There’s WhatsApp and Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, but Facebook is not going anywhere, at least in the near future, say Indian experts as the debate on social media intensifies with a Princeton University research stating last month that Facebook would lose 80 per cent of its users by 2017.
Findings of the recent study by US researchers led to a worldwide furore. Facebook lashed out and several media reports questioned the methodology applied to derive the results. Social media experts said that despite niche platforms that were emerging and gaining prominence, Facebook still had its fans. According to the monthly social media marketing report published by socialbakers, a Czech-based company that provides social media network statistics and analysis from sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Facebook had 122,121,747 local fans for Top 20 brands in December 2013 in India.
Time is limited and there are multiple platforms. Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest are amongst the websites that have become increasingly popular, enabling people to communicate with those who share their interests. But Facebook still endures though the challenges are many.
“Facebook has become a daily habit. Yes, specialist websites may have emerged but I don’t see a post-Facebook world for a long time to come,” says Vedant Varma, creative & planning head, Edelman Digital.
“Whereas earlier people spent most of the time on Facebook, now the same amount of time is distributed between various networks. People create groups on instant messaging platforms like Whatsapp or WeChat dedicated to certain interests,” adds Chetan Asher, CEO of Tonic Media, a global digital agency.
Asher adds that in India, unlike in the west, internet penetration has not reached its saturation point yet, and for many people this is their first quarter on the social network. “Facebook, followed by Google and YouTube are still the top picks of advertisers. Facebook is for general social media consumption whereas people are turning to Quora, Google+, Medium and other such forums dedicated to special interests.”
As people consume more media on their tablets and phones, longform news has picked up in India. “People read long articles over a thousand words, share them on Twitter and discuss them with their friends. They are curating more information than they did earlier,” explains Varma. “The second stream phenomena is definitely here in India, as people watch films and TV and tweet simultaneously.”
Is the presence of parents on Facebook and, in some instances, grandparents driving teens away? Asher doesn’t think so. “This may be true of a very small population of the users, but they are a minority,” he says. However, the network does face many challenges ahead and must evolve to stay ahead of the competition, believe experts. As the smartphone toting population increases in India, for instance, social media platforms with a focus on pictures and video are bound to flourish.
“Smartphone penetration is huge in India and thus platforms like YouTube and Instagram are becoming increasingly popular. As rates drop and internet speed increases, people want to share not just content but visuals as well. The fact that phones are equipped with cameras makes this even more accessible,” opines Asher.
The dynamic space of social media has no place for bygones. “Facebook must evolve. We don’t know what avatar Facebook will survive in in a few years. Maybe Facebook chat, messenger, updates and pictures will all become different applications and be available in separate packages,” says Varma. Snapchat, Tumblr and Path are some of the social media platforms to watch out for.
Facing the odds
But Facebook has many challenges ahead and must evolve to stay ahead of the competition, say the experts. As the smartphone toting population increases in India, for instance, social media platforms with a focus on pictures and video are bound to flourish.