Zomato's Social Media Strategy Explained [Interview]

Rakesh Kumar
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Zomato's Social Media Strategy Explained [Interview]

One of the most talked about 'Food Discovery Platforms', Zomato has ensured that it creates a passionate community around itself. It's not uncommon to find a Zomato fan on Twitter or Facebook these days.

Also, according to a recent announcement, Zomato is now a Food Network. Wondering what a Food Network is?

In this interview, Mr. Pramod Rao, VP Marketing, Zomato, talks about the new social Zomato and the social media strategy that powers its presence on various social media platforms. Read on....

At Zomato, what is your approach towards social media?

Social media has been a conversation medium for us with existing and potential customers. We have tried our best to consistently stick to the following simple principles:

  1. Always be there for your customer: Our users encourage us, criticize us, suggest ways for us to improve our products, ask for our help to find the best places to eat around them and we’ve always made it a point to listen and react to what they have to say as quickly as possible. This stikes a chord with them. We have been able to this consistently by our keeping social media in-house.
  2. Stick to your domain: Our focus has always been around food & nightlife and we extend that to social media as well. Our posts are related to food & nightlife, our product launches, and updates on Zomato. We do not advertise our clients through twitter.
  3. Content is king: We do not believe in spamming the timeline, which is why you will see that we limit our updates to when necessary.
  4. Be yourself, Be original: We enjoy having fun conversations with our users on social media and it always feels like we are talking to our friends and this has worked best for us.

How important is it to keep track of your competitors and their social media activities?

It is always important to know what other brands in the same space are doing since there is a strong overlap in target audience. However, that does not mean that we have to replicate what’s working for them or avoid what’s not working for them blindly. Each brand is unique and so should be its social media strategy.

Facebook and Twitter are two different social networks with distinct user beahviors. How is your Facebook strategy different from your strategy for Twitter?

Because Twitter allows for realtime conversation, it is used on a daily basis to respond to queries from people asking for recommendations. We also periodically run contests on Twitter, Foodie Friday being one that has taken off and seen a great response. The Yummy Yatra happened recently and was covered live almost entirely on Twitter. Twitter is less about updates, more about conversation/engagement.

Facebook is a little static in comparison, and is more a platform for updates from Zomato. For example, our new TV commercial, posts fresh off our official blog, or photo albums from events conducted by us.

What type of content works best to keep the community engaged with your brand?

Given that we have such a wide range of users and followers on our social platforms, it’s impossible to stick to keeping any one group happy. So we keep experimenting with what we do, and almost always get a great response out of it. For example, a fun picture we created and posted to Facebook about 6 months back – India according to a Delhi foodie – became a hit, was shared by thousands and is being circulated on social media even today.

Contests like #FoodieFriday have also seen a great response and we’ve had a few people telling us how they take time off work to participate on a Friday afternoon. We believe in keeping things simple and always bring in a fun element, which instantly grabs a user’s attention and keeps people engaged.

What tools do you use to manage your Twitter community? Why do you find them useful?

We use a couple of third party tools to manage our Twitter account. Below are our views on the same:

Tweetdeck (now owned by Twitter) has been a very effective tool to manage interactions with the community and keep a track of what’s happening in the domain we are in. It has a neat layout which arranges different things you want to track (could be a hashtag, mentions, specific accounts etc.) and that enables you to a) organize feeds better and 2) respond quickly.

We are experimenting with Sproutsocial as well. From what we have experienced it has been great tool when you have a team working on the same social media account. You can email queries on Twitter directly from the interface to the person you want it answered from, can assign follow-up tasks easily and also monitor the performance on social media through several metrics that Sproutsocial tracks.

Recently there was an announcement that Zomato is now a 'Food Network'. Can you share with us the developments that lead to a new social Zomato? Also, how has the response been from your audience?

The aim of integrating social features into our website was to create a larger food community and add a social aspect to the recommendation engine. Once a user logs into Zomato using their Facebook or Google account, it automatically pulls up a list of their friends already registered on Zomato. They can follow their friends and get notifications about their activities – reviews, ratings, favorites and recommendations. Adding a leaderboard for top reviewers in each of our locations also encourages friendly competition between users – there’s only 25 spots on the leaderboard after all!

Our users have taken to it very well and we’ve seen significant increases in activity on the website since the launch of our social features. The review count per day has gone up by 75% while the number of ratings per day has increased a full 100%. If we needed any more proof that one always wants to know what the other is up to online, we’ve seen an average of 500 users following at least one other user, every day.

What was your goal behind starting a blog? How do you bring traffic to your blog?

We started our blog with the aim of sharing what we’ve learnt over time as a start-up and we put forth our thoughts on the most pressing issues start-ups face ranging from product development, hiring, training & firing, sales, marketing etc. We promote our blog posts via social media and also showcase the latest post on our homepage which drives traffic to the blog. It has been great to see the response we’ve received so far for almost every post. Some of our posts have also been covered by popular blogs in the Indian startup/tech space.

How do you monitor the activities of visitors coming to your website/blog coming from social media?

Apart from google analytics data and Facebook open graph insights, we also track user behaviour internally to see if our campaigns are effective. Tracking user actions on the website also helps us constantly imporve our product to better cater to the audience.

Have you explored Facebook Ads and Twitter Promotions? If yes, how effective were they for you? If no, what is keeping you from trying out paid social media promotions?

We’ve used Facebook ads very selectively in the past – for example during our New Year’s Eve campaign last December, where we advertised across platforms. We saw great returns on it, but at the end of the day, we strongly believe social networks are a means of communication for us, and not an advertising platform.

Recently you had organized #yummyyatra campaign where you, along with several Mumbaikars, went to Pune over the weekend to explore some great food. What was the objective behind this campaign? What social media benefit did it bring to Zomato?

Yummy Yatra was organised in conjunction with The Pet Pujaris, a Mumbai-based group of food enthusiasts. It was a fun activity that engaged people in a physical setting rather than a virtual one. We covered it live almost entirely on Twitter, it got us good traction and the best part was that we got to interact with a very active food community through this activity.

You have a great TV ad campaign currently going on. Have you explored fusing your TV ads with your social media efforts?

Our latest ad has been live on TV for a couple of weeks and we’re working on a few ideas to fuse the two together.

Social media has proved to be an effective channel for marketing and communication for many businesses. What has been the impact of social media on your business?

Social media has played a very important role in building a growing community of foodies and brand advocates for Zomato. This community engages with us constantly and helps us improve our products to make the search for the perfect place to eat simpler for everyone.

Calculating the ROI of social media is something that not many have figured out. How do you calculate the ROI of your social media activities?

For us, social media is about the relationships we build and foster for the long term. Communicating with fans and followers makes a brand personable and human, and one can’t really put a price on that.

Please introduce us to the team behind your social media activties?

While we have a handful of people who manage our social media on a daily basis, there are inputs coming in from across the company for larger activities. Unfortunately, we cannot divulge the names of these people.

How are other divisions of Zomato (HR, Admin, Sales, Technical etc) integrated with your social media team?

Our inhouse social media team works very closely with the heads of the various departments to answer any specific questions we might be asked on social platforms.

Have you hired anyone using social media channels such as blogs or LinkedIn?

Yes we have. Over the years we’ve come across several food enthusiasts on social media whom we enjoyed interacting with. Some of them liked what we were doing and it’s been great to have them on board at Zomato. We’ve also used LinkedIn to source applications and the response has been phenomenal. Apart from that we also use popular job boards in the startup space (e.g Pluggd.in, Medianama) for hiring.

What % of your marketing budget is devoted to social media? How has your social media budget varied over the last few months/years?

As mentioned earlier, we advertise very selectively on social media and do not do it on a daily basis so the budget is decided based on the need during that time. Since we manage social media inhouse (ideating campaigns, designing and execution), we do not incur any spend which we would have if we had outsourced it. We spend a very minimal amount on monitoring tools but as a % of total marketing budgetit is negligible.

Are you looking to explore other social networks such as Pinterest, Tumblr or Google+?

We already have a Pinterest and Google+ page, however we are yet to explore the full potential of these platforms.

What makes a brand successful on social media?

Being original is key. Also most successful brands on social media interact with their users as friends would converse with each other. However, it takes time to establish your presence on social media just like how relationships take time to blossom. Every small thing, for e.g. helping users out with login queries, goes a long way in strengthening this bond with the users eventually turning them into evangelists.

Following are some of the tips that you can take away from this interview:

  1. Keeping things simple and bringing in a fun element instantly grabs a user’s attention and keeps people engaged.
  2. Tracking user actions on the website helps in improving the product to better cater to the audience.
  3. Social networks are a means of communication and not an advertising platform.
  4. Communicating with fans and followers makes a brand personal and human, and one can’t really put a price on that.

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Social media Twitter Facebook blog Google LinkedIn Pinterest Zomato Tweetdeck Facebook Ads ROI Food Network Pramod Rao The Pet Pujaris Yummy Yatra