How (and why) marketers love social media

 

By Rishi Vora

 

There is sooooo much happening in Social Media. Every brand – no matter how big or small, every media and entertainment company, especially film and television content (where YouTube has become such a rage!), even a local mall or a retail outlet owner in a small district is looking to be on Social Media, where he feels he should be before his neighbourhood rival is, and win more customers.

 

Although this might sound as if Social Media is a disparate measure for brands, the fact is that the market is responding to the rise of a new medium which is a just about a three-year-old phenomenon; one which promises to change the game as far as marketing is concerned.

 

There are many cases of brands benefiting from the social space, be the whacky Old Spice videos that did the trick in 2010 – yes, they were a set of videos, but became most popular on Social Media or Kolaveri Di, which became an online sensation. Or whether it is the case of Megan Fox meeting Rose Boy back in 2009, thanks to Kodak that took the initiative of taking it to the masses, through Social Media of course, offering the winner a handsome $5,000. There are many more stories where brands have recognised the opportunity and made the most of it. Celebrities have now become a key asset to the marketing strategies for many online brands.

 

Traditional Media:

Even the radio channels and newspapers danced to the tune of Social Media, a rare case of digital beating traditional media hands down. But the TV Channels and content companies are the ones taking the most advantage of the new medium.

 

Akash Chawla, Marketing Head – National Channels, Zee is of the opinion that the percentage spends on digital has seen an increase and social media is one direction where most channels are putting their focus on. “We’re not the only ones to have entered the social space. It’s important to be there. But, the fact is that being on social media is also a fad. It is stylish and fashionable. The medium is highly measurable, and you get real time responses from consumers.”

 

Even participants of Zee TV’s flagship reality show Dance India Dance Season 3 claim that watching videos on YouTube has encouraged participation in the show.

 

Star Network too has been fairly active in the space, promoting all of its entertainment channels on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And so as Viacom 18, MSM Group.

 

Social Commerce:

Yet another aspect of the social media – social commerce- as a trend started last year, and as experts believe that 2012 is going to be a year when Social Commerce will take off in a big way. Three of the most upcoming and prominent social commerce platforms are: Facebook (f-commerce), Twitter (t-commerce) and GuruLike.

 

F-commerce or f-comm refers to the buying and selling of goods or services through Facebook, either directly or through the Facebook Open Graph. Experts forecast that F-commerce transactions on Facebook will overcome Amazon’s annual sales ($34 Billion) over the next five years.

 

The emergence of social media has resulted into a sea change as far as the marketer’s psyche is concerned; who a couple of years back was unsure how the medium fare for the brands. He has now realised the true potential and as a result has started to appoint specialists for the job. This has resulted in the rise of specialist social media agencies- people who evangelised the medium three to four years back and who’re now well-equipped to handle marketing problems, using the power of social media.

 

Social Wavelength and Windchimes are the two most popular pure play social media agencies, while there are other digital agencies that offer 360 degree digital solutions (where social becomes one part of the offering). And then there are PR agencies that have now expanded into offering social media services to existing clients. Hanmer & MSL Group, Ketchum Sampark, AdFactors and many others. Though these agencies pitch for social media businesses separately, they have the added advantage of an existing PR clientele.

 

Sanjay Mehta
Sandhya Sadananda

Social media and creativity:

Though different agencies follow different processes, there is a misconception which plays in the minds of many that Social Media does not need creativity; there is not much of strategy involved, as against other forms of advertising.

 

Sanjay Mehta, Jt. CEO, Social Wavelength clarified: “Executing a good social media strategy is a mix of two disparate skill sets: One is creativity, like that of an ad agency, to differentiate the social media activity of the brand, and second: processes, of the kind that one usually associates with KPOs, as social media is not a campaign, but virtually a day-to-day, minute-to-minute business process.”

 

Sandhya Sadananda, who prior to launching Windchimes, was a PR professional, explains how Social Media is not an extension of PR. “Unlike the US and the UK, PR in India is still a media-led activity. When you are in Social Media, you need to rethink the way you look at communication. Social Media cannot be seen as an extension of PR. Unlike PR, here you have the direct control in terms of the content you want to put up. At the end of the day, it is about adding value to the brand. And that could be in terms of content, the creativity, the number of fans and so on.”

 

The nuts and bolts:

So how do Social Media campaigns run? How different the approach needs to be? What are the systems and procedures that need to be followed? How does a social media agency scale the operations?

 

Mr Mehta explains: “The starting point is to create a ‘character’ for the brand on social media. All communication, tonality and so on has to be in sync with the brand positioning and the brand’s character. For a TV channel, a social media campaign will typically have one set of conversations centred around the brand, and the other additional set of conversations to go closer to the interests of the target group.”

 

From the standpoint of the marketer, however, the question which most often arises is: ‘Does social media help clients improve bottom lines’. This is also one reason why spends on social media are way too less in comparison to other media. Yes, these are early days, but pure play social media agencies have to grow and that is seen as a big challenge.

 

Ms Sadananda affirms: “One needs to look at social media, not from a bottom line perspective, but from the point of view of qualitative engagement. The ROI in this business is so much number driven (number of fans, interactions) that people started to equate that with the bottom line. If you’re expecting increase in sales after a social media campaign – that’s not going to happen. One needs to have a different sort of mindset when it comes to social media.”

 

She adds: “It’s very easy for marketers to make this just another medium. Agencies need to step in and help them understand the true nature of the medium.”

 

Challenges:

On the challenge for agencies to scale up their businesses, Mehta reckons that one needs to visualise the scale, in terms of the opportunity. And then investigate into various ways of creating an organisation, bringing in leadership levels and correcting/ tweaking the model as business grows to ensure smooth sailing.

 

But, broadly, it is content that will decide the fate of specialist agencies. And, that in experts’ mind, is a bigger challenge. Adaptation will be the key as platforms evolve, users evolve. It is an age of e-commerce, and Social Commerce is not far behind.

 

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