Kingfisher’s Social Media Strategy – Interview with Samar Singh Sheikhwat, VP Marketing, United Breweries – Part 2

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Yesterday we read Part One of the interview with Mr. Samar Singh Shekhawat, Senior VP of United Breweries Limited. Let us read further about Kingfisher’s Social Media Strategy. Let us read the second part of the interview.

Have you recruited people from social media channels?

Well, yes we have. We’ve used Facebook, we’ve used LinkedIn to get profiles, to look at appropriate candidates because it’s a tool that is available and as a company also we believe in moving with the times and some very interesting profiles have come through social media. And of course, largely in the area of general management, sales and marketing because typically specialized functions, you know like legal or, let’s say, brewery manufacturing or quality control is a bit difficult to get through social media. But some of the more general functions, for sure, we’ve used social media for these.

Any plans on exploring other social media channels apart from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr? Say, Pinterest?

See, I will give you some statistics. If you look at the stories that are shared every month in India, photo uploads is #4 on the activity that people do on Facebook. We’re getting close to 341 million picture updates happening on Facebook. So a lot of the stuff that you want to do has already been done on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. It’s not as if we’re not there on Pinterest or Reddit but if we see duplication of effort then we’ll go with where we have maximum results happening. We’re always on the lookout for new opportunities and Pinterest is definitely one such valuable opportunity which we’ve already started to explore. It’s very exciting – for instance, I can imagine a whole pin board full of pins related to Kingfisher on it. So for sure this is something we have interest in. But just because new media is happening we don’t necessarily jump on to it. We see when whether it adds something of value and it’s differentiated and then we go ahead with it.

Social Media Campaigns

The #KFBeerUp meetup always gets an impressive response from the Twitter community. What is the objective behind a Twitter-users-only event? And how has the response been in terms of attendance and branding?

See, what are hashtags? Hashtags are to tweets what a push-on or a button is to a buzzer. So with that in mind we have created a buzz amongst the people by bringing out #KFBeerUp. The fact that it creates a buzz and excites people to meet up with their fellow tweets in the real world over a couple of rounds of Kingfisher beer was what we had set to achieve, and we achieved that. But looking at the great response we’ve received, it looks like it’s going to be a trend for a long time.

We have now added value to it, we have comedy-themed BeerUps, we have Bollywood-themed beerups, we have Formula One-themed BeerUps, and every time it gets bigger and better. The entire event is controlled on Twitter from invites to RSVPs and typically when we open up invites, 250 invites go in sixty seconds flat because these people get to choose the venue, they get to choose the entertainment, they get to choose the menu; so the whole open audience engagement and interaction is great.

The basic idea is to get consumers, fans and brand advocates to get together on a common platform and interact in the real world for a change – they’re already interacting in the virtual world. And we are only involved in powering these interactions and providing the platform and setting the ambience. So we’ve got regular meet ups with beer games, food, and beer do-it-yourself versions. And we’ve even, for instance, taken fans to a brewery. When you get a brewery tweet up, we take about 50 fans who’ve never been to a brewery in their lives but they love Kingfisher beer. So that was a great experience for them.

While your Twitter account talks explicitly about alcohol and beer, your Facebook page is more toned down. Why is it so?

Well, the first reason is that Twitter typically is a much more mature audience and a much more discerning and intelligent audience, so there it is pretty much par for the course. But with Facebook – if you’re 13 years and above, you can actually have a Facebook account and in some cases even younger people pass off themselves.

Therefore keeping that sensitivity in mind and keeping Facebook’s own guidelines, we don’t explicitly talk about alcohol and beer. Twitter is more of a one way pass to know a brand and the activities that the brand undertakes. One of our approaches on Twitter is to engage people through hashtags as we discussed, whereas on Facebook we concentrate more on visual based content – video posts and pictures – to engage users.

On Facebook, considering the profile and age group of the users, like I said, the Kingfisher fan page is positioned as a facilitator of the good times and strategically does not promote beer. But Twitter is more mature audience and we tend to be a little more clear that we’re talking about alcohol and beer.

What type of updates keep the community engaged with the brand on Facebook?

