Social networking site Facebook, after a slew of changes to its user interface on the online version, has turned its attention to the mobile medium. In a significant change, the networking site has added support for Hindi and two other languages (Vietnamese and Malay) to its Java-based Facebook for Every Phone app.
Facebook has also announced plans to make the site available on mobiles in seven other Indian languages, including Gujarati, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali and Marathi, in phases over the next few weeks.
According to a post on Facebook India, the app works on more than 3,600 Java-enabled phones around the world. The application will support more than 2,500 devices and work great on 2/2.5G networks. Users can download the app by visiting m.facebook.com and scrolling down to the download link, or by entering d.facebook.com/install directly into their mobile browser. The app is also available on leading app stores, including the Nokia Store, GetJar, Appia and Mobile Weaver. For the record, Facebook has over 50 million users in India.
Talking about how Facebook as a brand will benefit from this move, Dinesh Swamy, creative director, Digital Law & Kenneth, says, "Localisation of content is indeed a successful venture for a social media platform waiting to make inroads in the Indian psyche. With this move, Facebook will reach a wider Indian user base that can connect without any linguistic inhibitions. And that's why, other online portals would eventually have to adopt this strategy to survive."
Language content crunch
The announcement has again brought forward the much-debated issue of the lack of adequate language content on mobiles.
Nimesh Shah, head maven, Windchimes Communications, a social media agency, believes that the introduction of the language platform will spur on content creators to work on language content. He says, "Mobile as a device is used more for content consumption and content creation. With this development, the number of language readers will increase, which will in turn act as a carrot for content creators to move beyond English and experiment with language content."
BG Mahesh, founder and managing director, Oneindia.com, a news portal which is available in several Indian languages, is of the opinion that much needs to be done to propagate the adoption of mobile content in regional languages. He says, "It is good to see giants like Facebook embracing Indian languages, especially on the mobile. This will only increase the usage of Indic on the mobile. All Indic players, including Oneindia.in, will benefit from Facebook's move. However, they will face the hurdle of lack of language font support on popular handsets, which has to be tackled head-on."
Calling it a boon, Vibha Gosher, vice-president, digital, 9X Media, says, "Looking at the language content consumption pattern over the last three years, the regional content issue widens the gap between urban and rural netizens and this launch will help Facebook bridge that gap. It will also result in the growth of language content consumption on mobiles and other hand-held devices."
Opportunity for brands
Many experts feel that this move can spell good news for brands as they are provided with a better opportunity to reach out to their target consumer. Sanglikar opines, "For FMCG and consumer goods market, this will be a very good platform as and when the FB Mobile advertising platform is opened up. Brands will be able to offer localised content and deals, and will also be able to enjoy distinct profile-based targeting. So, expect more segmented marketing options. Also, brand communications may move from 'click on banners' to 'click to call' feature."
For a brand like 9X Media, which has a lot at stake as far as having content in regional languages is concerned, the move could not have come at a better time. Gosher says, "If technological glitches like font compatibility and availability of adequate content are addressed, brands can utilise this tool as a medium to reach wider audiences."
With a prediction to expect better and innovative content on mobiles, Swamy sums it up and says, "Brands are always finding new ways to connect with consumers. In fact, this move will definitely help brands penetrate further and engage with more audiences. Mobile will play an important role in dispersing communication in the near future and that's why this localisation will enable brands to reach a wider set of audience."