The Evolution of Social Media Tools and Offerings in India

From basic to specialised, the rise of social media analytics has caught the attention of research companies and made them step up their offerings. Pallavi Mathur Lal, Senior Client Officer & Aman Mishra, Senior Manager, Ipsos India give an overview of the social media landscape in India, in this thought piece.

Social Media Analytics in India

As the cliché goes, social media data can no longer be ignored in the connected world. Sample this: by 2023, approximately 450 million users will be on social media platforms – ergo, this comes as no surprise why marketers accord importance to social media; with most organisations putting dedicated social media teams to capture information and insights.

How Social Listening Services Are Evolving

The data sources on offer continue to increase

No longer do we see just the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Blogs making the cut as far as sources are concerned. For quality data, forums specific to the discussion topic and even product reviews are now a part of the set. Notably, social listening tools are also including media sources of newswires and news portals for a holistic media tracking activity for clients. Tools now even have provisions for integrating primary research or survey data, into their existing platforms.

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Additionally, visual media is becoming critical for inclusion – Instagram, YouTube have become important to track, especially for consumer facing brands and services.

APIs are evolving and being regulated

Storing all data in one place is critical, especially from the viewpoint of integration. Social media tool providers have their Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) ready for combining data from various networks with other sources. That makes tracking online reputation and customer care seamless. APIs continue to evolve with data restrictions in place and present themselves as the critical element to better CRM efforts.

With GDPR regulations and data breaches looming large, social media platforms continue tweaking their APIs which result in curtailed data. Instagram no longer produces results beyond Jan 2019 as a default – unless hashtags are provided in separate modules.

Demographics based insights are now possible

Another evolution and development in the world of social media data is the growing interest in knowing which audience is best suited for messaging or targeting – under regulations though it is possible only at an aggregate level.At the same time, even at the aggregate level, these tool-based insights are extremely valuable. These are based on specific demographic inputs such as age groups, locations, and interests. Outputs can include top media sources visited, habits, and brands preferred. For marketers, these are useful in understanding the digital behaviour and using the insights for targeting their audience more sharply and using the insights to build content, among other things. Ipsos-owned Synthesio provides such insights for targeting specific groups of consumers digitally.

Where are our Clients, the marketers, today?

From 2-3 years ago, where our clients’ understanding of social media analysis was still around Social Media Marketing and evaluating Digital campaigns, the needle has moved considerably today. Now, many more are aware that they need to glean insights from the prolific use of social media and forums, by their consumers. The frustration that we sense from many is about not knowing how to do this beyond the usual graphs depicting sentiment, share of voice and conversation trend lines. With all the information overload, clients have increasingly been looking for social listening expertise along with market research acumen to get actionable insights and Ipsos has stepped up and stepped in to make sense of brand conversations.

Clients who want the right guidance for their brand decisions have confidence in Social Intelligence Analysis. Clients’ requirements from social media data now for instance, is more around how they can access data, the sources (whether these are the ones they know social media conversations are happening, etc.), and how they can convert the unstructured data into structured data.

Ipsos SIA in India…  Consumer Insights from Social Data

So, while social media is booming with users (approximately 450 million users in India to be online by 2023) and India’s vernacular content and discussions go up, Ipsos India is upping the game by taking Social data from social ‘listening’ to ‘Intelligence’.

In the ‘Forrester Wave: Social Listening Platforms Q3 2018’ Report, Lui and Chein, wrote:

‘Social listening platforms are actively trying to advance the social intelligence agenda by investing in stronger analytics, deeper tech integrations, machine learning (ML), and products that facilitate cross-enterprise usage. As a result, competitive differentiation comes less from their current tech offerings and more from the ability to provide strategic guidance and drive social intelligence programs across customers’ enterprises.’

Interestingly, Synthesio, the in-house social data crawling tool of Ipsos has earned the distinction of being named the Global Industry Leader in the last four Forrester Wave reports. It is also credited with access to one of the widest sources of data beyond Twitter and standard social platforms.

With a strong base of consumer verbatims to work with, the unstructured data becomes more structured in the hands of experienced researchers. Insight Services align the results to the specific business challenge of the clients for maximum impact. And goes beyond the tool-based analytics; the researcher’s skill and role, shape the deliverables.

Key areas for Insights

Category and market exploration have been the most engaging areas for insights. An exploration of the social media space as a first-time exercise makes most sense and the one that establishes the trust on this new method for consumer Insighting. Questions like – What are consumers saying about my brand? What are the key topics of conversation within my category space? Health and Immunity or telemedicine or entertainment options? – can be answered using social media conversations. Reviews and ratings are also generating a lot of interest, especially since the lockdown and after, when reviews have become an even greater source of information; and research before buying a product online, in the absence of physical retail and the assistance of the sales staff in the store.

Data capture across categories

Earlier on, social conversations were more on topics like Beauty, Tech, Automotive, where we noticed a higher volume of conversations. But now, compared to the last 2-3 years, we are noticing the range of conversations increasing around food (dining out, ordering in and home cooking) to personal care (grooming, hair and skin), entertainment (TV, OTT, shows and events, games and gaming, classes and other activities) to even health, immunity and doctor discussions.

Advancement of Analytics tools and Research methods

Social Intelligence with projectssmaller in scope, now has massive project with large data volumes and utilizing different tools and analytics. Some of these are:

  • Text Analytics tools
  • New Data sources such as product reviews
  • Differentiated offerings of Trend Radar, Product Intelligence, CXSocial
  • Acquisition of Synthesio and building in-house capabilities around the usage of Synthesio has established the social media expertise, which clients are finding highly strategic in decision making.
  • Developing the right talent pool – A team with social media experts + seasoned researchers is the ideal combination for cutting edge advisory

Watch out for…

Social media is transforming and some of the new developments are likely to alter the landscape further. We could watch out for some of these, particularly.

The rise of the TikTok Alternatives

With TikTok banned as a result of the current geopolitical situation, several new apps have stepped in to fill the void. Local contenders include Mitron, Chingari, Roposo, TakaTak from MX Player, and Josh by DailyHunt. Even global players such as Instagram and YouTube have launched Reels and Shorts, respectively.

Vernacular Content in Focus

Vernacular voice and video are the buzzwords as the vernacular market on social media (and other media/ platforms) continues to explode.

Sharechat continues to attract non-English speaking Indian users. The emergence of these networks coupled with the ability to freely export content from them on established platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook will ensure continued growth and a demand for data stemming from these resources. The emergence of these networks combined with the ability to freely export content from them on established platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook, will ensure continued growth and a demand for data stemming from these resources. MX TakaTak and Josh are advertising heavily during the popular IPL season currently.

Looking at the growth of vernacular video sharing platforms, social intelligence tools will need to extend coverage to these platforms and analytics are made available on such content as well.

With all these developments, and the dynamic nature of social media, clients will look forward to more insighting from this data source. We are looking at a space that will grow, new metrics and measures may come up, and it will be imperative for social intelligence tools to capture more data points providing more insights. Those metrics could be about video views, followers added, videos watched by the same set of followers, tracks that were played in these popular videos, top filters used, and whatnot. How clients would use these metrics to further their marketing objectives presents a great opportunity for further consultation.

Interesting times lie ahead.


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