Facebook Targets Next Big Market With “Missed Call” Ads

As much as 84% of the 1.28 billion people that get on Facebook monthly live outside of the U.S. Yet when Facebook execs checked their profits per user, they quickly realized a big gap.

As of 2013, Europe, Asia and “high-growth” areas around the world brought in only about 33% of the revenue that US users did.

Why exactly?

Well…

India has a population of 1 billion, 100 million of which regularly access Facebook using a mobile device. India also got its first 4G network in 2012 in Kolkata. It’s currently spreading across the country, and will continue to at a more rapid rate in the years to come. Lastly, social is also becoming  a more rich, integrated way of communicating—for the first time, Facebook is being used a platform to discuss political and socioeconomic issues throughout India. Just like in the U.S., that makes it an undeniably powerful force with a captive audience.

Needless to say, there’s a huge opportunity for growth—and Facebook is not the only big digital company to take note of it.

While Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg did some PR by visiting the company’s offices and partners in India, Google announced their plans to develop a sub-$100 smartphone that functions on Android software.

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So what’s the latest news?

Given the current climate, missed call marketing taps into the large market of “feature” phone users current in India. (In case you’re not familiar – feature phones have functionalities like web and email, without the advanced functions of a smartphone).

Why the ‘missed call’ approach? As the guru of nuanced social in the web space, Facebook was quick to uncover that the “missed call” is part of the ‘social’ fabric in India—used as an easy, universal way to avoid the expense of voicemail services. Callers are used to this method and know how to respond accordingly.

Much like the old pagers, leaving a ‘missed call’ signals to the recipient that you want to hear from them, or that you’ve arrived at a meeting place or pick-up location. While other advertisers have used SMS and mobile ads, missed calls eliminate the fees associated with other communication methods.

Facebook isn’t just targeting India. Missed call advertising is expected to roll out in other countries that have been identified as “high-growth” areas—these include Brazil, Nigeria, Turkey, and Indonesia.

With 66% of Indians and similar percentage of residents in “high-growth” countries still using feature phones, the service makes sense for recreating the ‘social’ experience there.

Missed Call Marketing – How it Works

Facebook ads give users the option to “place a missed call” by clicking on the ad. The button calls the advertiser and hangs up. This prompts an immediate ‘call back’ from the advertiser, complete with branded content for the user to enjoy. This could range from special discounts from the retailer, cricket scores, celebrity news, and more. Much like PPC ads, the risk is fairly low as the advertisers only pay for requested ‘missed calls’ ads. They also don’t use any of the callers’ data.

Projections – Will they perform?

Based on a recent article from Forbes, missed call ads are not expected to perform as well as other forms of social media ads. And the reasoning behind that makes sense. The rule of thumb is always minimal effort for the consumer—missed call ads require a fair amount of effort and time, relative to other ads. And because feature phones can’t offer the same social media experience as a smartphone, the ad quality is compromised.

Then again, the geo-targeting capabilities will definitely give advertisers a leg-up and add some value to efficacy.

Facebook is also promising to serve users with polls that will help advertisers measure, brand sentiment, purchase intent, and ad recall.

Speaking of Google…

There’s been a lot of controversy as of late about the ethics of divulging user information to marketers for targeting purposes.

In a questionable bid to engage advertisers, Facebook will also be using the information they have about Facebook users to offer “Life-Stage Targeting”, which will be use the information from Facebook profiles to determine when users are having children, moving, getting new jobs, or other big life changes that tend to facilitate spending.

Geo-targeting services, which leverage the same resources, will also be available.

Do you have different expectations of the performance of “missed call” ads in high-growth countries? What are your thoughts on “Life-Stage Targeted” advertising? Is it ethical—and possibly even helpful to the consumer?

Leave us your comments below.

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