As the mobile phone screen is becoming the most important screen in consumers lives, they are seeking more sociable experiences through it. In some emerging markets Twitter is actually replacing the SMS (text) mechanism. People prefer to tweet each other rather than text or call. Similarly, the sole purpose of seeking experiences seems to be shareability.
Even ordinary moments are assuming greater significance with photo/video sharing. Lot of people in Indonesia actually take photographs of the food before they eat and share it on social sites. And as they eat they are happily responding to their friends comments. Similarly, shopping is becoming more social. When it comes to making brand decisions, social media is becoming a critical source for consumers.
Awareness – Example: Mothers are reaching out on the social space to find out which formula food is better for their babies. Social media is raising consumer awareness about the category and not simply the brand.
Interest – Example: Gadget reviews and the social cool quotient seem to be the key deciding factors for buying them. Information or experience based engagement is critical for generating and retaining interest in brands as they make these choices.
Decision – Example: Some airlines and travel portals offer best deals exclusively to fans. Consumers are getting used to making decisions using this kind of social information. In some cases, purchases take place in the social space itself.
Advocacy – Consumers who form opinions favourable or otherwise, actively share them on their social networks. This can affect the brand image as well as the sales volumes of brands that are not able to respond to negative feedback.
Most marketers and agencies are not yet well equipped to deal with these Social consumers. A few critical elements to get going on social media include:
Social Brand Architecture:
There is an ongoing debate about how a brand should present itself in the social space. Should it be via their Facebook page, Twitter account, blog, or a mobile app? Questions aplenty. While there is no universal answer, brands cannot simply avoid being present on this space. As consumers improvise their social profile, brands can too. This is based on their overall marketing goals, current TG behavior on the networks and the content (brand) strategy.
What is the role of Facebook Vs Twitter Vs Pinterest Vs xyz? Some brands see Facebook as another (own) media channel and populate the content accordingly. Some see Twitter as a customer support channel and some see Pinterest as a photo link to transactions. It is important to decide on a role for each of the social channels and align brand content and response to such roles.
In the light of the above, a mad media drive to acquire fans may be a pointless exercise, and the viral (unpaid) fan acquisition rate will be higher for some cult brands. It is also relatively higher for brands offering freebies, discounts and offers.
Unlike other media, social media is “always on”. Therefore brands need to find a way to stay fresh and relevant to appeal to fans. Creative agencies can play a role in determining the kind of engagement that will be best suited for the objectives. However, agencies need to unlearn the print and TVC expertise and start afresh to meet this challenge.
Social Measurement & Analytics:
Marketers have been spoiled by broad industry metrics (like TRP based audience measurement systems). With little analysis, they have been making BIG decisions and getting away with an ecosystem (media house, media agency, TRP system, etc) that supports this kind of thinking.
Digital media and, very importantly, social media can dig very deep and throw tons of data highlighting various types of user interactions. Any simple social listening report can highlight chatter with numerous references to brand and category.
Given that a lot of social chatter is caused by spam bots, it is critical that marketers get a true view of depth and frequency of consumer interaction. There are a wide variety of paid social tools available in the market.
Most of them are quite complicated and need a trained hand to manage or make sense of them. Multi-language processing, sentiment analysis, CRM connectivity are but a few limitations of most tools available in the market. Radian 6, Sysomos, Adobe, Social Bakers, Webinfluenz, Mybuzzmetrics and the list goes on.
This is in addition to numerous free tools such as Hootsuite, Facebook insights, social mention, Google analytics, Peerindex, Klout, Kred etc. Interesting to note that the list of companies trying to crack the Social measurement -analytics puzzle is quite diverse.
It includes quite a few well funded startups, research agencies (Nielsen, TNS etc), consulting companies (Mckinsey) , IT companies (Infosys, Cognizant, Accenture, IBM etc), Advertising Agencies, Marketing & CRM analytics companies. Most of the tools throw humongous data which does not aid quick decision making in the social space.
Marketers need to evaluate, experiment and build frameworks and decision grids by which they can process the information from these tools to unearth actionable intelligence.
The future will be for tools that can identify and connect each individual comment, analyse the purchase behavior/previous interactions, unearth trends in larger customer groups, suggest decision alternatives and track behavior post implementation of that decision. That sounds “super human” doesn’t it? Hopefully, this will be real soon and not just my fanciful imagination.
Recruiting a social media head is not the only solution to in order to make a brand social. Firstly organisations need to believe in social media to make this work. Most organisations ban social networks in the office (though more and more employees stay connected on social media on their mobile phones). Employees or internal customers can potentially start or shift a conversation in the social space.
Apart from training all employees on social media usage within organisations, marketers may need a specific skillset dedicated to implement the social strategy.
Depending on the organisation’s size and marketing ambition, the size of the team can vary from a one member team to a 200 member team and so on. The social media team can comprise primarily of community managers, analysts, content writers, media specialists, bloggers and strategists.
Whether the team is in house or outsourced through a specialist agency, it is important to establish tool kits to enable their functioning and metrics to evaluate progress.
It is necessary to create Standard Operational Guidelines, especially for marketers with a regional or global mandate. While these guidelines need not be cast in stone, they can be a reference point for the many teams that implement it
Tool kits can aid content generation, adoption and distribution guidelines. Brand tonality, daily scheduling, reporting, editorial, response and escalation mechanism, operating Key Performance Indicators etc can be part of the tool kit.
Marketers who commit to the above can rise above the clutter to develop a distinct brand voice, thereby outperforming competition and fostering consumer loyalty.
Originally published on December 18th, 2012