Large tech giants and the tech oligopoly are realizing that they need to move beyond their core userbase in the west to grow and thrive. Google has been pushing hard on its attempt at reaching the next billion internet users in Southeast Asia. Facebook, in turn, recently took out an interesting advertisement in a number of Indian newspapers and publications that caught my attention. This got me thinking about the social media giant and its reach.
Tech lore chronicles how Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook changed the way people interact with each other. Dozens of books, scores of articles and a number of business school case studies have delved into almost all aspects of social media and the role Zuckerberg’s baby played in this. One thread is common to all these articles: Facebook, almost single handedly defined how millions of people engage with others using social media tools.
‘Like’ and ‘Friending’ have become common verbs, and a product or celebrity’s popularity is measured in the number of ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers,’ generally counted in millions. So much so that when a leader like Russian President Putin says that he doesn’t have a smartphone or interest in social media (link), it makes headlines for days .
Facebook’s growth, like that of most other social media tools, has been word-of-mouth, gaining momentum based on peer-to-peer interactions. Hed owever, when we see large adverts by facebook in Indian newspapers, one begins to wonder if data scientists and analysts at Facebook think that we have reached social media saturation.
Changing social media use
Traditional media, newspaper articles, radio programs, columnists and commentators frequently analyze upswings and variances in usage of Facebook. The role of Facebook in shaping our world-view took on additional scrutiny after the 2016 US presidential elections and the outcry over ‘fake news.’
In addition to its flagship .com platform, Facebook’s social media empire includes instagram that it acquired for a billion $s and WhatsApp, the popular messaging service Facebook bought for $19 billion in 2014 (marketplace). By some accounts, the WhatsApp service has overtaken use of all other social media including facebook in markets like India where average users have lower data bandwidth and cheaper, less powerful smartphones. For a generation of users, WhatsApp, not Facebook, has become the defacto social media platform.
But don’t mistake me; Facebook continues to be extremely popular (and addictive), at least among the digitally savvy cross-section of population with access to bandwidth and smartphones. The core platform around facebook.com and its mobile versions continue to thrive and grow. Almost every day some content, video or meme catches fancy of the digerati and goes ‘viral’ on social media. Traditional media also follow this, and some of the viral stuff in turn gets covered as ‘news.’
Find ‘your kind of people’ Who are they ?
The title of the advert prompts readers of the newspapers to go to Facebook to ‘Find your kind of people.’ One assumes that in this advert, they are trying to bring ‘dog people’ from a cross-section of India together into a group; which left me scratching my head. If I am a tech savvy digerati already using a smartphone or laptop to go on Facebook, I am not going to be intrigued by this advert or even wonder ‘what kind of people’ am I?
There again, the average reader of the paper where I saw this advert – the English daily, Deccan Herald – is probably tech savvy and aware of Facebook and groups. So, who are the facebook advertisements really targeting?
About the Author: Mohan K is an Enterprise Architect, tech columnist and blogger.