That’s all youth and youth-centric and property like sports, music, IPL, Oktoberfest… The community likes to get updates on all actions so that they can view and share the experiences.

Your Flickr account seems to be inactive of late. Any specific reason?

We’re not inactive on Flickr, but like I told you on Facebook itself we have some 341 million photo uploads every month so we’re concentrating on that. Where as we are inactive on Flickr. We do work on Flickr but Facebook is clearly the elite medium to engage.

Metrics and Measurement

With so many comments and tweets coming in every day, how do you manage to keep track of them? What tools do you use to monitor your communities? What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you monitor in order to calculate the ROI from your social media activities?

First of all, we have a dedicated digital marketing team who monitors, moderates and analyses all the activities across various social media channels. Plus we have a separate digital marketing agency that is on this 24×7. Whether it is a holiday, whether we are at home or in the office or wherever, this is constantly monitored all the time. Even we as senior management keep our eyes and ears to the ground and we are constantly doing stuff around this.

It is very challenging to go through each and every tweet or comment but we are committed towards providing value based content to all our users. And as far as metrics and measurements go, you need not measure just KPIs – you can do shares, you can do likes, you can do people talking about, you can talk about ; for instance, on Twitter you can talk about retweeting etc, but that is just beyond numbers; otherwise, you can talk about click through rates, click stream etc; on Facebook, you can talk about Timeline, the news feeds etc. but the quality of the content and the genuineness of the likes for instance, is something that we have always focused on – it’s not easy to prove so therefore we have value driven activities like the #KFBeerUp which give us a platform in getting people together from the community.

We use all the traditional KPIs and metrics that we use to measure our activities but it’s more really the quality of the engagement and the depth of engagement that really is going to be a better and more actual indicator of our initiatives in this medium.

Company Involvement

Can you introduce us to the team behind your social media activities?

Well, we have a 2-3 member digital team and it’s typically headed by a group product manager for digital (he heads) and he’s assisted by product managers. Their designated there for the job, it’s is purely digital and they work across brand groups. We have a separate dedicated digital agency called 22 Feet based out of Bangalore; we’ve done some spectacular work through Vineet.

Vineet and his team have done some fabulous work for us. And they work across brand groups like I told you, so that’s the team but, really speaking, we are involved in it right from the top – from our President and our Joint President to myself, senior Vice Presidents, marketing and all our brand groups. We’re all fairly digitally enabled and fairly digitally savvy and we see the potential of all this. Therefore, there is ownership of this right through the organization and not just necessarily only at the marketing team level.

What percentage of your budget is spent on your social media activities?

Well, close to 3-4% and that number is doubling every year. So while the percentage goes up very slowly, because the base changes, the number also doubles. I would say about 4% or so.

Do you have a social media policy in place for your employees? If yes, what does it entail? If not, how do your employees know what can be done on social media and what cannot?

We have our policies and procedures that we adhere to. For instance there are organizations where Facebook is banned in office, we don’t believe in that. At the end of the day, we’re a beer company, right? Beer is a casual, relaxed – we have a sexy, non-serious sort of ambience – I mean, we’re not selling a life-saving cancer drug. And, if you make social accessible to everyone, no one spends more than 15-20 minutes a day on it. And that too, mostly for work-related stuff, they check their posts.

The Heineken team check their posts; the Kingfisher team is checking their posts, etc, the HR people are doing recruitment – all through it, as we discussed earlier. So, we have free access to most social media.

Of course, there are certain sites that are banned. So, for instance, typically you cannot watch porn and other objectionable social media, and other sort of sites of course they are banned unless they are work-related. So there are certain content sites that are work related that have restricted access only to the digital team. And there are special sites and special content, platforms and gateway that need to be made accessible as there’s a logical, valid reason given to it. But, yes, most of the team know what can and what cannot be done on social media. So that is pretty much,  we work on an open door policy and everyone is welcome to suggest, to come up with creative ideas and content that gets worked on.

Does the social media team work in silos? Or do top management and other team members know what is being communicated through various social media channels?

Not at all, it’s across brand groups. It’s very seamlessly integrated and all our top managers / management is on Twitter and Facebook, and they also receive Facebook posts and Twitter posts (tweets) etc. For the marketing team it’s practically mandatory to be a fan of Kingfisher and Heineken because they want to fine tune their effort, they want to follow feedback… It’s all pretty much seamlessly integrated across the organization as far as marketing and senior management is concerned.

Others

Do you think social media is more suitable for B2C brands in place of B2B?

I think Facebook for business is a great medium whether it is B2B or B2C. I think it is a channel to educate potential consumers and current users; to learn, to understand, to believe in their favourite brand. While it is a great medium for a business to engage and communicate a brand’s position to its consumers, it can also be seen as a potential to explore B2B activities as it is a good platform for finding potential clients although more for small enterprises. For instance, if I am a furniture brand and I need to appeal only to architects, there is no reason why I can’t have a group of architects who are on my Facebook. For instance, Timberland as a brand is – I am a fan of Timberland which is more B2C but I could also be a fan of a home / DIY kind of thing where I want a fan of Metro – so I would say: yes, more effective for B2C but small B2B businesses etc can also use social media for sure.

How does social media fare compared to other digital marketing channels such as SEO, Google AdWords and Mobile Marketing?

We do all three. We do search engine optimization. Mobile marketing is very much a big part of our plan and to my mind, mobile marketing really integrates very well with all the other initiatives that we do on digital, whether it is websites, micro sites, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc – so mobile is pretty much a complementary part of it. We do search engine optimization all the time, but unlike other digital marketing channels, social media is very useful in understanding a brand more than knowing products; in obtaining opinions which will help users and a potential follow-up in making choices.

We’ve done research in social media; we’ve done what’s called crowdsourcing, so let’s talk from there. Social media channels provide people with a voice, to help them make judgements  and a vision to help them, to view information about the brand that they believe in. We’ve had any number of cases of people for instance who made comments on the Facebook pages of various brands and instantly complaints have been taken care of. A new sort of CRM has been adopted. It’s real-time, it’s online, it’s usually to respond immediately in nanoseconds. The whole pace of interaction, the whole quality of interaction, the whole speed of response has significantly passed up.

Social media users get to have quality one-on-one engagement with the brand. Regardless of who is responding, to me that person is the brand speaking to me and that’s a responsibility that we always believe our team and our digital agency has. There’s a certain voice that Kingfisher has, there’s a certain voice that Heineken has and we can never compromise on that. We can never do something that is not true to our voice. That’s really important.

While I’m on social media with the brand I’m practically talking one-to-one with the brand,  whereas if I’m watching television – if I’m a television viewing audience – I’m watching with three hundred million other people. So users can interact and have real conversations not only with the brand but with other users also or with the brand itself. That helps a lot with brand advocacy. This business is such that the more honest you are, the more transparent you are, the more you are appreciated in this medium.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Along with great content, offline-online integration is key to drive engagement.
  • The best way to keep the community engaged is to come up with creative ways to provide them with an opportunity to get closer to the brand.
  • Increasingly, the content on social media, is going to be driven by videos. And various studies say that in 2, 3 years about 80 percent of all content will be videos.
  • Hashtags are the best way to get people engaged because they create virtual wordplay and people share their fun thoughts.
  • Pinterest is one such valuable opportunity which we’ve already started to explore.
  • With Facebook – if you’re 13 years and above, you can actually have a Facebook account and in some cases even younger people pass off themselves but Twitter typically is a much more mature audience and a much more discerning and intelligent audience, so there it is pretty much par for the course.
  • Kingfisher works on an open door policy and everyone is welcome to suggest, to come up with creative ideas and content that gets worked on.
  • Facebook is a great medium for a business to engage and communicate a brand’s position to its consumers, it can also be seen as a potential to explore B2B activities as it is a good platform for finding potential clients although more for small enterprises.
  • Social media channels provide people with a voice, to help them make judgements  and a vision to help them, to view information about the brand that they believe in.
  • This business is such that the more honest you are, the more transparent you are, the more you are appreciated in this medium.

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