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POV: Will Facebook Home change the game for mobile marketing?

By Satrajit Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | April 26, 2013
Will the app for Android phones get Indian marketers to think about mobile marketing in a different way?

FB home page

Facebook recently launched Facebook Home as an application for Android smartphones. The app refurbishes the start screen of the smartphones to display the Facebook feed that brings the latest status updates from the users' Facebook friends.

This strategy allows Facebook to instantly build a strong mobile presence and if successful, Facebook Home will ensure that more users are encouraged to spend more time on the social network. Besides, since the app is made to sit on the users' smartphone, which they carry everywhere, this will give Facebook more opportunities to collect information about the user, and more importantly, sell them.

Mark Zuckerberg has not mentioned much about the monetisation possibilities of this app; however, it remains a fact that if the app sees more takers, it will offer a value to brand marketing as well. It is known that Facebook makes its money on ads, and by being able to display ads in the mobile home screen of a user, Facebook Home can give marketers the ability to push targeted commercial messages at users- any time, any place - thus adding to the social networks' revenues.

In India, mobile marketing and deciphering what works best has been a perennial pain point for marketers. Despite strict anti-spam rules in the country, when it comes to mobile marketing, SMSes still rule, probably because SMS as a medium still has the 'on the face' effect compared to other forms of mobile marketing such as mobile banners, in-app ads, pre-roll and in-video ads.

Considering India is the second biggest market for Facebook in the world, and Android being the most used smartphone platform in India, if Facebook Home finds its takers in the country, can it get Indian marketers to think about mobile marketing in a different way? We quizzed some experts from the field of social media and mobile marketing in India to get a view of what they think about the marketing potential of Facebook Home.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma

R P Singh

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder, One97 Communications

Facebook Home is yet to get users and use cases. And, in the initial stages of adoption, adding mobile advertising might just kill it before it takes off. Moreover, it is still early days for the company to figure out a revenue stream for the app and I am not sure it will do it soon, especially since reviews and application acceptance hasn't been good yet.

That said, because the app offers probably the largest real estate on smartphones, it is bound to have much better pull for brands and thus attract more investment from advertisers. In India especially, brands are currently experimenting with different kinds of media and there is a trial budget in many media plans today. So we expect a part of that trial budget to go in Facebook Home advertising. However, having said that, we still have to see, whenever Facebook sells this media, will it be on cost per million impressions (CPM) basis or cost per click (CPC) basis.

R P Singh, CEO, Sirez Group

I don't know whether it will be a game changer in this country but one thing is for sure that it will be a huge player in this game. Mobile advertising is suffering from a lot of problems in this country. Despite having huge numbers, it is not able to attract advertisers and one huge reason for that is the lack of understanding about user behaviour on mobile. Except mobile operators, no one in the system knows about the location of the user. With Facebook Home, users will be able to see relevant location specific ads which will be drastically different from the scenario today where you get hundreds of ads on your device just like that.

On the other hand, Facebook on mobile grew because of no advertising on the mobile version. We need to see if Facebook Home disturbs that user behaviour and if the mobile usage of Facebook remains the same or decreases because of this. In India, advertisers are going for
Facebook in a big way; therefore, Facebook Home's adoption will not be difficult for them.

Sanjay Mehta

Deepak Goel

Sunny Nagpal

Sanjay Mehta, founder and joint CEO, Social Wavelength

I don't think Facebook Home will be a game changer for mobile marketing in India.

Most certainly, it will make Facebook more integral in people's lives, and will assume the status of 'first call' for phone users. In fact, in many ways, the phone and its operating system will lose out, as the user will jump straight into the Facebook world.

It will certainly make Facebook even more powerful from a user's mind share point of view, and may shift marketers' moneys to Facebook advertising.

Deepak Goel, founder and CEO, Drizzlin Media

There are a couple of things to it. Firstly, worldwide, the access frequency of Facebook is declining. This is not so much evident in India, but overall there is a decline being noticed and the phenomenon is popularly called Facebook Fatigue. This is a classic case where early adopters of a platform give it away after some time. A similar thing happened to blogging. So, Facebook Home is a move towards that direction and possibly it will help increase the time spent on the platform.

Secondly, in India, this might help in getting a younger audience on board but as people mature, participation on this platform will also become low and people will remove the app from their phones.

So far as marketers are concerned, they may reap some benefits from the initial adoption of the platform but in the long run, it will be hard to get brands on this platform, as Facebook Home may not find much takers among the audience.

Sunny Nagpal, MD and co-founder, Httpool India

Facebook Home seems to be another attempt from Facebook to draw back its 'original' users, without yet figuring out on advertising models (as usual). While most Facebook diehard 'fans' would cheer about this novel feature of having their social life flash past on their mobile home screens, it is highly unlikely that they would cherish the idea of ads popping up.

Marketers would have loved to exploit the social graph of their TG via mobile advertising, but personally I don't think we are there yet with Facebook Home as it would fail on delivering advertising messages seamlessly and non-intrusively.

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