Facebook’s Sandeep Bhushan on how digital media has influenced offline and online purchases during lockdown’?

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Updated: December 11, 2020 10:13 PM

Instagram Live saw a 60% increase in usage within just a week of the lockdown

Influencers played a far bigger role for brands on social media over the last few months, Sandeep Bhushan, head – Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook India, saidInfluencers played a far bigger role for brands on social media over the last few months, Sandeep Bhushan, head – Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook India, said

As the time spent online by Indian consumers continues to surge, Facebook has been beefing up its offerings in India. The tech giant had introduced Reels, a short-video format tool, on Instagram after TikTok was banned in India. Sandeep Bhushan talks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about the company’s branded content solutions, monetisation strategy for IGTV and Reels, and more.

In the initial months of the lockdown, what were some of the significant changes you witnessed on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram?

The big shift that took place during the initial months of the pandemic was that consumers began spending significantly more time on digital platforms than earlier. Use cases of digital media and the influence it has on online and offline purchases, too, greatly increased as a result of the lockdown.

For example, Instagram Live suddenly saw a 60% increase in usage within just a week of the lockdown. Because consumer time spent shifted, brands shifted their media mix, too. Influencers played a far bigger role for brands on social media over the last few months. Hyundai Aura ran an influencer marketing programme in May; Vivo launched an unboxing campaign on Instagram using AR tools. Eno launched a campaign on Facebook targeting rural clusters using pin codes. Banking and finance brands used WhatsApp for post-purchase conversations with consumers. Fundamentally, businesses were able to leverage every aspect of their consumer’s journey via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp tools.

How are you bringing authenticity to the influencer marketing ecosystem?

Nearly 90% of Instagram users follow a brand; which indicates that they want to hear from brands. And about 66% of users want to engage with a celebrity or an influencer on the platform. We provide branded content tools to bring transparency to the relationship between a brand and an influencer. In fact, what is not understood is that there is a massive incentive for brands to do branded content posts, as opposed to not doing it. This is because brands can use the ‘paid post’ feature as an advertising asset in their overall media plan.

There is a significant structural shift from the days of celebrity endorsements to influencer marketing, where brands can target consumers efficiently and make discerning choices about continuing communication as necessary based on measurement metrics. Further, the branded content tool is a sophisticated tool for influencers to monetise their presence with a brand.

Instagram now has multiple avenues to post content: Reels, Stories, IGTV and the feed. Does one format hamper engagement on the other?

We think of expression as a continuum. People post content on which they can have sustained conversation on their IG feed. Stories are for in-the-moment content where using the tools available, people can say a lot without using too many words; Reels goes further in the realm of expression. The growth of Stories suggested that communication will evolve and we are keeping up with that. Reels gives content creators the opportunity to be discovered by a wider audience. The role of music in Reels has been significant too — globally, two out of five songs shared on Reels are from India.

We expect these to coexist as the longevity of these verticals are different, as is the audience. Facebook and WhatsApp also have multiple avenues; these tools have an additive factor, increasing the time spent on the platform.

Instagram is yet to begin monetising Reels in India. What is holding you back?

Reels is still a fairly new product. We want to first get the whole ecosystem, including users and brands, familiar with the tools. We are currently running a programme for creators and brands called Love Runs Deep, whereby 25 creators will join five brand campaigns, and use the whole portfolio of products including Reels in the best way possible. That said, we are already seeing businesses using Reels as a content platform.

Why hasn’t IGTV been as popular among brands?

IGTV is moving to shows now — Sundays With Shirley by Shirley Setia and It Will Take Five Minutes Only by Kusha Kapila, among others. It serves the purpose of a full-screen immersive experience. As the platform begins to see traction across creators and brands, monetisation will follow at scale.

Read Also: How should brands behave in the post-pandemic world

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