Monthly Archives: December 2013

How to Approach Social Media Marketing in 2014

Alas! The busiest time for bloggers and social media experts has finally arrived! It’s that time period of the year when we are bombarded with blogposts on themes like ‘10 best social media campaigns of the year’ and ‘Social media predictions for 2014’. In the race to compete and succeed, we are busy evaluating our past steps and setting future goals with ‘fair amount of assumption’. Instead if we stick to some basic principles, I am sure not only we have more reasons to smile at the end of next year but also would have brought smiles on our (brand’s) stakeholders. So, here are few things that all brands may stick to in 2014:

Let’s be human through social platforms

Though time and again it has been emphasized that social media platforms are primarily meant for ‘engagement’, at the end of the day most of us knowingly or unknowingly get involved in the herd mentality and start treating these platforms as broadcasting ones. I understand the objectives of each player in the social media ecosystem is different, however if we all work with the principle of humanizing the brand through social platforms, our end objective would start converging.

Think of customer engagement before the social assets

You would have read many blogposts with predictions that mobile / applications / augmented reality are going to rule the social media space in 2014. Well, these are just tactics and social assets. The need of the hour is to stick to basics and focus on ‘customer engagement’. Let’s not start with the thinking that – can we organize a flash mob & convert it into a ‘viral video’? or put up a augmented reality show at a mall & start bombarding the social networks. These are temporary gimmicks and would easily be forgotten by the people. What gets registered is the special treatment that you provide to your customers and their friends.

Top management should lead from the front

Being the big daddy, you can’t afford to pass on the towel to others! Its understood that you can’t have as much time as the social media executive designated on the account, however it definitely would help you understand the stakeholder mentality if you spend some time on the brand’s social media platforms. It really brings a difference to the brand’s image when you are a CXO and responding to a query on Twitter / Facebook with your individual identity.

Make your employees as brand ambassadors

Who knows better about your products than your employees? Let’s assume that even if 25% of your employees are very proud of the products / services your brands offers, won’t it make a huge difference if they evangelize. The most common argument I have heard is that employees don’t participate though they are encouraged. Well, the answer lies how you motivate them, make them feel as an important person of the brand’s visibility rather than just as a call center agent.

Bridge the internal network with the external social network

Its high time that various departments in the organization that are well connected within themselves need to be synced to the external social network. Technology is no more a constraint and brands can’t claim anymore that ‘we can’t share that data to the person interacting with the community’. Every possible measure needs to be taken and ensure that information passes seamlessly from and to each department.

Courtesy: Athena Leadership

Courtesy: Athena Leadership

Differentiate your brand with incredible content

This point has been done to death by many experts and bloggers and yet we have seen very few brands put that extra mile effort to come up with an incredible content. Hire good graphic designers, visualizers and most importantly exceptional copywriters who can express the message in an effective manner. Brands should differentiate themselves with unique content and not conveniently resort to copying images from Internet. Let’s not start the discussion around content, with the presumption if an image would work or a video.

Social media piece in the digital marketing pancake is all about patience

Unlike other digital marketing tactics like SEM, display campaigns, email marketing etc. social media needs enormous patience. You can’t build a huge and relevant community overnight. Ofcourse, social advertisements are a way you can resort to, but more often than not, you would end up an irrelevant community even with the best of the optimized campaigns. Let’s accept that building community needs personalization and true word of mouth.

Think beyond traditional social networks – voice based networks, local language networks

When most of the population in India is staying in the rural areas and mobile has very well penetrated in these areas, won’t it make sense for brands to focus beyond the fancy social networks? The voice based networks like Rocketalk are penetrating the rural areas of the country in a big way. Brands could effectively leverage these platforms to reach these mobile users.

 Prune the impurities in the ecosystem

As a brand, let’s not get into the shortcuts of building community on Facebook and Twitter through some contests that would not make any sense a day after they are conducted.  I don’t claim that social media contests are totally irrelevant, but what matters is that they should be well thought through and related to the brand.

Try your best to measure ROI of the social media efforts

The debate to map every penny spent on social media still continues and in my knowledge it would never cease for the very reason of its nature. You don’t measure the ROI of few hours you spent talking to your friend / acquaintance, right? However, when significant budget is allocated for the social media activities, top management do expect some numbers to justify the budget. The only mid way solution is to try and match the objectives with end results as much as possible in the monetary terms. Decide on unique metrics that would be applicable for social media efforts and aim to achieve them.

