Monthly Archives: June 2014

Should brands engage with social media (Twitter) Influencers or Brand Advocates?

‘Blogger Outreach’ or ‘Influencer program’ are two common terms that are buzzing these days amongst social media agencies and brand managers. Whatever is the objective – new product launch, store inauguration or sports association, every brand manager these days expects the campaign hashtag to trend, as (yes) it has been accepted in corporate environment as one of the key performance indicators (KPI) of a social media campaign. The code has been cracked by almost every social media agency, get in touch with few 10-15 active Twitter users (read ‘influencers’), and yes they should have certain thousand followers. Many a times these so called influencers have to be fed with predefined tweets (as they are so qualified that they cant write proper English!). What do these influencers get in return? Some cool gadgets to take home, lavish lunch/dinner at some five star hotel, free booze, an opportunity to meet some personalities and yes not to forget an opportunity to network (for future events!). The worst situation is when social media agencies / brand managers get in touch with one or two such influencers and ask them to bring along with them a couple more. This has led to a cartel of such influencers in every metro city of the country. These guys could be found tweeting about chips tonight, mobile phones tomorrow and an automobile day after. A serious question that brand managers need to ask themselves is do they really think these kind of influencers would do any justice to the brand?

If you are wondering why I am sarcastic over this existing scheme of things then here are three reasons: 1) These Twiteratti with large follower base have no brand / product category loyalty, 2) They might be promoting one product everyday and in worst case you won’t be surprised to find them promoting your competitor’s products tomorrow, 3) They are flawed influencers in the market & there are high chances your end customers might get misguided by them.

So, what is the solution? Brands should look forward to identify, nurture relationship and then leverage brand advocates. No doubt, it’s a long term process, but this would be a worthwhile effort. As exhibited below, it would be lethal for brands to assume that influencers with huge follower base are super advocates of their brands. A true influencer should be expert / well-verse with the product category, have sound understanding in the field, should be conversing about it regularly on his/her Twitter, should be creating emotional connect with his/her followers and hence earn loyal followers.

Twitter Influencers

I as a brand manager would any day prefer to work on this mode, build my own group of brand advocates over the period of time and leverage them with reference to various situations. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

What we brewed in #SMDelMeetup!

Thanks to the initiative by Prateek, Harmanjit & Kalpana  #SMDelMeetup was organized on 7th June at Connaught Place. This meetup finally gave me an opportunity to meet Prateek, which was pending for last three years or so. The meetup was attended by few other social media champs – Anadi, Ankur and  Ayushi. I felt the small group led to more discussions rather than get a huge crowd and not getting a chance to meet everyone. As it happens in every meetup, it all started with introduction and ofcourse grabbing a chilled coffee to beat the summer heat. Gradually everyone started sharing their experiences of working on various brands / campaigns etc. and it was was fun.

#SMDelMeetup

I could sieve some learning out of this meetup which are listed below:

