Interview With S Rajendran, CMO Acer India On Their Social Media Strategy

acer interview

Gone are the days when MNCs were merely dabbling with social media. Today, they are going all out with their social media activities to create a truly valuable experience for their customers. Acer India is one such brand which is making efforts in the same direction.

Acer India is leveraging social media to address the issues of its clients/customers, to minimize customer response time and to get their valuable feedback regarding products.

Mr.S.Rajendran- Acer India

In this interview, Mr. S Rajendran, CMO of Acer India highlights how the use of social media has helped Acer to minimize the customer response time and provided an edge to its connection with customers from the pre-purchase stage to the post-purchase stage; thus, creating a “WOW” experience.

He also talks about how Acer India was able to grow its community from 25k to 9 Lakhs within a span of 1.5 years. The interview will also give you an insight into the context in which you can implement global social media strategy and the scenario in which you have to opt for local social media strategy.

What is it that the brand wants to accomplish on Social Media?

In simple terms: to get in touch with our consumers. Our social media strategy is not confined to making social media simply a means of promoting a product, it goes beyond that. So it covers different aspects of support, experience with the brand and also increase the potential of refining our products.

Let’s say we have launched a product, “Version 1.0”. Now, feedback on hardware, for example: views regarding the touchpad or if you would have preferred the port to be different, become fairly useful insights because there’s nothing like an actual user going through the cycle of using the product and giving us feedback in terms of customer experience.

It’s basically a means to go beyond the usual way of interacting with the customer, which is typically a one way communication, like the conventional print or TVC  that we have been doing over the years. It’s true that we are slightly late in entering the social media space, we were just about one and half years old, when we started with our Olympic campaign but from there on we have been learning a lot, listening to customers’ reviews and, hopefully, responding well by improving our variants with new media within the consumer space.

What is Acer India’s strategy to achieve these objectives?

We are looking forward to employing or activating different social media channels to see how we can get our range of products displayed, how brand values can be portrayed, how to use social media as a powerful platform for addressing the causes of grievance of customers within a short time span.

In our experience, we have found that this platform has helped us to respond much faster as it cuts through the clutter and brings about an immediate change in the consumer’s mindset based on the experience he gets from the service delivered by Acer.

We are an indirect business model company. So fundamentally, the business model will face some challenges by the time the registration comes to the company through an indirect channel from an operative service provider. Almost four different channels have to be crossed to reach us and by then a lot of time is lost. We are able to respond very fast on social media platforms as our average response time for such estimations is approx. only a few hours. Many customers have actually come forward on their own to say that it’s been a delightful experience for them to have received such a speedy resolution or a response.

Connecting with customers by employing the social media channel is one part of the strategy, the second part is to use this platform to engage with the customer using different initiatives. To expand notably from pre-positioning the brand over the past years, we have tried to understand the change in landscape both in terms of technology and the buying behavior of consumers. We are positioning ourselves as a brand which empowers individuals with the power of progressive design, so many of our new products speak for themselves using social media as a platform.

Where does social networking reside in Acer’s corporate structure? How do you see the development of social media within Acer, evolving over the next few years?

I’ll address the topic at two levels, one at the global level and one at the national level because our global structure is bit of a federation structure. We have Acer global headquarters and we have Acer National Subsidiary for each country. We have an Acer entity which is a 100% owned national subsidiary. To explain further, we have Acer India which is distinctively different from Acer Indonesia, Acer Malasyia etc. and similarly we have about 80 odd local national subsidiaries, so there is a global action drive to become more active in the social media space.

There is an overarching direction that we need to engage with customers, but when it comes to local geography there are a lot of nuances which need to be respected when we activate or engage in something in the social media space. This is very important for the corporate structure. To cite an example, about a year back we realized that with the change in landscape we need to position and portray our brand in the new era so we thought that music would be the right language to cut across geographies, cultures, age groups and resonate to the target audience.

So we signed up with DJ Tiesto for a lot of activities that were put up on social media to engage customers via games, moments of the day etc. All the interactive events that happened at the US & Europe could not be replicated in India so we turned it into a contest. We had 8 winners in a span of 8 weeks with around 3500 entries. As we move forward we believe that there will be more investment in the digital media space and social media then would be an important line.

As a multinational brand, how do you ensure consistency in your brand communication on Social Media, while being relevant to the Indian audience? Do you have a Global Social Media policy in place?

What we do on a global level adheres to a typical framework, but we have to reinterpret it for the local market. For example, during the last Olympics, there was a global campaign for our exclusive hardware sponsor. Images, messages and all that which talked about the competitive spirit of Olympics as being a hardware vendor were implemented.

