Facebook had a solid second quarter. The social network giant now has 1.07 billion mobile monthly users, and 654 million daily mobile users. That helped it bring in 62% of its ad revenue from mobile. Clearly there isn’t a doubt that Facebook has outgrown itself to a mobile only social network from a web based one. It now has 391 million mobile-only users, which dwarfs its 240 million desktop-only users.

But the developed markets from where the revenues pour in for Facebook are saturating. The obvious choice is now emerging markets. According to Facebook, more than one billion people access Facebook on mobile every month and many do so across multiple mobile devices. In many countries, a majority of those people experience Facebook on a feature phone: in India 66%, in Indonesia 71% and in South Africa 68%.

Facebook has been focusing on emerging markets for quite some time with innovative ideas, Internet.org is one of them. Facebook has seen some early results, in India it has now 100M monthly active users out of which 84M access the social network via mobile.

But the challenge has been to spike up revenues from emerging countries. A recent ET story reported that India market accounts for less than 0.1% of Facebook’s revenues. This is what Facebook wants to change and with organic reach dead, the networking giant needs to convince bigger brands to shell out more budgets by showcasing business returns.

One of the primary reasons why Facebook has performed badly on the revenues side is due to the country’s infrastructure. Although India has been the actively growing smartphone market in Asia, it is still dominated by feature phones, a market where Facebook’s targeted advanced advertising products fail to work.

Facebook’s ad unit around missed call

To meet this challenge, Facebook recently introduced an ad product built around the missed call feature.

Facebook stated that: “When a person sees an ad on Facebook they can place a “missed call” by clicking the ad from their mobile device. In the return call, the person receives valuable content, such as music, cricket scores or celebrity messages, alongside a brand message from the advertiser — all without using airtime or data.”

Missed Call – a common feature to save costs, whereby the caller calls the person and hangs up after a ring or two. This is kind of an indication to the other party that they are currently outside and/or request for a return call.

“This is a smart move. With the bulk of internet access growth coming from small metros, non-metros and small towns, we can expect a vastly different user behavior that is still trying to grapple with browsing on a small screen. A very large segment of audience will be extremely interested to get free content and interact using voice,” adds Sandip Maiti, CEO at Experience Commerce.

Campaigns around Facebook’s missed call ad model

Facebook has already tested the product with Gillete India and has got results to be proud of and subsequently pitch more to other brands. Gillette used Facebook Ads on feature phones to drive measurable awareness of its new Vector 3 razor among its target group in India. The campaign reached a target audience of more than 60%.

However, Sangeet Paul Choudary Founder at Platform Thinking Labs thinks that the model isn’t new and seems to have worked pretty well in India before with ZipDial. “I do not see this as a major change in behavior for marketers who have tried something like this before. For large marketers who already advertise, this gives them greater access to a new user base.”

In fact Facebook has also executed a similar campaign for Garnier Men India in collaboration with ZipDial. With the objective to drive sales for Garnier Men India, Facebook created a click to missed call ad

Facebook-Missed-call-Garnier-Men-India-435x375campaign for Garnier Men, in partnership with ZipDial, to use in its IPL contest campaign. After clicking and dialing, the user continues to engage with the brand’s content, therefore driving downstream impact and business results for the advertiser even when the user is offline.

End results were encouraging, Facebook’s click to missed call ad unit generated 16X more calls than all other digital and print media combined. Besides cost per call on Facebook was 94% more efficient than other digital and print media combined.

Sandeep shared a similar initiative being driven at their end for one of their client Zee Media Corp – “I am In – dna of India.” The campaign that apparently takes its inspiration from Gandhi’s quote that one must be the change they wish to see in the world, will give power to the people to be vocal about local issues, to report news, connect with governance representatives and like-minded fellow citizens and more.

“While most of our brands are interested in urban audience from top 8 metros, we are doing some interesting work with hyper local media for Zee. You can see how we are using voice as an interface to reach the relatively less mature internet audience in smaller towns of India (www.iamin.in),” informs Sandeep.

Clearly Facebook wants to monetize its feature phone user base. The journey started from last year when Facebook provided advertisers with the ability to place and target ads on feature phones. Since then, Facebook has improved ad delivery by optimizing for low-bandwidth connections and offered enhanced features that give brands more storytelling options.

Facebook is now planning to expand the ad feature to other emerging markets where roughly 7 out of every 10 people in countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Nigeria, use far simpler devices like feature phones to access the Internet.

New metrics and benchmarks

The new ad model is designed to boost revenues of Facebook but Sangeet shares that this will mean the need for creation of new metrics and benchmarks. “As with any other channel, pricing per call will need to evolve based on effectiveness of the channel. So we will see those natural progressions with any new ad channel but I don’t see this as any major behavior shift apart from that.”

Facebook has already started addressing the challenge foreseen by Sangeet. “Measurement has been another challenge for advertisers in high-growth countries. With many people in these countries accessing the Internet on mobile devices, we’ve partnered with Nielsen to serve polls to people on feature phones,” adds Facebook.

The new measurement solution will provide advertisers with greater tools to measure brand sentiment, purchase intent and ad recall for the first time on mobile as well as desktop.

Essentially for a marketer Facebook’s missed call ad will be one step closer to the sale from an offline sale perspective. “We will know for sure whether mainstream marketers take this on based on its ability to drive sales. This is important because online Facebook ads, unlike Google ads are often about branding whereas Google Adwords are only about sales or sign ups. I see this as closer to the online Google ads model than online Facebook ads from a marketers perspective,” informs Sangeet.

Clearly Facebook’s interest is in emerging markets or high-growth countries as Facebook likes to address them and raising revenues from the market by accepting its challenges.

This article is published with permission.


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