Thomas K Thomas on The Hindu Business Line on June 6, 2009
New Delhi, June 5 With social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Second Life drawing Internet users, telecom operators in India are cashing in on their popularity by launching brand awareness campaigns and forming product-related communities on these sites.
Bharti Airtel, for instance, has launched a campaign on both Facebook and Twitter to popularise its virtual calling card service among Non-Resident Indians in the US, the UK, Singapore and Canada. The product, called CallHome, allows users to make calls to India at one cent.
While advertising in traditional media is an expensive proposition considering that the product is targeted at a specific community, the social networking sites offer a free platform for companies such as Airtel.
Mr Syed Safawi, Executive Director, Bharti Airtel Ltd, says, “Brand’s research indicated that while the reach of ethnic media amongst NRIs was not more than 50 per cent, the community is highly networked online and word of mouth plays a key role in building brand awareness and consideration. Armed with this insight, Airtel CallHome is increasingly focusing on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to become a part of everyday lives of NRIs via a surround effect.”
While Airtel has over 2,000 members on its Facebook community, more than 800 consumers follow Airtel on Twitter.
According to Mr Safawi, this is only a start and Airtel will soon use the media to address Indian subscribers also. “The media is non-obtrusive and helps build our brand totally through word of mouth. It also helps us interact with the consumers and get feedback on what they want,” says Mr Safawi.
Tata Teleservices is another company that has taken its brand campaign into the virtual world, by becoming the first Indian telecom operator to enter the Second Life community.
The company has created a virtual island on this community wherein consumers can get a feel of all the products available under the Tata Indicom brand in addition to playing games, songs and other interactive programs.
Tata Teleservices Ltd’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mr Lloyd Mathias, said. “The digital world is evolving at a fantastic pace — cutting across geographical and cultural barriers — and we firmly believe that the virtual world has a huge outreach potential for businesses. We feel our association with Second Life will redefine the concept of outreach and take digital interactivity to the next level — for this will allow Tata Indicom to engage with the growing digital audience in a manner that is relevant to them.”
In this initiative, Tata Indicom’s brand ambassadors will also be present in their virtual avatars, engaging with visitors in an interactive forum.