New Age Marketing: The Rise of Networking Tools

We have been crying hoarse here, your favorite management site, about the need to get accustomed to new age marketing methods. The Internet is for real, and the population of Netizens, or internet users, is exploding. The number of Internet users is expected to cross “100 million”:http://www.iamai.in/section.php3?secid=16&press_id=385&mon=7 sooner than later unless it has happened already. While this figure represents only 10 per cent of India’s population, once you take into account the growth in the number of users that is likely to take place once most states roll out “common service centers (CSC)”:http://www.mit.gov.in/download/cscguidelines.pdf under the “National e-Governance Plan (NeGP),”:http://india.gov.in/govt/national_egov_plan.php the implications are mind-boggling: it would mean that the entire population would have access to the Net within a “year or two”:http://community.telecentre.org/en-tc/node/30944 at the most. Only the blind will fail to see the tremendous marketing opportunities that are going to be thrown up by this revolution in modes of communication. This article takes a look at the some of the aspects of how the Internet revolution will usher in a new age for marketers, hitherto not touched upon at this site.

Detractors often harp on the fact that the “digital divide”:http://www.iamai.in/section.php3?secid=16&press_id=385&mon=7 in India is today so large that it will take many years, nay decades, to close the gap to any significant extent. Consequently, spending time, money and effort on designing, developing and implementing new age marketing strategies is simply not worth it. At least, not yet.

This is a clear case of missing the wood among the trees. First off, most critiques are finding that socio-economic changes are taking place so rapidly in this country that prognistications based on trends and facts valid five years ago are today no more valid. If poor teledensity was a huge problem five years back, today it is clear that given the rate of growth of mobile subscribers, more than 50% of Indians will own a mobile phone within the next two or three years. What had appeared as a huge problem in 2002, seems an easily solvable problem today.

Second, the trends themselves are very clear: with nearly 90% of the population being below the age of 45, the penchant for youth to take to technology like ducks take to water, rapid expansion of Internet access to cover the entire population in another two to three years, a sharply rising literacy curve that can only be expected to rise even sharply in the days to come, increasing proliferation of Internet sites in vernacular languages, the impact of the demonstration effect of the benefits of Internet use on the growth rate of the number of Internet users, the increasing availability of cheaper and better technologies, and overall economic growth trends, to name just some of the more important trends, the writing on the wall is clear: embrace the Net and flourish or ignore the Net and perish!

In previous articles, we have discussed how marketers can take advantage of “search engines,”:http://www.citeman.com/textpattern/index.php?event=article&step=edit&ID=2228 “search engine optimization”:http://www.citeman.com/textpattern/index.php?event=article&step=edit&ID=2194 and “search engine marketing.”:http://www.citeman.com/textpattern/index.php?event=article&step=edit&ID=2191 In this article we take a look at how marketers can benefit from two other aspects of the Internet, both being absolutely new phenomenon that few people had heard or even thought of even a decade ago. These two aspects are: (a) using Internet communities for public relations exercises and (b) using blogging as a marketing and PR tool.

*Using Social Networking:*
A recent “article in Advertising Age”:http://adage.com/abstract.php?article_id=120729 provided some examples of how brands can hook into online communities to reach their customers. It said that this intersection between brands, online communities and consumers can provide marketers a quick and cheap way to spread a message and gain consumer confidence. Social networking sites such as “Orkut,”:https://www.google.com/accounts/ServiceLogin?service=orkut&continue=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orkut.com%2FRedirLogin.aspx%3Fmsg%3D0&hl=en-US&rm=false&passive=true “Facebook”:http://www.facebook.com/ or “Myspace”:http://www.myspace.com/ provide consumers online tools for creating, owning and controlling a profound social ecosystem. Brands targeting young people can use this ecosystem for public relation exercises or for moulding consumer preferences or to create the kind of peer pressure that drives the consumer behaviour of young people. Although Facebook or Myspace are relatively less popular in India, Google’s Orkut is a rage among Indian youngsters. Already a few job search companies – among those who presently spend the most on online advertising – have begun to use Orkut to connect with youngsters through this medium. Such communication exercises are not only highly effective but they can also be done at a negligible cost. Brands having an youth focus can make smart use of online communities to spread their message at almost no cost.

*Using blogging:*
Another such tool is blogging. Although this is yet to catch on in a big way in India, gradually Indian surfers too have begun to realize the communication potential of this excellent method of giving expression to one’s views and opinions without some high-brow editor deciding whether such views and opinions are worth publishing or not. Today you can set up your own blog site free of cost in just a matter of minutes and you can be on your way to tell the world whatever you want to say. There are at least two sites which offer this facility – “wordpress.com”:http://wordpress.com/ and “blogspot.com”:https://www.blogger.com/start – and there could be a few more out there. Marketers, especially “entrepreneurs”:http://www.onlinebizresources.info/2007/10/add-it-to-to-do-list-blog-for-business.html can use this tool very effectively for business networking, sharing and exchanging of ideas, building up opinion on policy issues and/or simply for olf-fashioned public relations exercises.

These new age communication and networking tools are new to both the Indian consumer and the marketer. But the real point is : they are the future of marketing and communication as confirmed by trends from the more developed countries. With the Internet revolution taking off in India, smart marketers who realize the potential of these tools today will have the early bird advantage tomorrow when these tools become essential elements in a marketers tool box. Be a leader and don’t wait for others to show the way. Jump into the fray now to take the lead and beat the competition!