What we did in India without deviating from the theme of Olympics is that we focused on the national fervour in terms of patriotism where we had our local brand ambassador Hrithik Roshan, and we rolled out a digital campaign where the idea was to employ him to make people engage with Acer as a brand and to talk with pride while wishing the Indian contingent going to the Olympics.

We also tied up with a local ground level activity where we engaged with a several schools. For example, we went to the school in which Sania Mirza had been a student and along with all the students sang our national anthem, wishing her as well as the Indian Contingent all the best. We did likewise at two other schools sharing such connections.

Can you outline a recent initiative that included a social media component?

See, India being a country which is defined by the youth – where we talk about 50% of the population being young – we realized that people have dreams and we wanted to engage with them. So we worked along with Intel to have a social media campaign called “Click Karo Dreams.” We let the imagination of aspiring individuals run wild when we asked them what they wanted in life, what they dreamed of and looked forward to. It could be: to be a professional or to be an artist; it could be somebody aspiring to become an astronaut etc. We also asked what steps or game plan they had in mind to achieve their dreams.

There was a jury and a panel to evaluate all this. We had more than 100,000 fans sharing their response – an extensive engagement and all of it within four weeks. There was also a new product launch. Sometime back we launched the Ultrabook, a new species characterized by its light weight, long battery hours and elegant design.

We had an interesting game which people could participate in and win devices including the high end Ultrabook. Since it is very slim we had a game where this slim Ultrabook was hidden as part of a bookshelf. People had to locate it and identify it and the time taken for the entire exercise was one of the parameters for shortlisting winners. This helped us to engage with consumers and to portray what the brand stands for.

Can you please shed some light on the ‘Acer Community’? How has it helped to strengthen your brand?

There were some specific numbers prior to the Olympic campaign. We started off low in the social media space with a fan following of about 25,000 – 30,000. Realizing the importance of this powerful medium to engage directly with customers, we put up a tab to separate all support-related queries, where people with pre sale or post sale related queries can get into the tab and dock in their question, other than the existing posting option.

We have a dedicated person who prowls and monitors it and is able to respond in an average of 8 hours to less than 24 hours. With a lot of proactive initiative from our side, our 25k fan base today is close to 890k. That’s a jump to nearly a million within just a year and a half. We find that we can understand customers better by basically consulting the conversations that take place there and also to allay any of the misapprehensions they may have.

Someone might complain online of Acer’s poor service, that’s when somebody within the community itself refers to his personal experience and suggests the nearest service centre for a faster response. We also play fair, like if someone mentions that they went to the service centre and chanced upon a very poorly trained guy there who could neither understand nor diagnose the problem, we make it a point to find out if there had been a change of guard, that is, if someone had been appointed on standby.

Where does Social Media fit in your Customer Relationship Management? Is Social CRM better than the traditional approach or is it just another channel for Customer support?

The conventional requirements especially in a geographically challenged country like India where space is a big issue could be pre sales, as in retail, or post sales; we have Acer service lounges in four cities.

They are present in Delhi, Lucknow, Pune and Bangalore where the customer gets to experience our services from the company itself with a trained guy. Social media cannot substitute that but it can act as a catalyst in playing a supportive role. In India, if a customer calls a 1-800 number, he knows somebody is going to take action whereas social media to that extent has some latency. If a blog or complaint is posted, you are not very sure whether somebody has read it immediately, and neither can you guess how helpful the response will be.

We are trying to integrate all this. From the sales point of view too we have found that with new devices and technology being the way it is, there are often queries where people say “I am a small organization, I have 10 people, I want to get in the IT bandwagon, can I have some guidance on which among your models is suitable for my scale of operation? Do I need to go in for a mid line, or an Ultrabook or an entry level desktop, or do I need to go in for an all-in-one?” Such conversations are immediately forwarded to the sales team and they provide the necessary advice.

We have a back-end call centre engine which reaches out to the customer who goes more into depth and ties up that lead with our business development manager in the vicinity who takes forward the inquiry to its logical conclusion. It’s possible that a customer may say, “Fine, I’m not interested in your brand after going through the journey”, which is also fine by us. We would of course prefer it if he goes ahead with us, but our experience has been very positive in these engagements because we get to learn what kind of usage modules exist from a customer’s point of view.

So when you talk of CRM, it is a very supplementary tone that doesn’t dilute the importance of a brick and mortar or any other conventional vehicles which are there to make a satisfying customer relationship management.

You have roped in Hrithik Roshan as your brand ambassador. What is your take on engaging users with celebrities’ endorsements on Social Media?

