Getting Social – Opportunities and Challenges for Marketers

As Mobile is becoming the most important screen in consumers lives, they are seeking more sociable experiences through it. In some emerging markets twitter is actually replacing the SMS(text) mechanism. People prefer to tweet each other rather than text or call. Similarly sole purpose of seeking experiences seems to be shareability. Even ordinary moments are assuming greater significance with photo/video sharing. Lot of people in Indonesia actually take photographs of the food before they eat and share it on social sites. And as they eat they are happy responding to their friends comments. Similarly shopping is becoming more social. When it comes to making brand decisions, social is becoming a critical source for consumers.

Awareness – Example: Mothers are reaching out on social space to find out which formula food is better for their babies.  Social media is raising consumer awareness about the category and not just the brand.

Interest – Example: Gadget reviews and social cool quotient seem to be key deciding factors for buying them. Information or experience based engagement is criticial for generating and retaining interest in brands as they make critical choices.

Decision – Example: some airleines and travel portals offer best deals exclusively to fans. Consumers are getting used to making decisions using this social information. In some cases purchases are happening in the social space itself.

Advocacy – Consumers who form opinions favourable or otherwise actively share them on their social networks. Especially if brands are not able to respond to negative feedback that can affect not just the brand image but the sales volume as well.

Most marketers and agencies are not yet well equipped to deal with these Social consumers. A few critical elements to get going on social include:

 Social Brand architecture: There is an ongoing debate about how should a brand present itself in the social space. Should it be facebook page, twitter account, blog, mobile app? Questions aplenty. While there is no universal answer, brands cannot simply avoid being present on this space. As consumers improvise their social profile, even brands can. This is based on their overall marketing goals, current TG behavior on the networks and the content (brand) startegy. What is the role of facebook Vs Twitter Vs Pinterest Vs xyz. Some brands see facebook as another (own) media channel and populate content accordingly. Some see twitter as a customer support channel and some see Pinterest as photo link to transactions. It is important to decide on a role for each of the social channels and align brand content & response to such roles.

Influencer engagement – What does acquiring a million fans/ followers mean? How should you acquire followers. It has been proven that paid media is a guranteed “like” builder. But are these people for real? Are these the brand’s Target audience? Is there real value engaging them? In the light of the above a mad media drive to acquire fans may be a pointless exercise. viral (unpaid) fan acquisition rate will be higher for some cult brands. It is also relatively higher for brands offering freebies, discounts and offers. Unlike other media, social is “always on”. Therefore brands need to find a way to stay fresh and relevant to appeal to fans. Creative agencies can play a role in determining the kind of engagement that will be best suited for the objectives. However agencies need to unlearn the print & TVc expertise and start afresh to meet this challenge.

Social Measurement & Analytics: Marketers have been spoiled by broad industry metrics (like TRP based Audience measurement systems). With little analysis, they have been making BIG decisions and getting away with an ecosystem (media house, media agency, TRP system etc) that supports this kind of thinking. Digital media and especially social media can dig very deep and throw tons of data highlighting various types of user interactions. Any simple Social listening report can highlight chatter with numerous references to brand and category. Given that a lot of social chatter is caused by spam bots, it is critical that marketers get a true view of depth and frequency of consumer interaction. There are a wide variety of paid social tools available in the market. Most of them are quite complicated and need a trained hand to manage or make sense of them. Multi language processing, sentiment analysis, CRM connectivity are but a few limitations of most tools available in the market. Radian 6, Sysomos, Adobe, social bakers, Webinfluenz, mybuzzmetrics and the list goes on. This is in addition to numerous free tools such as Hootsuite, Facebook insights, social mention, google analytics, peerindex, klout, kred etc.  Interesting to note that the list of companies trying to crack the Social measurement -analytics puzzle is quite diverse. It includes quite a few well funded startups, research agencies ( Nielsen, TNS etc), consulting companies(Mckinsey) , IT companies (Infosys, Cognizant, Accenture, IBM etc), Advertising Agencies, marketing & CRM analytics companies. Most of the tools throw humongous data which doesnot aid quick decision making in the social space. Marketers need to evaluate, experiment and build frameworks & decision grids by which they can process the information from these tools to unearth actionable intelligence. The future will be for tools that can identify & connect each individual comment , analyse the purcahse behavior/previous interactions, unearth trends in larger customer groups, suggest decision alternatives and track behavior post implementing that decison. That sounds “super human” isn’t it? Hopefully this will be real soon and not my fanciful imagination.

Social Organisations: Recruiting a social media head is not the only solution to make a brand social. Firstly organisations need to believe in social to make this work. Most organisations ban social networks in office. (though more and more employees stay connected on social with their mobile phones) Employees or internal customers can potentially start or shift a conversation in the social space. Apart from training all employees on social media usage within organisations, marketers may need a specific skillset dedicated to implement the social strategy. Depending on organisation’s size and marketing ambition, the size of the team can vary from a one member team to a 200 member team and so on. The social media team can primarily comprise of community managers, analysts, content writers, media specialists, bloggers and strategists. Whether the team is inhouse or outsourced through a specialist agency it is important to establish Tool kits  to enable their functioning and metrics to evaluate progress.

 Tool Kits – Especially for marketers with regional/ global mandate, it is necessary to create Standard Operational Guidelines. While these guidelines need not be cast in stone they can be a reference point for the many teams that implement. Took kits can aid content generation, adoption and distribution guidelines.  Brand tonality, daily scheduling, reporting, editorial, response & escalation mechanism, operating Key Performance Indicators etc can be part of the tool kit.

Marketers who commit to the above can rise above the clutter to develop distinct brand voice thereby outperforming competition and foster consumer loyalty.

Published with permission from Author of Sharing Digital.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About the author  ⁄ Venke Sharma

Venke Sharma

Digital Leader with 17 years experience. Passionate about creating brand demand using digital media and marketing services. Built a digital agency Tribal DDB India, a marketing services agency Arc Worldwide India and the digital capability in Leo Burnett Indonesia. Experienced in taking a startup business from concept to a scaled up entity. Adept in handling various facets of the business including strategy, organization planning, business development, contract negotiations, operations, creative & production, human resources, media, public relations, technology and commercial. Managed clients in India, Singapore, Australia, UK and Indonesia across diverse sectors including FMCG, Financial (BFSI), Consumer Durables, Telecom, Petrochem, Travel, Tourism and New media.

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