their marketing, they will be unable to engage with India’s next billion internet users.
YouTube is one of the biggest platforms for brands to reach out to their consumers. As its reach in India continues to grow, brands will need to learn how to effectively utilise it to grow their presence.
There is no doubt that reaching your target audience through vernacular content is one of the biggest trends of digital marketing. Though the early internet users in the nation are predominantly fluent in English, marketers have noticed that the current crop of digital-savvy individuals find multilingual content much more engaging and relatable. Keeping a tab on this trend, many brands have leveraged the reach of vernacular content to engage with India’s next billion internet users.
We, at Social Beat, took advantage of the reach of vernacular content and the engagement of video content to come up with a ground-breaking social media campaign for our client Cholamandalam Finance. Since the brand mostly caters to small-business owners and entrepreneurs from tier 2 and tier 3 cities, we targeted their audience with an animated video featuring the life lessons we can learn from an ant. The video was initially made in English and gained a traction reach of 409,609 with 3k shares. Seeing these numbers, we released the same video in Hindi which went viral.
The Hindi video currently has reached 2.2 million views with 94% of it being organic. Furthermore, 2 million of these views are unique. The post has reached 7 million users through 79k shares and 50k reactions. These stats are a testimony to the fact that the digital space is evolving and adapting itself to the needs and preferences of its new breed of internet users.
Need more convincing that vernacular is the need of the hour? Follow our Hindi YouTube channel Paisa Pujari for financial tips for individuals from all walks of life. Here's a video to get you started: