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Digital, Social & Mobile in India in 2015

by Simon Kemp in News

It’s been another year of bumper growth for all things digital in India, with the latest in We Are Social’s series of studies into Digital, Social & Mobile usage around the world revealing that over a quarter of the world’s second largest nation now uses the internet on a regular basis:

Digital In India, Aug 2015

Here are the key data headlines:

  • Internet Users: 350 million, up 44% since our last report in July 2014
  • Social Media Users: 134 million, up 26% in the past year
  • Unique Mobile Users: 590 million – a penetration rate of 46%
  • Mobile Internet Users: 159 million – 45% of all internet users
  • Mobile Social Media Users: 97 million, up 5% since July 2014

Read on for our analysis of what these numbers mean in context.


Internet in India
The Internet and Mobile Association of India recently announced that internet users in India now exceed 350 million; a considerable jump since We Are Social’s previous report on digital use in India in July 2014, when the number was just 243 million.

This 44% growth is particularly encouraging, as it takes internet penetration past 25% for the first time. Our sense is that the impressive growth figure may be largely due to more accurate reporting, rather than a sudden surge in new internet users, but it’s clear that increasing mobile internet access has also contributed to an acceleration of internet adoption across the country:

Internet in India

Internet access in India still isn’t evenly distributed though, with rural users accounting for barely 17% of India’s internet community, despite representing more than 70% of the country’s population:


This disparity is changing thanks to mobile, but in contrast to most other developing nations, mobile access still accounts for less than half of India’s internet connections:


The balance will likely tip in the coming months though, with projections from the IAMAI and KPMG indicating that mobile internet will account for nearly two-thirds of all internet connections by 2017.

This shift is clear in terms of share of activity too; more than two-thirds of the web pages served in India in the past month went to desktops or laptops, but that figure is down 6% versus the same period last year:


India’s connection speeds remain disappointingly slow, however, with barely 10% of the country’s fixed-line connections achieving broadband status. The picture is slightly better for mobile users, but India still sits well below the global average reported in Akamai’s most recent State of the Internet report:


Despite these slow speeds – or perhaps because of them – Indian internet users spend more than their global peers using the internet, with the average internet user spending nearly 5 hours online every day.

Social media use accounts for more than half of that time, with social media users spending 26% more time engaging with their networks than watching television:


Social Media in India
Social media use continues to grow in India, but barely 10% of the country is currently ‘socially active':


The number of active users is increasing at a rate of roughly one every second, but even at that rate, it will take another 16 years before half the country’s population is using social media.

We suspect this will change quite considerably in the coming months though, largely due to a shift in behaviour related to mobile usage.

Facebook dominates today’s platform rankings in terms of monthly active users, but it’s worth highlighting that chat apps – and WhatsApp in particular – are already beginning to change the look of the social media landscape:


As mobile-focused internet connections claim a greater share of the overall user-base, we predict that these chat platforms will gain a much more important role in users’ lives – and therefore in marketers’ strategies.

This is where the biggest opportunity lies for internet and mobile companies in India; the company that can claim a disproportionate share of the nation’s burgeoning chat app user-base will be best placed to shape broader consumer behaviour – and revenues – on the internet.

It’s worth noting that non-mobile use of social media accounted for the majority of new users in the past year though, which we found quite surprising. Facebook recorded 28 million new users in India in the past year, but just 5 million of these – 18% – used mobile devices to access the service.

Overall, however, 72% of India’s social media users log in via mobile devices, and we predict that this proportion will increase in the coming months as mobile internet access accelerates further.

It’s also worth noting that the average social media user in India is considerably younger than the global average, with more than half of the platform’s Indian user base aged 23 or younger:


The numbers also show that men account for more than three-quarters of Facebook’s users – something we suspect is true of internet usage as a whole in India. This is something that we believe should be addressed urgently, whether that’s by government bodies or by the corporate world.

Providing women – everyone, for that matter – with better access to digital services has been shown to deliver significant societal benefits, so we believe that marketers should play a disproportionate role in helping to ensure that more women in India can access social and digital services.

In addition to the obvious benefits to the individual – better access to education, financial services and health information – such assistance should also help the marketer, providing a powerful, direct way to reach one of the world’s most untapped audiences.

Mobile in India
As is the case almost everywhere in the world today, mobile use is the big story in India’s digital scene, with 590 million people – almost half the country’s population – now owning a mobile device of some description.

Mobile subscriptions in India stand at 976 million, and with this figure climbing at a rate of roughly 3.5 new subscriptions every second, we fully expect that subscriptions will exceed 1 billion before the end of 2015:


As with internet use, however, mobile use is very unevenly distributed across the country, with considerably less than half of India’s rural population using mobile:


Even for those with a phone, the experience is still far from ideal. Smartphones are still very much in the minority, even when it comes to sales of new handsets:


This ratio has significant importance, as it is closely tied to the adoption of internet services and social media. More than three-quarters of the handsets in use in India today are of the more basic ‘feature phone’ variety, yet smartphones account for five times as much Facebook usage as feature phones do:


E-Commerce in India
Despite some great progress in recent months, e-commerce is still in its infancy in India. The value of online purchases in India totalled just US$12.5 billion in 2014 (INR 81,500 crore) – less than 3% of the value of China’s e-commerce market:


Encouragingly, however, more and more people are using internet-powered services to research products and purchase online, so we expect to see this number explode as mobile internet access, faster connectivity, and increased familiarity with online shopping combine in the coming months.

So what does all this mean for marketers? Here are our three key tips:

  1. Go Mobile: at least in the short-term, design all internet experiences to work via mobile devices and via relatively slow connections. Online video is definitely rising in popularity, but make sure that downloading it and watching it are even a possibility for your target audience.
  2. Be The Change: internet and social media access in India are considerably behind the global average, and this impacts marketers’ abilities to reach and engage key audiences. We recommend that brands use some of their marketing budgets to enable more people to access (faster) internet services, whether that’s by subsidising data plans, providing free internet services like internet.org, or by working with government bodies to bring internet access for all a step closer.
  3. Get Involved In E-Commerce Now: India’s e-commerce market may still be nascent, but now is the time to get involved. There are still many opportunities for brands to gain early mover advantage, and brands that can help e-commerce platforms in their growth stand to forge powerful relationships will stand them in great stead when the e-commerce revolution gathers pace.

If you’re looking for more stats on Digital, Social and Mobile usage around the world, you might find our Global and APAC reports, and our latest Global Digital Statshot useful.

Indian marketers looking for more tailored insights may also like to note that I’ll be presenting at the upcoming International Advertising Association Whats Coming Next conference, which takes place in Kochi, India, between September 3rd and 5th. You can find full details here.

If you’d like tailored advice on what these tips mean specifically for your brand, get in touch with our team in one of our 10 offices around the world for more information.

We’d like to offer our special thanks to GlobalWebIndex for allowing us to use their data in this report. We’d also like to thank the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Ericsson, GSMA Intelligence, StatCounter and Akamai for the public data they share that makes these reports possible. For more details on data sources, please see the full report.

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Rob FitzGerald joins as President, US

by Rob Fitzgerald in News

As you may have read in MediaPost, Campaign or AgencySpy, Rob FitzGerald has been announced as We Are Social’s President in the US. Former President at Big Fuel Communications, Rob has a wealth of global experience at agencies including GlobalHue, Initiative and Omnicom Media Group, spanning Japan, China, Hong Kong, Europe and the US. Here, he explains why he chose to join We Are Social.

FitzGerald (centre) with We Are Social co-founders Robin Grant (left) and Nathan McDonald (right)

FitzGerald (centre) with We Are Social co-founders Robin Grant (left) and Nathan McDonald (right)

My first taste of a career in social was all thanks to Kanye. He approached a previous agency of mine, looking to monetize his considerable social following by producing a daily documentary/fly-on-the-wall content for a subscription fee. As COO, I was asked to lead the venture and saw it as an opportunity to move into social content creation. As you can imagine it was a baptism of fire, but it was an experience that has stood me in good stead for everything that followed (and is still to come).

Joining We Are Social now, from a background of media and strategic planning and more recently, digital and social, it feels like a lifetime since my experience with Yeezy. The marketing landscape has changed beyond recognition over the last decade – even in the last few years. I chose to join We Are Social because, with its mission of putting social thinking at the centre of marketing, it will be one of a handful of agencies that helps the world’s biggest brands define what it means to succeed in today’s – and tomorrow’s – social age.

For me ‘social thinking’ perfectly embodies the evolution of social away from the daily execution of always on content and community management into more complex social/digital experiences. It’s also in line with what’s happening within US businesses at the moment; the increased expectation from senior clients for agency partners to drive and challenge how social is approached inside their own organizations. It’s something that not every agency is going to be able to offer – but We Are Social has been built to understand social behaviours, develop social insights, and offer clients ideas with social at their core, not just executions in social media.

The team here in the US is already doing some fantastic work, with an impressive client roster featuring names like Heineken, Banana Republic, Hyatt and National Geographic. It’s clear that thanks to Leila Thabet’s leadership over the last three years, we have a talented and passionate team with a strong culture of ‘togetherness’ and desire to make a huge impact in this market.

So, as social, creativity and innovation comes directly under the spotlight of CMOs and SVP Brand Directors, it’s the perfect time to take We Are Social to the next stage in its US success. With a focus on larger campaign experiences, innovation and strategic frameworks, we’ll blend the speed and agility of social executions with what were always viewed as the more ‘traditional’ agency attributes of rigor, discipline of strategy and client leadership, to allow us to deliver first class, socially-led creative work that always hits the mark.

For now, my immediate focus will be on attracting the best talent to compliment what we already have, ramping up our creative and strategic firepower and growing the agency, both organically and with new business wins. With all this, We Are Social has the right formula in place – the talent, the culture, the support and the ambition – to become the most significant social agency in the US.

SXSW Innovation: the weird & wonderful

by Tom Ollerton in News

SXSW (1)

Twitter, Foursquare and Meerkat exploded into the digital universe at SXSW. That’s because for one week in Austin in March, the good, bad and the ugly of the digital industries take leave of their day jobs. They eat BBQ and drink craft beer, but most importantly, stop and think about what’s happening next.

I’ve been going through the proposed talks on Innovation on the PanelPicker website. If you search for “innovation” in the list of entries you get 1,118 results. And some of them sound a bit weird..

“Superman vs. Batman, and Innovation’s Power” Holy disruption Batman!

“Innovation Foreplay, Prime Your Brand For Action” – It’s getting hot in here…

“Enabling Cannabis Innovation with Law & Policy” – Well, why not?

It’s not all weirdness, though. Here are my favourites so far:

Can Innovation Be Taught?
Can innovative thinking, an intrinsically disruptive and elusive concept, be taught within formal, higher education? What does it look like in the classroom? Or outside of it? Join leaders from creative / innovation labs at universities across the US to explore these questions.

Product Innovation: Five Signs You’re Faking It
Innovation is being touted everywhere: company websites, TV commercials, and even restaurants. And with catch phrases like, “Innovate or Die” being shouted from the rooftops, it’s hard not to jump on the bandwagon. But how can you tell whether your company is making it for faking it?

Innovations to Disrupt Aging
When does age become just a number and as irrelevant as race and sex in determining someone’s societal value? What does it mean to disrupt aging and how is technology facilitating the process?

How large organisations (and start ups) innovate
Who is really driving the disruptive innovation we see today? Lean start ups such as AirBnB, Uber & Spotify are known for challenging industry business models & the status quo. But what is the role of larger, more established companies in innovation? And can they keep up?

Google’s Creative Skills for Innovation : Lab
Join Google’s Creative Skills for Innovation : Lab to develop your capacity to innovate and get 10x ideas into the world. In this action-packed Lab you will radically collaborate on audacious challenges, discover how to unleash creativity, experiment efficiently and prototype to develop innovations fast.

Sex, Social and the Future of Love
Disclaimer – this one is mine. A good SXSW presentation resonates across the industry for months and a great one can change the destiny of a business forever. With that in mind I’ve decided to do a presentation on sh*gging. My presentation “Sex, Social and the Future of Love” will be co-presented by Hannah Witton, a vlogger specialising in sexuality.

In this panel, we bust some of the biggest sex and social myths. We’ll explain why a woman with a grapefruit is a more credible sexpert than any brand. And we explore why sex doesn’t always sell on social. You might even get your hands on some of the latest connected sex toys. If you would like me and Hannah to represent the UK at SXSW, please register on the SXSW site, vote and leave a comment.

You might also want to take a look at the other great panels we’re planning here at We Are Social, one on how the use of tech is affecting and defining tomorrow’s leaders, the other exploring the unexpected events that led to social technologies becoming an ingrained part of our lives. We look forward to seeing you there.

1 Billion Insights: What People #Love

by Simon Kemp in News

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 3.28.48 PM

Every day, somewhere between 300,000 and half a million photos are uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag #love.

Late last week, those photos passed a particularly special milestone as the one-billionth photo tagged with #love was added to the photo sharing network.

Based on a wholly human (i.e. subjective) analysis of many thousands of posts tagged with #love over the past 12 months, the most common themes amongst Instagram posts tagged with #love are (in no particular order):

  • Selfies
  • Friendships & Couples
  • Requests for Followers
  • Illustrated Quotes
  • Pets & Animals
  • Fashion & Accessories
  • Beauty (Make-Up & Nail Art)
  • Food, Cafés & Restaurants
  • Travel Photos
  • Celebrities

The themes alone don’t explain the full picture though; for that, we need to dig a little deeper, and interpret what we see.

#Love, Love Me Do
The most startling finding was the one that was most obvious when we started exploring the hashtag stream.

The majority of photos tagged with #love seem to be people searching for ‘love’ – or at least people hoping to attract other people’s attention, admiration, recognition, or lust.

Our interpretation of this behaviour is that people don’t go to Instagram (or social media more generally, for that matter) to discover new products; they go there in the hope of being discovered themselves.

Because of this, most people are behaving in the same way that brands behave in social media: they’re posting content about themselves – notably selfies – in hope that other people will ‘like’ them (and comment, and share, and follow…).

What we found most interesting is that many of these #love posts appear to be attempts to deal with individual insecurities. They appear to address needs that sit squarely in the middle of Maslow’s hierarchy (Esteem Needs and Love & Belonging Needs):


The key observation: people are using the #love hashtag to address their need for personal affirmation.

When you think about that, it’s not really very surprising; everybody wants to be loved.

However, we were surprised by the way that this need has translated into the use of a hashtag that we’d expected to be more about the expression of a present emotion (e.g. “I love…”) than the desire to fulfil an absent emotion (e.g. “I want to be loved”).

There are, of course, numerous examples of things people do ‘love’ – their partners, their friends and families, pets and animals, and celebrities – but the overwhelming majority of posts seem to fall into the category of fulfilling absent emotion than expressing present emotion.

The Naked Truth
What’s more, many people using the #love hashtag seem willing to go to extreme lengths to attract other people’s attention.

Roughly 3-5% of all posts tagged with #love are selfies involving nudity – male and female. If you want to verify this for yourself, do note that some of the pictures are particularly sexually explicit. They’re not for the faint-hearted, and they’re definitely NSFW.

Shock-value aside, it’s worth making an important distinction here between ‘nude selfies’ – which appear to be individuals’ attempts to get other people’s attention – and outright porn, which usually includes links to third-party websites. Our analysis suggests that individuals posting selfies in various states of undress outweigh ‘porn’ by a significant margin.

As a platform, Instgram doesn’t permit images containing nudity, but as you might expect given this volume of uploads, it can take some time before offending pictures are removed.

Tell Me I’m Beautiful…
People often use the #love hashtag together with photographs of make-up and nail-art too. What’s most interesting about these photos is that there are considerably fewer mentions of brands than I’d expect.

There appear to be two key motivations behind beauty-oriented posts. The first is closely related to the theme we saw above, where people are looking for the affirmation of others through their activities – the posts almost seem to ask ‘what do you think of me in this make-up’, without necessarily asking the question directly.

The second motivation is more marketing-related, but it’s generally about selling a make-up or nail artist, rather than the products they sell. This may be determined as much by the sheer volume of posts shared by individuals versus brands, of course, but the findings are nonetheless interesting and valuable to marketers hoping to understand their audiences.

…Tell Me I’ve Got Style
One of the most frequent hashtag correlations we identified was between #love and #ootd (i.e. outfit of the day). Fashion more generally seems to overlap neatly with the #love hashtag, but as with the Beauty theme above it appears that the person posting the photo is more interested in demonstrating their own sense of style than necessarily calling out specific brands.

On a related note, it’s worth highlighting a significant number of posts of people in revealing outfits or underwear. There’s a fine line here that merits some further exploration though, namely the balance between the opportunity for self-expression and the potential for people to make decisions they’ll later regret, or even the risk of exploitation.

(Don’t You) Wish You Were Here?
Even when it comes to product- and brand-related posts, there’s still a tendency to use the #love hashtag to call out things that the ‘poster’ expects other people to love, as much as what they themselves love.

For example, when it comes to travel, there’s a strong tendency towards envy-inducing shots: beaches at sunset, amazing hotel rooms, spectacular landscapes.

The same is true of most photos tagged with #food: there’s a tendency to post impressive meals that the individuals have prepared themselves (the desire for acknowledgment), or that they’re enjoying in special locations or restaurants (a trigger for envy).

Whilst these posts are perhaps less narcissistic than selfies, they still seem to demonstrate that constant need for the recognition and envy of others.

So What?
So what can marketers do with this information?

The answer lies in understanding the motivations that drive this behaviour, not simply in being able to track the behaviour itself.

That many people have a constant need for a self-esteem boost shouldn’t come as a shock to any of us, but it’s interesting how so few brands are fulfilling that need. Indeed, with their own constant attempts to get noticed and attract ‘likes’, most brands in social media are demonstrating the same insecurities themselves.

The big opportunity for brands in all of this is to understand how they can provide what these people need.

Brands could interpret that in two ways, though. One route would be to adopt the Dove approach, addressing the insecurities that drive the behavior in the first place.

The alternative would be to offer the recognition and affirmation the people using the hashtag seem to crave.

Either way, with half a million new #love posts a day, there’s plenty more left for marketers to learn from this incredibly popular hashtag.

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We Are Social’s Monday Mashup #273

by Laura Muldoon in News

Google and Twitter get cosy with desktop search result integration
It is now possible to view tweet feeds and hashtags on the desktop version of Google’s search results. Twitter and Google announced a new partnership in February, and Twitter integration has been available on Google’s mobile website and apps since May, but it’s nice to see the pair getting along so well with another public display of affection on all of our desktops…

Facebook overtakes Google as traffic source for news and media
Traffic analysis from Parse.ly with data from over 400 major news and media outlets, has revealed that Facebook has overtaken Google as a traffic source and bolstering the theory that search has hit a plateau while Facebook’s growth trajectory continues to head skyward.


Facebook finally gifts pages and ads with gifs
After rolling out gifs to individual users in May, Facebook has now allowed select business pages to use the flashy graphics. It has been reported that Mark Zuckerberg has in the past held reservations about flashing banner ads in case they negatively affected user experience. I’m less bothered about flashing images and more about the constant penis enlargement ads I’m served. The user reaction to gifs will be monitored closely before a full roll-out to all businesses.

Coca-Cola’s Brazilian brand Kuat's first gif offeringCoca-Cola’s Brazilian brand Kuat’s first gif offering

Facebook is planning to spruce its events offering right up
It’s time for Facebook events to get an overhaul and new details have been confirmed by the Facebook product manager for Facebook Events, Aditya Koolwal. One main goal is to separate out public and private events more significantly. Koolwal has also revealed that the ultimate goal is for Facebook to offer users a tailored list of what’s going on in any given city at any given time. Now please excuse me, I have a ‘WORLD’S LONGEST Slip ‘N’ Slide!!!!’ to attend.

Twitter ads now being served through mobile apps
Brands can now access more users with Twitter creative, through mobile apps (that aren’t Twitter) via the Twitter Audience Platform (TAP). Macy’s, who has used the technology reported engagement rates much higher than industry benchmarks. See below how the Twitter ads appear to users. I’ll just type Twitter one more time now. Twitter.


Twitter CFO calls for patience as stock falls below IPO price for first time
Bad times for Twitter as its stock dropped below $26 last week, the price set during its initial public offering in November 2013, against a background of ongoing concerns about a lack of growth in its user-base. One reason offered by Twitter for its trouble attracting new users is that it remains “too difficult to use” to truly reach a mass market beyond celebrities and journalists. I’ve taken it upon myself to look into the matter in depth myself. A quote from my mother: “I agree”.

Kik receives $50M cash injection from China’s Tencent
Tencent, the biggest internet company in China, who also own WeChat, is set to help Kik realise its dream of becoming the “WeChat Of The West” through a strategic partnership and a $50m investment. Kik, according to GlobalWebIndex, is currently the 4th placed messenger app amongst 16-24 year-olds in US, behind Facebbook Messenger, Snapchat and Skype. Kik plan to use the money for innovative development in the hope of taking on the the big players of the messaging world, with ambitions of taking on even Facebook Messenger.

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Old Spice get it right again by cracking tough Imgur crowd
After its ‘loony’ Instagram adventure game, those mentalist nutters at Old Spice are all aboard the banter train once again with a new batch of promoted content on Imgur. The notoriously picky users of the platform have responded well to the ‘Gif off’, with one erudite user exclaiming: “The beautiful bastards in your marketing department understand me better than any man.”.

Man from UNCLE Instagram hack brings out the secret agent in users
The Warner Brothers UK team have used Instagram to hide a secret message for users. The message is revealed by regramming the image and applying a certain filter with the chance of winning a swanky watch fit for a spy. I’d love to tell you which filter it is but if I did I would have to kill you.

Man_From_Uncle_Insta (1)

Ronald McDonald’s WLTM Tinder audience to advertise to
McDonald’s have surprised Tinder users in Australia this week after launching a competition on the dating app where users can win a trip to Thailand by swiping right when faced with the brand’s profile. With more late night trysts with sauce-covered hot chicken McNuggets than I care to mention, I’m confident for a match.

UK vlogger guidance issued following Kim Kardashian’s banned selfie
New guidelines have been issued in the UK to vloggers after claims have been made that influencers have been put under pressure to keep commercial partnerships a secret from their fans. The new rules outline exactly what you can and can’t do within the UK advertising code and will act at the go to guide to help vloggers push back on unreasonable requests.