You would have read many social media predictions related blogposts, hence I didn’t write one on those lines. Let’s follow these basic principles and hope to achieve the most of our efforts.

Twitter contests can be beyond getting hashtags trending: A case study of SoDelhi

Twitter hashtags trending are a ‘sense of achievement’ for many social media experts, brand managers and not to forget the some influential Twitterati, who play a major role in getting these hashtags to trend on the Twitter trendlist. In the interest of the people who are unaware of the term Twitter trendlist, it is the list of top 10 keywords or hashtags on which most of the Twitter users are tweeting in a particular geographical location at a particular time. Many a times, the keywords or the hashtags that appear on the trendlist, set the tone for the Twitter users. How is it relevant for brands?

If brands organize a campaign / contest with an attractive hashtag, there are ‘high chances’ that their hashtag might get listed in the trendlist, which would earn thousands of eyeballs. Many social media agencies include this activity in their sales pitches and ‘guarantee’ clients that their contest hashtags would trend. However, the Twitter campaign / contest should have a strong sync with the value proposition of the brand.Though, this helps in attaining high brand awareness and propagating the message to the wider audiencegetting their hashtags trend should not be the only objective for brands. The Twitter ecosystem in the country has been polluted by some contest freaks, who just hop from one contest (hashtag) to another. Their sole objective is to participate in various contests and win as many goodies as possible.

One such campaign grabbed my eyeballs on 22nd December (Sunday) evening. This was organized by SoDelhi, a one-stop destination for Delhi related information. SoDelhi provides information about travel, tourist destinations, food joints, etc. on their website which is extremely helpful not only for the travellers visiting Delhi but also for the locals. The Christmas and New Year period is highly prone for drunk driving in Delhi and historical figures indicate that maximum accidents occur during this period. In the interest of the community, SoDelhi organized a community-centric Twitter campaign to build awareness about the traffic signals and road safety measures.

The Twitter campaign began with a simple tweet explaining the T&C:

T&C

Then followed, the stream of ten questions and Twitter users were required to answer all of them to qualify for the gift. These questions were focused on various road safety measures that would sensitize people towards these measures.

Questions 1_7

8-10

If you would have read the above questions and the T&C carefully, you would have noticed that nowhere a particular hashtag was the focus! Yes, this Twitter campaign was devoid of any specific hashtag and the only objective was to create awareness amongst people and help them.

Were you of the thought that people wouldn’t have participated enthusiastically, here are the tweets that would smudge your assumptions.

Positive buzz

Few learning from the above Twitter campaign:

–   Hashtags need not be the focus of a Twitter campaign

–  The objective of the campaign should be so strong that it touches the heart of the people

–  Identifying a valuable context for a Twitter campaign is of utmost importance

What are your thoughts about this campaign? Share them.

Brand – Facebook Marriage: Time to Part Ways

If you are a social media professional and managing few brand pages on Facebook, I am sure you would be facing tough time these days with the continuous drop in ‘engaged users’, ‘talking about this’ figures. By now, all reasons and excuses would have exhausted explaining to clients.  Do not worry, you aren’t the only one facing this problem. All this is because of the Facebook’s aim towards providing better consumer experience (at the cost of brand’s investments). Sufficient hue and cry has been raised by industry experts. A research points out that Facebook brand pages have on an average suffered 44% decline in engagement rates. Few online product experts have highlighted how Facebook is collapsing fast and it is high time that they fix themselves in order to become relevant.

The only explanation that Facebook has given is that on a given day, Facebook could show approximately 1,500 stories to a user. As this is a high number, Facebook is doing a ‘social service’ by changing its algorithm in a way that, they decide what I should see. Wow! Isn’t it incredible on part of Facebook to decide what I should see based on my so-called past browsing behaviour on Facebook?

Now, let’s understand how this incredible algorithm tweak is hurting brands. As a brand that has established page on Facebook needs substantial community size, a brand manager / owner would always desire that community gets built in an organic manner. However, we have seen that brand managers / owners do indulge in fan acquisition rat race. So, Facebook earns while all brand managers are busy acquiring fans. Assume you start from zero fans and spend on an average Rs. 5 to acquire a fan, amounting to Rs.500 for 100 fans. Let’s hold for a moment here and understand that brand has spent money with the intention to build community and interact with them. On the other side, community has OPTED to ‘like’ the page and join the community to receive content. So, its a win-win situation for both.