The simple answer is that it is powerful, but one has to be very careful that the celebrity doesn’t overshadow the basic intent of what the brand is trying to portray. Then it becomes superficial and sloppy. You are unable to achieve the objective of the brand’s intent, whether it is a new product launch or a social cause which you want to voice through the media or customer relationship management.

But in bigger campaigns, we’ve found it worthwhile – as previously mentioned in the Olympic Campaign – to combine the feel good patriotism fervour with Hrithik Roshan joining the bandwagon saying, “Hey let’s join hands to wish the Indian Contingent all the best.”

So have you done any Activities on Social Media with Hrithik?

As I’ve said earlier “Click karo dreams” was something where we’ve had him, Olympic Campaign was one where he was leading the call for action among social media fans to join in to wish the Indian contingent campaign. Apart from these if there is a new product coming out or if there is a new message we want to share, we find the best way to use him to get it done without  allowing the celebrity to overshadow or overpower the basic intent.

How do you integrate Mobile into your social media strategy?

At a very simple level, what we have done is to optimize whatever branding we have made for the small screen as well. But we haven’t yet adopted the mobile as a device for promoting a product. Because what we believe is that given the category we are in, which is notebooks, it is important that we engage customers in understanding the feature set.

I believe that the small screen is a bit of a challenge even today. It requires time to conduct a research about the features and dwell on one’s choice so while we have optimized it for the small screen, we have not gone all the way to develop an app for the mobile user.

How do you discover the social conversations that are happening around your brand?

We do have professionals who are monitoring social media on a regular basis to track conversations. So for the support part, we have one dedicated person in house; where, on a periodic basis, the person gets into the tab and understands the conversation that’s taking place, and if there are some hotspots he gets to know of them immediately. Beyond that we had employed a team last year called “Brandtology”, which was able to talk about the peaks and crafts as well as about setting the context on base, the Acer brand as compared to its peers.

Secondly, I gave you an example of a small SMB looking forward to engaging with us to understand what hardware to be used etc. For them we use something known as response age. Basically we figure out the leads and then these leads are passed on to a back-end engine of a call centre and then to the local business development manager.

Are there any specific tools you employ to monitor your social media activity across multiple channels?

No not really, we don’t use social media in that sense. As I said, it is a learning curve for us so we have to be regular. But we do have some regular inputs to talk of the boundary conditions within which there are perimeters. We need to operate in terms of language, content and the appropriate response we would host in this new media.

Social media training is quickly becoming mandatory for a lot of companies around the globe. How important is it for Acer India to train employees for social media?

Given the federal structure, while there are global social media inputs which we get, we also have workshops, tele-calling and video conferences, where we get inputs from our global team. But beyond that, what we need to imbibe and understand is more contextual. Which is why we take expert advice from some of our agencies and other experts.

This way we do get some inputs at the global but we have, more relevantly, at the local level such entities who handle us, guide us, tell us what’s happening.

What are the most common social media challenges that the Indian Social Media Industry is facing today?

Since the whole phenomenon of social media and people coming on to Facebook with the youth as another overlaying parameter is relatively recent, sometimes the vehemence of negative posts which come our way has to be handled with extra sensitivity.

Secondly given the vastness of the entire social media space, there is a lot of excessive noise and one has to understand it and filter it. Since it’s a tool which is visible to all there is lack of personalization. So to that extent it’s always a challenge to see how well you can share your message without becoming too insensitive.

Also, there is the inability to do specific tracking. I may be able to say that I have 890k fans on Facebook – which is good in terms of mass – but if I update a new message about a new campaign or a new launch, it is unclear as to what extent or what percentage of that community has absorbed it and found it positive. Because “likes” are only a superficial surrogate when in reality there are many who just see something and then move on to the next post.

Could you introduce us to your team who handles your social media activities?

There is a special resource who drives the entire initiative around digital marketing, social media being one of them. And we do have an agency called “R square”, based in Bangalore who helps us to execute our plans. So say if we want anything to do with digital media or if we want to update a post or launch a game or a new product or run a campaign, we plan it with them.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Social media strategy is not limited or confined only to means of promoting a product, but it goes beyond.
  2. Acer India is leveraging social media to address the issues of its clients/customers, to minimize customer response time and to get their valuable feedback regarding products.
  3. Social Media could touch aspects on support, experience with the brand and somewhere it also could enlarge the potential to refine a product.
  4. The conventional requirements especially in a geographically challenged country like India where space is a big issue could be pre sales, as in retail, or post sales; and people do want a brick and mortar customer relationship management arrangement.
  5. Celebrity endorsements are is powerful, but one has to be very careful that the celebrity doesn’t overshadow the basic intent of what the brand is trying.

Hope you found the interview insightful. If you want us to interview a specific brand, please mention in the comments below or drop us a mail.

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