Latest Practices that are Spoiling the Indian Social Media Industry

latest practices in social media

Don’t let the title mislead you, because the Indian social media space has really evolved, moved beyond the “How many likes do I have versus the likes of my competitor?” or “How many Twitter followers will you get me?”

Brands have come to realize that the measurement metrics have to address serious business concerns, not merely the number of likes and followers. Brands have also started to set aside a budget, and increase existing budgets for digital marketing as compared to previous financial years.

However, all is not good yet. As an industry we are still faltering, making our mistakes, falling and getting up again. This would have not been as big a concern if only we were realizing and learning from these mistakes. A fair share of our practices are still faulty and as an industry we need some spanking to fix ourselves up.

We need to be driven by our business objectives and not by what everyone else is doing. Following are some practices adopted by brands and agencies alike are pulling us down.

Get my brand hashtag trending:

Except that there is no brand mention in it. This advertisement from WatConsult describes it all.Get my hashtag trending watconsult tweet

Worse is when brands want to run a hashtag campaign asking their followers to tweet (spam) as many times as possible in order to be eligible to win something. Don’t you get it? The users are only participating to win that goodie!

They have no attachment with your brand; most of them won’t even know you existed on Twitter before this #IAmASpamyHashtag contest.

Also, does it make any sense having a standalone brand hashtag contest that isn’t a part of a bigger digital campaign? It will all get lost in the noise; there will be zero brand recall and all the money spent on the prizes would be a waste.

Moreover, running a brand hashtag contest can be easily rigged and made to trend. A bunch of brand/agency employees just need to sit and tweet together for the first 30 minutes or an hour perhaps and the hashtag will start trending.

What value are we creating for the brand through these practices?

Follow the herd mentality:

We suffer from a huge deficiency of innovation. When one brand in a sector launches blogger contests, the others want to do the same as well. When one runs a hashtag contest, everyone wants to follow the same path.

In fact, some campaigns are nothing but a pure rip-off of another brand’s campaign. Case in point being the recent Nissan India’s latest car launching campaign, where Nissan ran the entire “every tweet unveils a tile” campaign to launch their new car. The same has been done before by Vogue Eyewear in India and other brands in the west as well.

Just logon to Twitter and look up the trending topics any given day of the week, you will find a minimum two random brand hashtags. What does that say about our thinking brains?

We ran an influencer engagement campaign!

Well so did every third brand. While I am all for reaching out to your core set of consumers, your brand evangelists, your loyalists, and incentivizing them for their love, what I don’t appreciate is brands using the so called “social media influencers” to spread their word about.

Unfortunately the measurement metric to define the value of influencers is the number of followers they have; the quality of followers and the influence the user has on those followers is of no importance.

I get invitations to a bunch of influencer engagement activities and being a part of the industry I also get to closely watch many of them. Most of these campaigns have the same set of influencers participating.

This only makes me question, do they even connect with your brand? Do their set of followers take them seriously? As a brand why would you want to engage with someone who isn’t even your prospective customer, let alone have him/her talk about your brand?

However such influencer campaigns help throw up big ‘reach’ numbers. The way the ‘reach’ is calculated is also totally flawed. If an influencer has 10,000 followers the reach of one tweet is calculated as 10,000, irrespective of how many of his/her followers were online and read that tweet.

There is a serious lack of efforts from both the brand and the agency side to figure out a better way to measure user influence, and a serious lack of hard work in finding the “apt” influencers to engage with.

Burst preferred over sustainability:

A lot of brands want to run a 20 day campaign, load it with media spends, big prizes, amazing creatives and push out a case study of running a successful campaign with x number of impressions.

I am not completely against burst campaigns but I’d love to see more brands invest in long term digital and social media initiatives and keep their digital audience continuously engaged.

I’d want the brands to realize that the returns from sustaining the engagement and involvement of your consumer over a longer period of time will be far more than having them engage for an immediate gratification; only to see them moving on to entertaining your competitor’s contest request, right after they engaged with you.

It would be nice to see brands invest time, effort and money in building sustainable campaigns, experiences and promises. I was truly inspired by Mahindra Rise and Kingfisher Strong Backstage‘s year-long music + artists + Youtube campaign.

Delaying adoption of social business

This one’s my favourite. I love complaining about how a brand’s social media team works in silos. I can count the brands on my fingers that have brought about structural changes to accommodate social media in their organization.

In the present scenario, social media still falls under the marketing VP’s KRA. The product development team, the recruiting team, the research and development team, the business development team, they all shy away from being social.

At the cost of sounding clichéd, social media is not equivalent to social media marketing. As a business, brands should mine the social conversations for business insights, build their products based on that and improvise their business strategies. Use offline sales data, merge it with online conversations and provide a better experience to your consumers.

Unfortunately most brands limit themselves to using social media for marketing; some extend it to customer service, that too unwillingly.

Brands that claim to have done exceptional work on social media have not even soaked their toe nail in it. They are, in truth, far away from adopting social in the way they function and deliver.

Yet hiring Interns and not investing in talent

However shocking as it may seem, many big brands still follow the “Let’s hire an intern for social media” way. I won’t be wrong if I say that brands want to pay their digital agencies 0.1 percent of the fee that they pay their mainline advertising agency.

This practice leaves the digital agencies short of cash for hiring good talent. So we have 20 year olds who know very little about brand building and brand perception but know social media in and out, ending up working on most brands.

While there is no harm in letting them handle social properties of big brands, a senior resource who understands brand building should lead the way.

Most brands even shy away from training their internal team and brand managers/CMO’s avoid spending their weekends on getting trained. And I have heard this from an Indian CMO of one of the biggest companies in the world.

Training the internal team or paying your digital agency well will make sure worthy brains work on your brand. It takes years, nay decades, to build a brand, and just one wrong hashtag or viral video to destroy it.

We all saw what happened to Dominos pizzas and Volkswagen Vibrator.

The brands ended up investing so much in crisis management. If only they would have invested as much in having the right team, they could have avoided such PR disasters.

At the end of the day, it’s a brand building exercise. Would you want to give your brands in the hand of a novice just so you can save some extra bucks?

As an industry, we are falling short. The culprits are both the brands and the agencies. The brands demand the not so right things, and the agencies unquestionably deliver them. The agencies don’t spend time in educating the brand for the fear of losing the project.

All of us need to collectively understand and change some of our approaches for the overall good of the industry. A little altruism will have to be shown by each one of us; otherwise we all will be at loss in the long run.

Do you agree that we are lacking somewhere and the above listed actions are justified? Feel free to share your views with me in the comments.

Note: On 25th September, Social Samosa is holding a panel discussion on Negative Practices in the Indian Social Media industry at Blue Frog (Mumbai) as a part of Social Media Week, Mumbai 2013. Click here to register for free.

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