Courtesy: The Keep Calm-O-Matic

Courtesy: The Keep Calm-O-Matic

But, then starts the real game-play by Facebook. As Facebook, claims itself to be user-oriented, somehow they have decided that the content you post on your page would then be visible only to 2-3 people of your 100 fans. Isn’t it a b******t? Here is bait that Facebook offers you in the name of ‘Boost Post’. Once as you have spent money and gathered audience, obviously you would think to make something out of them. In the process, if you would like to increase the reach from 2-3 to say at least 30-40, you need to again pay Facebook.

This is what is beyond explanation to me. If I opt for a room at a hotel, I should get the basic amenities like a towel, toilet soap, an AC, room service etc. The hotel can’t be charging additional money for each and every basic amenity.

As a social network if one is so bothered about user experience, then they should stick with the objective of building user base. I would consider this as a cheap tactic on part of Facebook that they build a user base, attract brands to advertise with them and then make a mockery of their efforts, time and money.

I feel it is high time that brand managers quickly realize this factor and move to other social networks, where at least the network doesn’t penalize brand’s efforts with the banner of ‘providing better user experience’ in hand. Also, some of you would argue that they are the largest social network and how could a brand afford to shun them. Well, the call has to be taken by the brand managers if they want to continuously be trapped in the algorithm change-game of Facebook or try and test other platforms like Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram or for that matter mobile apps like WeChat, Line.

I only believe that just because you have the largest network, you can’t be autocratic. Well, if Google starts tomorrow to monetize even the organic search results and asks charges to list even in top 50, would you pay? The debate here is about the democracy in information and knowledge-centric ecosystem.

Quantification Matters, But Only To An Extent

Twitter has always been my favourite social media platform for the richness it drives home everyday. Rarely, would you believe that a 140 (or often less than 140) character message can spark an insightful discussion and leave you with thoughts to ponder upon for the rest of the day. One such incident happened yesterday (4th December) when one of my very good Twitter friend @SoravJain tweeted about the year end and the time for Bollywood awards to creep in. I replied and soon another friend (@bijli) too replied to Sorav’s reply. Here is the conversation:

 

But, what did I take back? The learning remains the following:

The numbers or ratings don’t really matter in one’s life. What matters is its relevance. The other day I had a similar discussion in my office and was stumped to see a colleague defend with arguments of Filmfare award’s history. Well, the point of discussion was never around the merit of awards, the focus was ‘how influential are these awards / ratings / rankings really in a consumer’s daily life?’ Sooner or later, we would be bombarded with back to back award nights and I bet a month later hardly any of us would remember who won-what-in which award! Same applies to B-school rankings. How many magazines, newspapers, websites do we see every year come up with various rankings for business schools? Don’t we get confused by them? Don’t we hit the roadblock where we wonder on which ranking should we base our decisions on? I remember an instance when my former colleague went across to search various forums researching the credibility of a journalism college where he intended to study. Though, the college was ‘the best’ in its domain, thanks to the rankings, he searched in deep about the institute, spoke with various stakeholders of the institute and did all ground work. Dear marketers, that’s how today’s consumers are!

Courtesy: Kristin Lebovitz

Courtesy: Kristin Lebovitz

Let’s be honest! I don’t totally nullify the importance of these surveys / rankings / ratings etc. But, I do question when people make a hue & cry around and/or about them. These objective measures have further penetrated to our living rooms in the form of voting for various reality shows, where we TV audience who switched on TV sets to have an entertainment, are asked to vote for the candidates (marketers consider this as an effective tactic to increase customer engagement). How many times we have seen our favourite contestant leave the show, just because he/she fell short of ‘few votes’! I recall when the young girl was crowned as Junior Indian Idol. My heart went out for those other three kids who reached the final four stage. When I tweeted about this, I received replies stating that she was the youngest and so on. I seriously hate to see when Sanjeev Kapoor (the popular chef) rates the recipes (on a scale of 10/20) prepared by the contestants in the popular reality show – Sanjeev Kapoor ke Kitchen Khiladi. I wish to ask him, if he is really doing justice to his task.

No wonder some of the media professionals (both client and agency side) focus on numbers while building a social media community. Sorry to write, but my harsh words to them would be ‘do allocate a budget to gather crowd on your funeral, than just relying on your family & friends’. After all larger the number, better it is! Right?

My only point after all these above anecdotes is:

Numbers, be it in profession or personal lives do matter only to a certain extent. One needs to invariably apply the ‘qualitative’ factors thereafter to have a comprehensive understanding.