With Facebook losing younger audiences and WhatsApp not supporting ads, Meta in India is betting on Instagram, incidentally, the smallest slice of its total user base pie, to grow among the target audience that would interest the new-age advertisers to drive its revenues.
“If you look at where the energy and action is, from a creator’s point of view, from a user’s point of view and, increasingly, from a marketer’s point of view, that is on short-form video, and that action is on Instagram Reels,” says Ajit Mohan, VP and MD of Facebook India (Meta). That, and certain social serendipity of discovering videos based on what your connections are watching, is what distinguishes it from its biggest competitors—that would be YouTube and the OTT platforms—according to him.
All these short video platforms—along with many other newbies such as Moj, ShareChat and Josh—benefitted from a stroke of luck in June 2020 when the ‘original gangsta’ of short videos in India, Chinese tech company ByteDance-backed TikTok, was rendered hors de combat after it was banned by the Indian government along with a bunch of other Chinese apps over security reasons. TikTok’s 15-second video platform had unleashed the creativity of India, going deep into the hinterlands because it supported 15 regional languages. The videos, capturing dance, comedy and lip-syncing, garnered millions of views and turned the video creators into overnight ‘TikTok stars’.
At the peak of its popularity, TikTok was the most downloaded Android app in India. But once banned, Instagram lost no time in jumping in with its Reels feature in August 2020, and has possibly been the ban’s biggest beneficiary. Data from app intelligence firm SensorTower shows that at the end of June 2020, when TikTok was banned, approximately 21 per cent of Instagram’s downloads were from India. That share has increased to 39 per cent by December 2021.
At the core of Instagram’s shorter format are content creators and influencers. Meta says six million Reels are produced every day in India. Today, the influencer economy is estimated at Rs 900 crore. It includes the likes of 28-year-old Bhuvan Bam, a comedian and entertainer, who commands 14-million followership on Instagram. Meaning, an ad placed in a piece of content by him is likely to be watched by, ahem, a lot of people.
“Meta today is beautifully placed in terms of its ability to make the most of the creator economy and leverage the digital self-obsession that the new generation has,” says Piyush Sharma, an industry observer, global CEO coach and C-Suite advisor. “And there’s a whole bunch of new genres that are creator-led, be it food, fashion, travel, financial advice, mental health advice, etc.” Plus, creators are also encouraged to release content around current events. For instance, content around cricket during ICC tournaments. “So, these work very well together,” says Manish Chopra, Head of Partnerships, Facebook India (Meta).
In the past two years, Meta’s team has built engines to work closely with creators to fuel both short-form (30-60 seconds) and mid-to long-form (2-7 minutes) videos. “The ecosystem is different for both,” Chopra adds. Now with the introduction of advertisements into Reels, Mohan says: “We will try and discover new formats of personalised ads that add value for both marketers as well as the people on our platform.”
But, unlike YouTube, which pays the creator directly (and gets ad revenue from advertisers), Meta’s content creators get paid directly by the advertisers (who also pay Meta, of course). In other Metamodels, creators make videos sponsored by the brands, and users who like the content they see can also pay the creators directly using stars in their Facebook wallet. To tap more creators, Meta in India is running programmes like ‘Born on Instagram’, ‘25 Under 25 Instagrammers of India’, and is also setting up a Centre for Fuelling New Economy at its new office in Gurugram where it has said it will train 250,000 creators (and 10 million small businesses) in three years.
Copyright©2022 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today
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