A Sri Lankan guide to social media marketing





By Janeeth Rodrigo

Top of the morning folks! This week we are picking the brain of one of the leading industry experts and thought leaders in social media in Sri Lanka, Indulekha Nanayakkara.

She has worked with hundreds of different brands and companies, both local and foreign, in every aspect of digital marketing and was part of the panel I moderated at Disrupt Asia 2018 where we tackled the topic of “Changing the Landscape of Digital Marketing”, alongside representatives from Google, Facebook, and Payoneer.

I quizzed her along the lines of the panel discussion we had, where we attempted to crack the code on the best practices brands should adopt in digital media and the KPIs every marketer should tattoo on their forearms.


Indu speaking at Disrupt Asia 2018. From left: Facebook Business Development Lead – SMB South Asia Kush Sagar, Indulekha Nanayakkara, Google Country Marketing Consultant Sri Lanka Prashanthan Balakrishnan, and Janeeth Rodrigo

Q: You have spearheaded many paid media campaigns on digital. What are the main pitfalls you see marketers, especially in Sri Lanka, face and how have you circumvented it?

One is not identifying the proper campaign goals or strategy.

Countless times I’ve witnessed instances where a business should be looking for brand awareness but run a campaign for sales. Sales is the final goal, but a business needs to run a campaign with a proper strategy, keeping the customer journey at its heart, using a highly converting sales funnel.

Another is not identifying the target audience properly.

Trying to appeal to the wrong target audience with the wrong message would obviously result in failure. Every business should have a well-defined customer persona and then articulate the right message.

Lastly, not spending adequate amounts on the right advertising platform.

Spending more on traditional channels than digital when the customer is not a mass media consumer or spending on the wrong digital ad platform such as social ads instead of search ads is another common scenario. This goes back to the above two – have a proper strategy and know your customer.

Q: As a social media consultant who has worked on many successful digital campaigns, what platforms, and in what priority, do you recommend for Sri Lankan brands to effectively reach their audience?

Facebook should be your primary social platform as it has the highest online population. Over 90% of the total internet population of Sri Lanka use social media and almost every one of them is on Facebook. It also provides some fantastic tools to find your exact customer.

The only exception to this rule might be for start-ups or small businesses new to the market in industries like fashion, food, travel, and maybe photography. They can start with Instagram.

Once you start with Facebook, you can expand to other networks. This should be decided based on where your customer is present online. Researching and surveying your own audience will get you these details.

Some of the obvious generalisations would be, for example, for a professional service or a B2B product or service, LinkedIn is a given. If you’re in media or publishing, Twitter would be ideal. If you’re in education or entertainment, get on YouTube.

Q: The debate over when/whether digital will overtake traditional in Sri Lanka is a contentious topic. Will this happen? If so when?

Globally, digital ads beat TV in 2017, according to statistics from Magna. In the same year, in Sri Lanka, over 80% of the total ad spend was on TV.

So, I would say, it will be a while until marketers are able to change the mindset of the higher management on this disparity, and before that, technology and availability of it will only expand the population online. If I want to be hopeful, I’d say this would happen before 2025 but the reality might be otherwise!

Q: Facebook perpetually uses machine learning to show people what they want to see. In this context, how have you cracked the “targeting code” and what key KPIs do you look for in a successful Facebook advertising campaign?

When it comes to targeting, as I mentioned earlier, a business should clearly define their primary customer and a couple of other secondary customers with a well defined customer persona.

Using this on a Facebook ad campaign, the KPI’s would largely depend on the objective of your ad campaign. Facebook gives you three main ad objectives: awareness, consideration, and conversion. But from a general perspective, the most important KPI would be Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). Make sure you have the Facebook Pixel set up to track this metric.
Another important metric would be the total number of conversions, or conversion rate. This requires your ad to have a clear Call to Action (CTA). This goes well with lead generation or web traffic for example.

In addition, Cost Per Click (CPC) and Click Through Rate (CTR) would be important metrics. These can tell you if your ad is being consumed well by your audience or are they indifferent to it.



Janeeth Rodrigo is the General Manager, Digital, of the Derana Media network. He is also the General Manager of IdeaHell, the first and only YouTube MCN and Creator Space in Sri Lanka.