Like any media platform we have experienced in the past, the use of social media is not limited to what its mission statement says. In fact, the more one uses it, the more ways to use it are found, so that social media has started meaning different things to different groups.
One such group contains companies like Whirlpool, LG, Sony, Samsung, Videocon, Electrolux, Hitachi, Panasonic, Voltas, IFB, and Onida, etc, or the white goods companies, as they are known within the circle. Their use of social media is different from how other companies (for example: publishers) will use the platform, but the uses are not entirely different, as it overlaps as well. Let’s see how these white goods brands use social media and for what purposes.
Social media for promotion
Unlike the publishing industry for whom producing content is their bread and butter and for which they do not need to put any extra effort, to create content for social media, content creation does not come naturally for the white goods brands. Thus the confusion, which often results in plastering product promotion messages.
There may not be anything wrong in promoting products on social media when done in moderation, but it becomes a serious problem for the community when promotional messages eat up a majority of the posts. Some white good brands suffers from the problem of “too much promotion,” but rest of them are keeping it around the permissible limit, which is anything but fluid.
There is one place, though, which all of them use to highlight the latest from its stable, and it is the Facebook cover image (some even do so on Twitter). I’ve collected a couple to give you a sense of what I mean.
Talking of promotion, it is worth noting that most of the white goods companies try to highlight the main features of their products (see the images below), which would have been helpful if converted into benefits that customers could sense and feel. There are a few companies that have tried this route. Onida is one such company, which, to some extent, has tried this.
To Engage, Inform, and Excite
Content and contests are two tools that white goods brand use to engage, inform, and excite its audience, and it appears that their budget is tilted more towards the expensive option, which is contests. This is probably because of the lack of time devoted to create quality content for social media.
Contest is a good tool, but it costs money. It may create buzz, but I doubt if the engagement it creates lasts or not. I also have some doubt on how it helps white goods companies in building their brands, which is the prime concern of such companies in an age where technological parity has been established.
One cannot reiterate enough that a strong brand image can only be built or sustained by creating a long-lasting engaging content. And that takes time. So it should not surprise you that the contest route is often taken by white goods brands to create some engagement, and it doesn’t matter what kind. Almost all white goods brands use social media to run contests, primarily through Facebook and Twitter (see below to find out what I mean).
We received an overwhelming response for ‘The Colour Challenge’. Hold on your breaths till we declare our first finalist soon! #TRILUMINOS
— Sony India (@sony_india) October 9, 2013
Social media has also been the platform, primarily Twitter, which users use to communicate their feelings about the brand, which is not always negative. Like everyone else, white good brands also use Twitter to promote the love spread by their happy customers.
— Salah G Hamed (@AndroidBasha) October 8, 2013
— Rohan Joshi (@mojorojo) October 8, 2013
— Prashant Singh (@iamgolfy) October 9, 2013
For Customer Support
If you have a product, you have at least one disgruntled customer, who will spit venom, if his/her concern is not handled properly. Customers post complaints and requests, largely on Facebook and Twitter, with a hope to get some answers, but more often than not, white goods brands disappoint their audience.
In some cases the response is late (as in the last example below), but in a large number of cases there is no response. Upon manual scanning of Facebook and Twitter pages of all major white goods brands in India, I found that the complaints by the audience, which are numerous, are not addressed and are left unanswered. The same thing happens with the requests as well. See the screenshot below for a sample of unanswered complaints from the Facebook walls of major white goods brands.
In the last one, you will notice a yawning gap between a complaint and a reply. This is not the duration a customer wants to wait for a reply (which at best is curt) in this age of instant gratification. It is not only the time taken to reply what should concern us here, but also the way it has been written. It is ineffectively short (read curt) and grammatically wrong (we do not use Mr. with the first name).
My visit to the Facebook and Twitter pages of various white goods brands has dispelled the myth for me that large brands are using social media to address customers’ concerns. I failed to find a white goods brand which “engages its fans in the real sense” or addresses their concerns on social media. This pushed me to conclude that they use social media at best, as just another broadcast media to convey the message downward. Very few brands use it for communication in the opposite direction.
For white goods brands, social media largely means Facebook. They are on Twitter as well, but a separate Twitter plan is not used to do justice with the strength of the platform. White goods brands use Twitter only to repeat what they have already said on Facebook. And despite their deep pockets, most of them have not invested in creating separate videos for YouTube.
LG and Sony have done some feature-introduction-cum-promotion videos, but they need to go much beyond that to make full use of YouTube. In fact Sony has gone beyond features, yet there is much to be done. White goods brands’ think tanks need to come up with an all encompassing content strategy that could be extended on all social media platforms to utilize the strength of each platform to build a strong brand and stronger community.
A video from Sony India’s YouTube Channel: