Social and live-commerce may soon surpass the marketplace model
Bengaluru-based women-focussed brand start-up &Me wanted to build awareness around its herbal drinks which aim to address women's health issues such as polycystic ovary disease, premenstrual syndrome and urinary tract infection. In March this year, the company started building its content on Instagram and Facebook to share all relevant details of the nutrients essential for women. "We are a women-centric product company and the social media platform helped us reach the right audience to create awareness and build our brand," says Founder Ankur Goyal. The firm's posts made people curious and purchase queries rolled in. &Me integrated a 'Buy now' tab in its ads which takes users to its website. As a result, its sales have increased 70 per cent since April and there has been a 30 per cent rise in average order value.
Thanks to the wide reach offered by social media platforms, businesses both big and small, are now moving beyond Amazon-like marketplaces and exploring social platforms for their intriguing visual appeal and high engagement levels. "It is a natural progression as social media enables conversations among like-minded people and facilitates commerce by getting buyers and sellers together," says Prasad Shejale, Co-founder and CEO of digital marketing firm Logicserve Digital.
Social media platforms are also upping their game and launching shopper-friendly features to help brands and followers. "For instance, businesses can feature their products on Instagram Profile pages. The platform also allows them to tag products directly in their posts and Stories," says Archana Vohra, Director, Small and Medium Businesses, Facebook India. This means users can explore products and find the things they are interested in on Instagram more easily than they do on marketplaces "Then again, every month, more than 50 per cent of Instagram accounts use Explore, a section to find the next business or product. People visit it when they want to see photos and videos related to their interests, posted by accounts they may not already follow. Hence, brands use Explore to reach the right audience," adds Vohra.
In October this year, short video-sharing platform TikTok also started experimenting with ads. Skincare brand Clean & Clear started the video ad #UnbottleApnaSwag on TikTok to create a buzz around new packaging. On clicking, users were directed to the product's website within TikTok itself to make a purchase. "First-time Internet users are looking at videos and they do not want to read the information or product descriptions. TikTok offers access to this new audience through its highly engaging short videos," says Sameer Singh, Vice President (Monetisation) at ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok.
Goyal of &Me concurs. The company is now developing a TikTok campaign to reach the hinterland, as well as those with less disposable incomes.
The trend seems to be catching on, so much so that the live-streaming platform Bigo Live is already planning to launch live e-commerce by the end of this year, according to its Deputy Country Manager Nagesh Banga. "Currently, we are trying to build engagement, but as we reach our goal, we will open it to brands," he adds. Banga says live-streaming offers the best of e-commerce and traditional shopping where consumers can see the product as it is without special-effects photography. Plus, they get the opportunity to ask sellers relevant questions in real time.
Fight Against Fake News Gets A Boost
During the general elections of 2019, and the elections to four state legislative assemblies before it, the Election Commission directed several social media platforms to take down fake content. But the scale of the fake news problem cannot be gauged by the number of cases reported; it is much larger. As per the government, Facebook saw 46 cases of fake news, 97 were on Twitter and 11 on YouTube. These numbers, however, do not indicate how big the problem is. Verifying what circulates on WhatsApp remains a challenge as well.
Now, the India Today Group has partnered with WhatsApp to launch a fact-checking initiative in the country, one that would enable users to verify 'suspect' content. WhatsApp users can send any suspect content - text, image, video or URL - to a dedicated number (+91 73 7000 7000) for fact-checking. These requests for verification would go to India Today Group's fact-checking team for scrutiny. The findings will be published on India Today and Aaj Tak websites.
India Today Group was the first major media house in the country to get IFCN (International Fact-Checking Network) accreditation for non-partisan fact-checking adhering to global best practices. It is also one of Facebook's partners for fact-checking in India.
Social Networking, Back In Your Hands
Is Twitter India in trouble again? Going by the latest trend, unhappy users are blaming it for widespread discrimination and leaving the platform to join an open-source microblogging service called Mastodon. Developed by German coder Eugen Rochko, the platform's tagline says: Social Networking, Back in Your Hands, thus highlighting its decentralised format. This means you are free to create your own community (known as instance), using your own server. Ultimately, these 'instances' interact with each other and form the larger network. The network allows people to post text, images, videos and links and also offers four privacy options. Finally, you need to donate a little to keep the platform alive as it does not allow ads or investments.