Social Media Strategy of Yebhi.com – An Interview with Nitin Raj, VP (Marketing)

Started as an online shoestore, Yebhi.com is a leading online apparels and clothing retailer focusing on branded items today. Launched in 2009, it is one of the fastest growing e-commerce brands in the lifestyle segment.

In this interview, Mr. Nitin Raj, VP, Marketing – Yebhi talks in detail about their social media strategies and how they are leveraging various platforms. Read on:

What is your approach towards social media marketing?

Our social media properties are managed by a four member team. We have complete ownership of the strategies and have full support from the management.

For an ecommerce portal, sales is the topmost priority. But social media also requires you to keep the community engaged and generate conversations. What is your objective behind social media marketing – sales or engagement?

Yes, it is true that as an e-commerce portal, sales are our top priority. However, Social Media Platforms are primarily used for engagement with users and as an announcement board.

The days of product centric marketing are over. Relationship marketing is the mantra nowadays and hence building relationships, or engaging with our customers is the idea behind most of our social activities.

However, it is good if we can get a positive ROI on our social media activites. So we do make daily sales related post on our page.

Pinterest is a fairly new but rapidly growing channel, how is the platform working out for Yebhi?

We have one of the most active Pinterest profile in comparison to our e-commerce rivals! We started late but are steadily building a decent following on Pinterest. It’s user base is still at a very nascent stage in India so we are not expecting any sales out of Pinterest at this moment.

But with social media it is tough to predict when the next major shift will come a la orkut vs Facebook a few years back. So we are strengthening our position on Pinterest so that we have a first mover advantage in term of how active our profile on Pinterest is.

Out of Facebook and Twitter, which one is working the best for Yebhi at the moment?

Facebook hands down! We have added close to 8 lac fans in the last 12 months! Facebook is where the real action is for Yebhi.com. As products online are sold visually, Facebook definitely helps.

What is your approach towards Facebook Ads? Do you use it just to promote your page or have you also used it for individual posts and contest tabs? How has your experience been?

We have used Facebook Ads extensively at Yebhi.com. We believe very few (if any), of our e-commerce competitors run Facebook Ads in house at the level at which we do. We have ran all kinds of Facebook Ads, for branding, for sales, Like Ads, Tab Ads, Page posts Ads, Sponsored stories and the likes.

We are proud of our exploits on Facebook! ;)

If there is one platform that you think you haven’t explored yet and really want to give a try, what will that be?

Google Plus! We have recently ventured in to Twitter and Pinterest after being too in to Facebook for a long time. Our next social media stop to explore would be Google Plus for sure.

Have you hired anyone through social media channels such as Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook?

Our Linkedin channel is owned completely by our HR team. They use it regularly for recruiting and background checks. Yes, it is an active place to cross check references and certainly helps in hiring decisions. We certainly have hired models for our shoots through these social media channels by running contests etc.

With so many e-commerce sites jostling for people’s attention on social media, how do you make sure that you stand out from the rest?

Our Facebook page is undoubtedly one of the most engaging pages with respect to other e-commerce pages. The “Talking about” figure has been constantly high on our page and the on page interaction reflects the same.

yebhi facebook page

The reason for this we believe is that we have a genuine Facebook fan base built painstakingly contest by contest, campaign by campaign. We have our finger on the pulse of our fan base. Our content is very engaging and we have invested a lot of time and energy in building a one-to-one relation with many of our influencers.

We try to give something to our fans which is of their interest or use on a daily basis. We share daily ‘value for money’ deals on our page and personally follow up on complaints and suggestions shared by our fans.

On Father’s Day you had a #MyDadRocksBcoz campaign on Twitter. Please share with us the objective behind this campaign, how it gels with brand Yebhi and how has the response been till now?

Before this campaign our main focus had mainly been on Facebook. This was our first major attempt and we got trending in three different cities in India on the first day itself.

We were running a simultaneous campaign on Facebook as well. Our main objective was to build some buzz on our Twitter profile which was till then mainly used for ORM purposes only.

This campaign on Father’s Day really touched a chord with our followers on Twitter and was well received. This campaign gave us valuable insights on Twitter campaigns for future reference.

As a customer service channel, how does social media differ from the conventional email/ phone based customer service?

Social Media differs from conventional email and phone based customer service mainly due to the double edged feature of anything getting viral on social media.

Any complaint has a potential of going viral and causing significant damage to a company’s reputation. It is our endeavor to use this to our advantage, as a swift resolution earns a publicly broadcasted praise as well.

Do you think the ability of a user to rant and be heard on social media is unjustified to the brands? Do you think people should exercise restraint and talk to the brand first before going ballistic online?

See every coin has two sides to it. Like every right has a duty attached to it, every advantage has an disadvantage associated with it. Social Media inherently has this feature of leveling the playing field for each participant. Be it big or small, any voice can get viral and be heard all over.

