The year 2008 witnessed great growth for social media, sharing and networking properties and applications. More than 60% of the Indian internet users are using one of the social media platforms. We are witnessing a co-existence of global, local and niche based social networking platforms. Besides broadbased networks, categories such as professional, education, entertainment and games will emerge as strong growth drivers for the social media. The second aspect that emerged in 2008 was the fact that young users in the age group of 18 to 24 from tier II and tier III cities began to aggressively enrol into social networking platforms. This is a healthy trend, given that social networking satisfies key needs of this young population besides enabling them to express across borders.
The growth in this segment is also fuelled by the increasing internet penetration in tier I and tier II cities across India. The third key trend is an emergence of integration between social networking and casual gaming.
Across social media platforms, multi player games such as chess, word games such as Scrabble and various fantasy games have created an important context for forming new relationships and at the same time increasing engagement level between friends. Users' profiles are tightly integrated as they play games among friends, thereby creating a strong viral force. We anticipate more and more users to consume casual games in a social networking context, rather than on a games only website.
The fourth and very healthy trend is the fact that marketers are beginning to use social media to intimately communicate their message, engage with their target audience and, at the same time, leverage the power of viral on networking platforms.
Social media has provided a new interactive platform to brands to get connected with consumers, and also get a complete mapping of the impact of the campaign with the features of number of views and participation. Brands have started identifying online platform, which is catering to the right target audience and are together creating a platform, which is interactive and has engagement factor with the audience. It's a paradigm shift from the conventional banner ads in the online media to a more interactive approach.
Also average time spent by a consumer over a conventional medium is very low compared to the average time spent by the consumer on new age online media. Clearly, social media has brought a shift from buying boring "banners" to the advent of advertiser branded interactive applications. Also the entertainment industry has woken up to this exponential growth of online social media.
Movie producers have started leveraging social media to promote their movies and engage with the audience. For instance, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi was promoted across Facebook, ibibo and youtube. On ibibo.com, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi had more than half a million views for its clips. More than 5000 participants joined the talent contest on Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi application, clearly demonstrating the power of viral on the social networking space. Companies and brands such as Levers, Nokia, Idea Cellular, Airtel, Tata Sky etc have all started using social media and gaming to engage with their audiences.
An example for this is an application launched recently on ibibo, "Cornetto Sing Ur Dil", which enables users to sing straight from their mobile phones, publish the song on their profiles and dedicate the song to someone they 'love'. The application, within a period of 30 days witnessed 10,000 singers, dedicating to 50,000 of their friends and loved ones. This is a clear indicator of a user becoming a marketer for the brands.
Advertisers have started balancing their ad spends between the online and conventional media. Also past years have seen growth in the online ad networks, which helps in doing a viral online campaign.
To sum up, 2008 has been a remarkable year as consumer, advertisers and the entertainment industry have been able to realise the growing popularity of online space. We expect this to continue at a much faster pace in the coming year.
Â—The author is CEO, Ibibo.com