COMMUNITY, CONTENT, AND COMMERCE
Fortune India|May 2021
FACEBOOK EARNED ITS CHOPS BY CONNECTING PEOPLE, SOMETHING THAT ONCE AGAIN CAME TO THE FORE DURING THE PANDEMIC. ITS NEXT BIG BETS ARE ON CONTENT CREATORS AND SMALL BUSINESSES. AIDING IT IN THIS MISSION ARE INSTAGRAM AND WHATSAPP.
ARNIKA THAKUR AND ABHIK SEN

AJIT MOHAN STARTED following Lily Collins after watching her on Netflix’s Emily in Paris. He found on Instagram that the actor had recently invested in Beekeeper’s Naturals, a Canadian natural health product company that makes bee by-products like raw honey and bee pollen. The brand has quite a star following, from Drew Barrymore to Kourtney Kardashian. After discovering the brand on Collins’ post, Mohan, 46, is all set to order its products.

Like many users, he has bought everything from shoes to alphonso mangoes off Instagram (he didn’t like the shoes), says Mohan, who is vice president and managing director, Facebook India. Globally, influencers are convincing people to buy products they recommend, and small businesses are using Facebook platforms to reach consumers everywhere while keeping their spending in check. The trend, says Mohan, has been accelerated by Covid-19 as more people went online and shopped as they were forced to stay indoors during the pandemic.

“While recognising the disruption to life, I think it was a bit of a second coming for social media because it reminded people of its core purpose,” Mohan tells Fortune India. Meanwhile, during the pandemic, businesses discovered that the only way to survive was to find customers and sell to them online. Besides Facebook, the ecosystem has two other platforms: WhatsApp, which in India has over 15 million businesses; and Instagram, on which 90% of consumers follow brands. Globally, the ecosystem has more than 200 million businesses on it.

With consumers moving to these platforms during the pandemic, so did advertising. That’s music to Facebook’s ears, as most of its revenue still comes from ads. In India, according to its filings with the Registrar of Companies, Facebook’s gross ad revenue for FY20 was ₹6,613 crore.

According to Sandeep Bhushan, director and head, global marketing solutions, Facebook India, by 2023, digital advertising will be bigger than TV advertising. In fact, according to media investment company GroupM’s latest TYNY (This Year, Next Year) report, digital advertising was one of the few categories which grew globally last year. (See graphic)

No wonder that Facebook, from being a platform for connections, is focussing on content creators and small businesses to make them its growth drivers for the future.

While Facebook has news as well as music/videos from publishers, a big piece of the content story is made up of short videos. Facebook arguably has been the biggest beneficiary of the ban on popular Chinese short-video app TikTok in markets such as India and the U.S., although Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that such bans set a “bad long-term precedent”. Instagram’s Reels, which was launched last year, has seen interest from millions of young people.

The popularity of Reels, which can also be cross-posted on the Facebook platform, fits squarely into Facebook’s focus on content and creators. Mohan says it is one of their internal ambitions to see a big global superstar creator emerge out of India. “That’s one of our North Stars… We are passionate about the idea that we will aid someone from India, who was not known, and would leverage Instagram and Facebook to find a global audience.”

While creator monetisation isn’t available on IGTV (Instagram’s format for longer videos) and Reels yet, there are branded content tools available that enable creator and brand partnerships. Creators and influencers on Instagram make millions from sponsored content. The platform also allows them to have ads in videos, like YouTube, essentially expanding its advertising revenues.

“We’re thinking about extensions of commerce and shopping, we’re thinking of the extensions of people and fans connecting with creators directly, advertising revenue share; there’s a lot of different monetisation opportunities that we’re thinking about for creators on Instagram,” says Vishal Shah, head of product, Instagram.

In a blog post, Facebook says that globally, the number of content creators earning the equivalent of $10,000 per month grew 88% in 2020 compared to the previous year.

800 MILLION

THE NUMBER OF DAILY ACTIVE USERS WHO ENGAGE WITH LIVE STREAMS ACROSS FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM GLOBALLY.

SOURCE : FACEBOOK

Short videos have helped Instagram with the younger demographic as well as moving beyond the metros, considered its primary audience till a few years ago. And with that it has become important to have content in local languages. “The need for expression is a very deep and essential need in India,” says Avinash Pant, director-marketing, Facebook India, adding that Reels is the perfect platform for that. To cater to those in smaller towns who might be using entrylevel smartphones or may have spotty Internet service, Facebook has rolled out innovations such as Facebook Lite and Instagram Lite, lightweight apps for mobile phones.

IT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUNGER audiences to stay hooked to Instagram or Facebook. Creators set the tone for conversations, for culture, and they can truly make or break a platform. And videos have been a good hook for creators. For Facebook, videos present a massive opportunity. But

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