MxM Open Classroom | Digital Marketing Day 5 | Understanding the Social Media networks on the Fringe

08 May,2020

Bhuvi GuptaBy Bhuvi Gupta


And so, we have come to day 5 of the Open Classroom series.  The focus of this series was to give readers a deep understanding of the social media networks which occupy the most mindshare currently  – TikTok, Facebook & Instagram, to windup the series, we will briefly discuss advertising on popular social media networks from two opposite spectrums. Firstly, those which have existed for the last decade and are used for reaching a specific, mostly urban demographic, that is YouTube, & Snapchat and secondly  those which are not more than 5 years old and targeting audiences in tier 2, 3 & 4 cities.  There are multiple social media platforms trying to capture mindshare in in tier 2, 3 & 4 cities, and while userbases differ, they offer more or less the same audiences & suffer from the same issues. Prominent platforms include, Likee, Bigo (both owned by Bigo) , Helo (owned by ByteDance) & Sharechat (an Indian VC funded startup).  In this article, we focus on Likee & ShareChat.


As per the Kantar ICUBE 2019 report, rural India registered a 45% growth in monthly active internet users (MAUs) in 2019 to reach 264 million internet users, and is expected to grow 15 percent or reach 304 million users in 2020.

The report also states that Video, Voice and Vernacular (3 Vs) are the underlying factors for the internet boom in rural India. The truth is vernacular penetration will define the next wave of growth for all social media platforms including Facebook, Youtube & Snapchat, and not only those focused on tier 2, 3 & 4 markets.

Old but not yet established



YouTube is an online video sharing platform which has 2 billion users globally, and a presence in more than 90 countries. YouTube as also the internet’s second largest search engine, after Google.


While YouTube has enjoyed a steady presence in India, it is in the last 2 years that an Indian focus has lead to exponential growth. In 2019,  the number of channels with more than 1 million subscribers grew four-fold to reach 1200.  Regional language channels also grew. There are 94 Tamil channels 60 Telugu channels, 35 Bengali channels and 15 Malayalam channels with more than 1 million subscribers, today.


Because of YouTube’s huge viewer base and granular targeting, it can play an effective part for reaching diverse audiences. Points of note –


• Advertising on YouTube is especially relevant if TV is apart of the marketing mix.

• Budgets allow advertising on the YouTube Masthead (price tag of 2 crore plus) is a high impact property which can help in 1 billion plus impressions & hence high awareness. While previously the banner was sold on a per day basis, YouTube now also sell the masthead banner space on a Cost per Impressions(CPM) basis for a few days every month.

• Use Influencer Marketing – leverage channels aligned to the brand’s target audience to create branded content


Quick Facts

• User Base in India – 265 million Monthly Active Users

• Demographic Profile – Age-agnostic. Regional and gender diversity (120+ channels with more than 1 million subscribers are run by women)

• Ad formats – Video ads (Non skippable  & skippable), Display ads, Cards, Overlay ads, Masthead banner ad, influencer marketing



Snap Originals in India

Snapchat , owned by USA headquartered Snap Inc. is a multimedia-messaging app which allows users to share static & video content called ‘Stories’. It also includes a Discover tab where content partners & brands show ad-supported short-form content. Snapchat has become known for representing a new, mobile-first direction for social media, for e.g. it was the first to introduce both Augmented reality filters & Stories on its platform, both of which have since got replicated in most other popular apps. India has been a focus market for Snap Inc., since 2018., which has lead to an 80% increase in DAUs (Daily Active Users) in the country. This growth is partly fueled by the integration of  four new Indian languages including Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi & partly by local partnerships across device manufacturers, telcos, content creators (Brut, HuffPost India, The Logical Indian, The Quint, VICE India, Pocket Aces,) etc.. These content partnerships have also been used by Snap for original content creation, branded as ‘Snap Originals’.  Brands should advertise on Snap primarily to reach the youth in metros, and definitely if they target women below 34 years in metros .  Snapchat also offers granular targeting options with low ad spends.


• User Base in India – undisclosed, 229 million MAUs globally

• Demographic Profile – Urban Youth, below 34 years of age, 55% of the audience being women

• Ad formats – Sponsored Lenses , Sponsored filters,  Sponsored stories, ads in discover


The platforms targeted at Rural India

Most platforms which are targeting rural India have a few commonalties – firstly they are focused on regional languages, they are still focused on building communities and while have made inroads on revenue streams, they are not focus areas. Thirdly, most have come under some flak for objectionable content, whether pornographic or political. Marketers are hence, still wary of leveraging them, but as the platforms get more established in the coming few years, they will contribute to sizeable digital spends. We focus on two such platforms, which seem to be winning the numbers game in 2020 –


Likee –  was the 7th most downloaded app of 2019 and has 115 million Monthly Active Users in India.

Screenshot of Likee user’s profile, homepage & Live

Likee (rebranded from Like) is a short video creation platform created by Singapore based firm, BIGO Technology in 2017. It offers  short video creation with a variety of creative Augmented Reality filters and effects, a news tab to catch up on current affairs & an option to go ‘Live’ where users are allowed to send virtual gifts and roses to their favorite creators. It offers support for 15 Indian languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Urdu and Sanskrit.


While similar to TikTok, the user interface is much simpler and filters are more creative. Its 115million+ user base is primarily concentrated in tier 2& 3 cities. Advertising options on its platform, are similar to those offered on TikTok i.e. branded filters, branded challenges & in-feed ads. Inventory on Infeed-ads are sold using the Google Ad Exchange & Facebook Audience Network


Likee has been used for promoting many popular movies of 2019 such as Chhichhore, Dabangg 3 & Housefull4.  For e.g. For Housefull4, users  could transform into any of the characters they chose from the film using the Facemorph filter. Selected users were then invited for a meet& greet with the cast



Sharechat is a social networking service founded in 2015 in India which available both on mobile & web. It allows sharing of both video & static content, and is available in 14 languages including dialects like Rajasthani, Haryanvi and Bhojpuri. It also has a chat feature, which allows users to communicate with each other. The platform currently has a user Base in India of 60 million+ MAUs.  Rather than follow the strategy formulated by TikTok, as most platforms in the space are doing, ShareChat has managed to differentiate itself from other platforms  due to its multipronged strategy –


• Advertising – Brand integrations through micro-influencers on the platform. Micro influencers help create unique brand experiences through UGC (User Generated Content). Coca Cola, Oyo, MTR, Airtel, Pepsi and the Future Group are some of the advertisers already working with ShareChat.

• Community – it has focused on targeting users in tier2,3 & 4 cities only in Indian vernacular languages. It has recently launched several interest-based micro-communities on subjects such as commerce and religion, gaming and fantasy sports to drive user-engagement

• Content Moderation – moderates content to global standards followed by Twitter ( who led a Series D $100 million investment round in 2019)



Images courtesy,, public feeds of apps

Bhuvi Gupta is a marketer with 10 years of work experience, of which the last six have been in the media and entertainment industry. She has been a part of many launch marketing campaigns with experiences at the Times of India group, Republic TV and the latest in marketing a Bollywood film.

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