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The pandemic made businesses harness the power of social media to target consumers, here’s …

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  • Since the pandemic, brands have had to speed up their digital transformation. Many brands are now using Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp not just to stay connected with consumers but to sell their products directly to them as well.
  • Brands are also increasingly using innovative technologies like AR and VR to engage with consumers on social media platforms.
  • Arun Srinivas, Director and Head – Global Business Group at Facebook India tells us the role Facebook has been playing in helping brands in their social media commerce journeys.

The last one and a half years have witnessed a tectonic shift, not just in the way brands use digital as a medium to communicate with their existing consumers or to onboard new consumers, but also in the way consumers interact or want to interact with brands. The pandemic has brought with it a lot of learnings, with brands now using the power of social media platforms like Facebook more than ever before, to build stronger connect with consumers.

In India, over 416 million people access Facebook every month. Of these, 255 million people access Facebook every day, thereby presenting a massive opportunity for brands to target consumers where they spend a lot of their time virtually.

“Over the last few years, and especially in the last 1.5 years, we have seen consumer behavior change drastically. Sectors across the spectrum, be it online groceries or more traditional sectors like banking, have understood the power of digital and have been asking how to make their consumer’s lives simpler. Last year, a traditional organization like the

State Bank of India

realized that people were still coming to their branches to check their balances or print statements. That’s when they used Facebook Messenger for these tasks and were able to serve close to 600,000 people. Many other sectors, like auto or fashion, have been hit hard by the pandemic. So a lot of businesses have really had to pivot, to see how they can get the consumer’s interests going. We have partnered with both Maruti and

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Hyundai

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where we have done a series of virtual launches where customers have got to use technologies like AR and VR to understand what the inside of the car really feels like. It is also about training people about how they can leverage our offerings to best serve their customers. So it’s not so much about digital advertising spends but it’s almost like a change in some parts of their business modelwhere they are looking at hyper-local solutions by leveraging Facebook,” explained Arun Srinivas, Director and Head – Global Business Group at Facebook India.

How Facebook is helping brands stay connected with audiences

When the pandemic hit, brands big and small were faced with major supply chain disruptions. For many, business came to a complete standstill. However, platforms like Facebook helped them stay connected with the audiences. Once things started slowly opening up, there was a change in consumer behavior where people started getting comfortable with buying online and a lot of brands across the spectrum realized the benefits that came out of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp’s massive reach.

“Today, our platforms reach over 400 million people and more than 250 million people log in every day, so in some sense, it is like a census of India’s internet. And whether it is Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp, we are in leading positions and we have witnessed massive adoption, across the length and breadth of the country. It’s not just that our numbers have grown month-on-month in terms of people coming onto our platforms, time spent and engagement on these apps have also significantly gone up. When it comes to video, India and the US are the top two markets of video adoption globally and when we started marketing Facebook Watches which is our video platform, advertisers started seeing the benefit too. Video and especially short-form videos like Reels are helping communities engage with the platform through the power of content and creators. It is also helping businesses understand these communities and creators and finding a synergy to really market their businesses around them,” added Srinivas. On an average, over 6 million Reels are produced in India every day (as of the last 3 months – July 2021).

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Facebook’s consumer survey with

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Boston Consulting Group

showed that digital adoption and online shopping in India had accelerated by 2-3 years in the country within months of the pandemic.

The pandemic also pushed a lot of offline retailers who had been easing into their online journeys speed up their digital transformation. This has prompted a host of innovations like BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up In Store), to make their shift to online quick and seamless. Businesses in the watches and jewellery segments that have adopted BOPIS are seeing traction from consumers who are comfortable shopping this way.

The advent of discovery commerce

Meanwhile, the pandemic also led to the advent of discovery commerce in India. Today, many consumers are increasingly discovering products and brands online. And as one of the most important channels of discovery in the virtual world, social media is an essential link in the path to purchase.

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A recent online survey commissioned by Facebook with

GFK

showed that 96% of the surveyed people said that they discover brands and products online. Furthermore, 83%, who discover new brands or products online typically discover on a Facebook platform. 96% of weekly users who discover apparel, beauty, furniture or consumer electronics on the Facebook apps ultimately make a purchase, said the survey.

Explaining how discovery commerce is an important trend to watch out for, and how Facebook is aiding in its growth, Srinivas added, “If you look at the first phase of e-commerce, it was largely around, what you’re clear on, what you’re looking for, and then you look for the products within the same category, and then you end up buying those. But the pandemic has really started shaping the next stage of evolution in commerce, which is discovery. You discover a lot of these brands for the first time on your Facebook or Instagram profiles, you end up getting interested in the products and then you are directed to that particular website to fulfill the transaction. Brands come up with new products or innovations, but as a brand, how do you really make sure consumers know about the launch? Discovery commerce is all about discovering a product on your feed, debating on whether to buy the product or not and then eventually finding a way to transact. This is a trend that we are seeing a lot in the US and Canada but we are also seeing early signs of that in India.”

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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