Social Media is here to stay: Jonathan Kopp

30 Nov,2011

Mr Jonathan Kopp, Partner & Global Director, Ketchum Digital was in India recently to launch its India division with Sampark. The company is betting big on Social Media. On the onset, Ketchum Sampark Digital (Sampark is the Indian affiliate of global communications network Ketchum Inc) will service its existing clients in India, offering digital media services of which social will be a big part.


MxM India’s Rishi Vora spoke to Mr Kopp on the Social Media scene in India. Excerpts:


Q: What was the thought process behind launching a digital agency in India now? Have you entered the Indian marketplace a little late?

I think the timing is perfect. Right now we’re in the era of the social web. There used to be a distinction between digital media and social networks, and now we are in a period where everything on the web is social. So if you have a web plan, or a digital plan, you’ve got to have a social plan as well. Pure play digital agencies are good in creating destinations, but that is not very relevant any more today. What matters the most is how you drive the conversations, what sort of content you require to drive conversations. These are areas which we specialize in. As for the timing of the launch, I think it’s just the right time to be here. Companies and brands are more than willing to go social.


Q: Do you think Social Media has enough money to sustain itself as a profitable, longterm business?

I think the growth of Social in India is going to be upward for a considerable period of time. If you think about the penetration of Digital – the numbers are good but percentages are small. So the opportunity is very much there. Whether you succeed as a brand in the social media space is a matter of how you present yourself in that space. Mobile is a potent medium in India. Combining that with video and social, it becomes so much more exciting for users; yet another reason why content should be taken so very seriously – how can you be more creative, more compelling and interesting enough to engage many users online, on to the social networks.


Q: Is it a big challenge to sell social media to clients?

There is not a single company in any industry that can afford not to be on the social web right now. So I’m a big believer in the power of social media. If you’re not on it, then you’re losing out a fantastic opportunity to speak with your customers. As a brand, it’s mighty important to be in the social environment because the consumers are out there.


Q: But they’re not necessarily there to speak to brands.

Yes, people are not interested in becoming friends or having a relationship with a brand. What they really want is to connect with the people behind the brand and so the personalisation of the brand, bringing forward the humanity – the faces, the voice, the personality – this is critical in the brand’s success in the social space. Authentic and transparent voices. Immediate response to consumers’ queries – things like these can only happen in social media.


Q: What are the learnings from other markets that you bring to the table for Ketchum Sampark Digital?

It’s an important question. We have invested an awful amount of lot of time and resources to build the Ketchum Global Digital Network of about 180 digital and social media experts around the world; expertise and case studies working together to really create a global perspective. One of the first things we need to do with our clients is help them understand the power of social media. So social media training is important for us to start, our clients need to understand it. It requires a lot of change – mindset change and structural change. Digital is blurring the lines across traditional communications disciplines. Digital and social media is also creating a potential clash of messages from the organisation to the public. So marketing, advertising and public relations, sales, customer service – are all entering the social space at the same time without coordinating with each other. So it’s a mess in a way. As a company, you may want to hire expertise on HR, Operations etc. Similarly, the time has come for companies to look for social media experts. I don’t think there is enough expertise on things like managing work flows in social media, guidelines, the right approach etc. These are things we have learnt by being in the business for several years internationally, and in India, it is time that we bring our expertise in the marketplace.


Q: How do you, as a social media professional, handle negative publicity on brands?

It’s a very good question. One of the ways to try and prevent damage in social space is be there first. You first need to be in the social media space, because when you’re in crisis, it’s not the time to be going around and looking for friends. So we have a base of constituents, a base of supporters going into the crisis and you already have an established network to tell your story. So it is important to be there first. Second, things happen. They happen in traditional media, they happen in the interactive space, they happen offline, events; so you need to respond to them. Where companies go wrong is when they are not direct and as transparent. And if the consumer figures that out quickly, the problem gets worse. So if you make a mistake, apologise and explain the situation, and do it quickly.


Q: Do you agree that a social media campaign will have minimal impact on a brand’s profitability?

No, I don’t agree with that. I think social media can be proven to drive revenues. Very tactical small example: Dell has sold laptops through Twitter. When there were discounts being offered, Dell tweeted about them and sold huge numbers of laptops. Social transaction as a trend is only going to grow in the coming years.


Q: Most of what we’re seeing in social media in India is Facebook marketing. Do you see that changing?

Facebook is an amazing company and a great platform. Over 800 million users worldwide. Those who use the mobile phone to access Facebook – there are as active as their desktop counterparts are. Facebook is a force to reckon with and it’s admirable and enviable in every regard. At the same time I also believe that it’s never been about the channel. It has always been about the conversation and the content. So yes, today it’s Facebook but it wasn’t that long ago that it was MySpace, and before that, it want too long that it was AOL.


Q: Social media picked up when Facebook picked up.

Absolutely. But the first mover is not always the last. So will Facebook continue to dominate? Maybe. But, my concern more as a social media professional is not to be too invested in any one channel; rather it should be driven by where the consumer is. Right now, conversation is being held on Facebook, so it would be absurd to ignore Facebook. We’re going to use Facebook, but there are many other channels that we need to watch and learn from. For example, if you’re looking at corporate communications and executive positioning, Facebook might be important but I would want to look at Slideshare because that’s a perfect platform for you to share thought leadership. Similarly, if your concern is employee recruitment or professional networking, LinkedIn is the place to be on. So it really depends on what the purpose is.


Q: What do you think about Google Plus?

Google Plus is a new entrant. It is directly connected to YouTube. If you’ve got video and video is the way you’re telling your stories, then you need to consider Google Plus and YouTube. Just like the numbers tell us India is an important market to be in, the numbers tell you that Facebook is an important platform to be on. But, our job is to look at all of the platforms and all of the technologies that’ll help our clients tell their stories on the social web.


Q: Do you see Google Plus catching up with Facebook?

Google takes a very different philosophical approach to social web than Facebook does. It’s just got launched and Facebook has been around for some time now. But I don’t think Google Plus is as important as a standalone social network as it is for its ability to connect content and people across the entire social web. Facebook is about the Facebook platform and selling advertisements on that platform and creating social commerce on Facebook. So I don’t see them competing with each other – they both have a different role to play in the social web.


Q: Can Social Media be a primary medium of communication for brands?

I think the way we are going to be moving forward is really about integrating communications. It’s not about social over others. It’s about a consistent message and consistent requirement of content across all the channels where we need to reach the audiences. Broadcasting, print – newspapers and magazines are doing social media but some campaigns are starting in the social space and moving out to traditional. Some are moving from traditional to social. We really need to be everywhere.


Q: There is a feeling that the medium is not taken seriously. Marketers and advertising professionals are talking about it, but in a way, they are the ones who are not really putting in the time, money and effort vis-à-vis traditional modes of advertising. Is there anything that social media experts need to look into?

Metrics and evaluation is going to play a big role. The way we evaluate social media today – there is no single measure. TV, there’s GRPs; in traditional PR, it’s impressions. What we are trying to measure in the social space is engagement, and it’s a fuzzy concept right now. Facebook, with its analytics has gone much closer to measuring engagement in a very important way… The analytics behind a Facebook page drives you to not just the number of fans or friends but really the active user and the talked-about and how content is moving and who are the people that are moving it. As that science continues to move forward, I think people are going to be able to put a specific value on social media. You can certainly measure direct ROI if you’re seeing sales through social commerce.

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