Any customer who is frustrated, will use any medium to get his voice heard and if he or she has been genuinely wronged, their reaction is very much justified and understandable.

Brands should handle such complaints maturely and emphatically. A swift and genuine response can go a long way in resolving the issue and in some cases, brands can turn it to their advantage as well by winning few hearts!

At the same time on the opposite end of the spectrum, the users should also understand that the person handling the social handles is an individual as well who is not directly responsible for the problem the user has. Using unmentionable profanities spoils the experience for other users too and should be avoided.

What is your procedure for handling a customer complaint via social media? Who takes the decision on how to solve the issue and how is it communicated to the ground staff?

We have a dedicated Facebook page which is run by a team from customer support department. They work very closely with us on a real time basis. All complaints that are received on our main handles are forwarded to them. All social media complaints are considered high priority.

How difficult is it to keep a track on all the conversations happening across different platforms? Do you use any specific tools to monitor these conversations?

We were till quite recently using a new social intelligence tool named Voxsup created by a Chicago based start up. It was still in it’s development stage and we intensively contributed in fine tuning it working closely with their development team.

How often do you analyze your community engagement stats? Daily, weekly or monthly? And how does the analysis reflect on your strategy?

Being fond of numbers in the first place, we enjoy working with them. We analyze our engagement statistics and ROIs on a daily basis each morning. While running ad campaigns, specially ‘Like campaigns’ which are more calculation intensive, this number crunching is done minute by minute!

How do you measure the ROI of your social media marketing efforts? Do you use any tool to help you with it?

We use a combination of Facebook Reports, Google Analytics and our internal affiliate code sales tracking reports to measure ROIs on a daily basis.

Can you introduce us to the team handling your social media marekting?

We have a four member team handling all social media work reporting directly to Me.I myself take quite an interest in monitoring the Facebook page and when my team members are asleep, I am occasionally watching the page and running ads. ;)

Asad Haider Zaidi: An erstwhile software engineer, has a passion for social media which was the reason for this career shift. Founded Jamialive.com, a social enterprise, right after college. Is a passionate photographer too with some of his photographs being showcased at Indian Habitat Centre recently apart from being a ‘certified associate in project management.’

Aniruddh Sharma: A thorough online marketeer with extensive experience in email marketing, PPC, SEO, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and so on. Develops all our Facebook Applications.

We have another team member who manages our YouTube page and occasionally ads as and when required.

Do you have a social media policy in place at Yebhi? If yes, what does it entail? If not, how do you control what your employees write and share on the Internet?

We have a well defined social media policy. We truly believe in the philosophy of social media and respect the intelligence of our employees and their loyalty to our beloved company.

We do have a very active Facebook Group called “Yebhiites” which has active participation from all departments in the regular contests that we have on it. This group is run by our HR department (Training Development Centre.)

How much of your total marketing budget is spent on social media? How has the trend been in the last few months?

It keeps fluctuating depending upon a lot of factors, like what needs to be promoted and when. I am not authorized to share this figure unfortunately.

Others Apart from social media, are you exploring other digital marketing mediums such as SEO, PPC Marketing and Mobile marketing? How are they faring compared to social media?

We have dedicated teams for SEO, PPC and Mobile Marketing along with Email. Social Media’s contribution to the revenue stream has been steadily increasing since the past many months.

How do you see e-commerce panning out on social media in the next 5 years? What aspects of the current social media activities will change?

Social Media is quite like the Stock Market. Mass migration from one social medium to another can happen over night like we saw in Orkut’s case. There was a time when Orkut was omnipresent and no one could have imagined its downfall. Then Facebook happened.

New players would surely keep coming like Pinterest or Instagram but dislodging Facebook from its position would be very very tough due to the kind of volumes Facebook has generated.

In the years to come, Pinterest with its visual representation could be very useful, for the e-commerce domain specially. Let us wait and watch, and see how long it takes before Indian masses accept Pinterest wholeheartedly.

What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see brands making on social media?

We see brands building huge list of followers of dubious origins. No doubt then, the real engagement on their pages seem to be quite low as a percentage of their total number of followers.

Few tips for social media people:

It is important that the people responsible for the social media profiles, invest time in the posts that they make and ensure it is error free. It leaves a bad impression to see typos.

Secondly, it is important brands try to personalize their conversations with their fans. Even if someone is saying something negative about your brand, try to respond to them emphatically.

Thirdly, be very careful of what you post. You need to keep your personal prejudices aside while making a post or replying to a comment. You are representing a brand here, not your personal self.

Key takeaways from the interview

  1. The days of product centric marketing are over. Relationship marketing is the mantra nowadays
  2. Social Media inherently has this feature of levelling the playing field for each participant. Be it big or small, any voice can get viral and be heard all over.
  3. Invest time in the posts that you make and ensure it is error free.
  4. It is important brands try to personalize their conversations with their fans.
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