  1. Wide gap in the retainers charged by various social media agencies: It was discussed that how could some agencies charge so exorbitantly just in the name of being from a large international group. The question was how can small businesses afford so much? My two cents on this was that be it any industry, products/services are available across a wide price range. The target audience differs with reference to the quality of services provided, overhead costs, positioning etc. Instead of considering that big agencies are squeezing cash out of brands, it should be seen that how this industry has provided an entrepreneurial opportunity to many professionals who could serve brands at lower rung with smaller budgets and still make a difference to the industry / society.
  2. Funny blunders that brand managers ask agencies to commit on social media platforms: This was funniest topic and left each one of us giggling for minutes. Blunders ranged from client asking agencies to delete a post (though it attracted good engagement) just because the image ‘doesn’t look’, crazy revisions that clients ask agencies to do on copy and images, complaints of offline goofups not addressed on social media, organizing social media contests without any logic etc. No matter how much social media agencies push back the client and suggest them the ideal method, there are always some ‘smart brand managers’ who think they know everything in social media.
  3. Unethical practices by some social media agencies: This was a shocker for me. I heard that some agencies edit the CSV file of Facebook ad reports and bill clients more though the actual spend on ad campaigns was far less. Some agencies charged few thousand rupees for changing the Facebook cover page and icing on cake is, the image was provided by client (beat that!)! Agencies provide some affiliate services to clients and charge exorbitant markup on the actual cost. The agencies could be doing these with a business reason, but the link of ethics should not be crossed!
  4. Increasing focus on blogger outreach campaigns: ‘Blogger Outreach’ is the latest jazz on social media circuits for brand managers. Every brand wants to do a blogger outreach campaign, irrespective of whether it is relevant or not. On the other hand, social media agencies too include this campaign as part of pitch or deliverables to mint some more money. I have a strong opinion here that most agencies and brand managers are missing the point that just having thousands of followers doesn’t make a person influencer of a product category. Just organizing some offline event, inviting people who have thousands of followers, asking them to tweet continuously and gifting (Read ‘bribing’) them with expensive gifts, doesn’t mean you have earned ‘influencers’. Park this thought for a while till I pen down my follow-up blogpost with more details on this.
  5. B2B relationship building through social media channels: Ayushi, the young champ raised this question of how could B2B brands build relationship. My take was that businesses are done by human beings, doesn’t matter if its B2B or B2C. What matters is if vendor’s people are active on social media channels and building relationship with the prospective client side people. It does take months to strike the chord, but there is no shortcut! This reminded us the concept of ‘Social Selling’.
  6. More brands trying to build in-house social media team: This trend was observed by many meetup attendees. The reasons for this trend could be multifold – a) brands want to save retainer cost and have a better financial equation if its done in-house, b) brands think that this is something they can manage on their own (though the risks aren’t accounted for), c) agencies have fooled brands enough with all unethical practices etc.

I rarely attend meetups, however this was a great learning experience. As Prateek said, we should do this regularly may be once in 2/3 months to share our experiences and learn from each other. No matter, how strongly we guys are connected on social media, its always a different experience to meet those people behind the fancy Twitter handles, in real life and spend some time with them. I look forward to the next edition of #SMDelMeetup.

Key Takeaways from ‘State of Community Management’2014’ report

Community Management continues to be the buzzword in the Digital era. Every brand, irrespective of their domain are geared towards one common objective of building a community around their brand. Social media has empowered brands to a great extent to attain this objective. In the race to build the largest community some brands take the vanilla paid approach and hence boost the topline of social media channels like Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn. While others, put sincere efforts and formalize a strategy that will help them build a valuable community.

CMM

Image Credit: The Community Roundtable

The Community Roundtable has been publishing reports since 2010 on ‘State of Community Management’, which is prepared after surveying a large number of community managers across the World. This year’s survey included 164 communities across industries. The Community Roundtable developed a Community Maturity Model (CMM) that could help organizations understand, plan and assess the performance of their social community and relevant social business initiatives.

Some of the key takeaways from the report, that could be of interest to business owners, CMOs and digital marketers are as follows:

  • 85% of respondents from the top 20% who managed mature communities, could measure the value of their communities and 48% of respondents from average communities could do so. So, gone are days when community building exercise was just looked upon as a branding activity. Now, its absolutely possible to measure value.
  • 58% of communities that are able to measure value include CMO / CIO / CEO participation. This clearly indicates that participation of top management is required in the community management activities.
  • 75% of community managers were empowered to promote, encourage and reward productive behaviors. Let’s accept that community managers are the first touchpoint of an organization and who else can be a better person to judge the efforts of community members. His/her empowerment can ensure quick decision making and better engagement.
  • Best-in-class communities are managed by twice the number of community managers of an average community. So, as an organization don’t put all pressure on one community manager. But, hire a couple more so that they effectiveness could be reached.
  • The most common activities of a community manager include – a) creating content, b) curating and sharing content, c) welcoming new members, d) new member recruitment, e) facilitating introductions and/or connections.
  • 91% of best-in-class communities have well-crafted community policies to promote ideal behavior, while 67% of average communities have the same. A policy in place provides a transparency of expectations from the community manager and the community members. It also leaves less scope for crisis situations.
  • Communities with CXO level participation have seen 74% usage of microblogging, 71% mobile usage, 74% video sharing and 79% image sharing. While for average communities, the numbers were 59%, 62%, 62% & 69% respectively. This clearly indicates that participation of CXO level executives leads to rich content sharing and hence better engagement between the community members.
  • The key metrics of community measurement are – volume of new content, volume of comments, questions answered, new member activity, resolution time, behavior flows and conversation.

As a community manager what efforts do you put in to ensure the engagement on community keeps flourishing?