The Science of Disruptive Technologies Within the Social Media Framework

Disruption (noun) – an event that results in a displacement or discontinuity.

From communicating with gestures to Whatsapping, humans have come a long way in communicating with each other over the past several thousand years; especially in the past century.

From sharing information over print, radio and television, we were enamored by Internet which completely changed the way we communicate and interact. Long distance communications became inexpensive and easy as people thronged on Yahoo chatrooms and MSN messenger to chat with people from other countries.

Social media was a game changer for web communications as it was built around networks and communities which brought people even closer. The sense of being in a Tribe and interacting with people who share the same interests as yours was the major reason for the success of social media. Moreover, handheld devices combined with 3G was a shot in the arm of social media.

While we as users have always evolved, brands have been slower. Just take a look at the history of Television; BBC started the world’s first regular broadcast service in 1932 but it wasn’t till 1941 when the first television advertisement was aired!

As recently as 5 years back, only a handful of brands were doing good work on social media. It is only in the last couple of years, many brands have flocked to social media.

Brands Are Just Getting Social Media While Users Are Going Mobile

Users have always been a step ahead of brands, two steps in case of Indian brands. While Indian brands have just got hold of social media, users are already lapping up mobile communication with both their hands.

Brands are yet to become creative with their contests and campaigns and millions of users are already busy pinging each other on Whatsapp, WeChat & Viber.

Most of the brands out there have no clue on how to adapt to this kind of disruption. Exception to this is a brand like MTV India which came up with Count Your Drinks – an app that helps you count the money you are spending on your drinks while hanging out with your buddies.

For users, this may be just a simple app to calculate their expenses; but for MTV India, this is a treasure trove of valuable data into the spending habits of youngsters. As a brand, they can gather insights on how often youngsters hangout with their friends and how much they end up spending. These insights can be later used to come up with programs or offerings catered to such audience. The possibilities are endless.

Another example is that of Flipkart & Snapdeal. While major Indian ecommerce brands were promoting their websites, these two made the first move to launch their app and promote it heavily. Today, more than 50% of Snapdeal’s sales are done over mobile and Flipkart’s app features in the top 10 most popular free Android apps.

As we can see, it’s not just social anymore. It’s becoming mobile increasingly. Add “Location” to this and we get the most buzzing word of events these days: SoLoMo.

There are myriad of ways brands can leverage on the integration between Social, Location & Mobile. From pushing out in-store offers to RFID powered events, we can do a lot of activities that are truly unique and engaging in nature.

The goal in all this is get closer to the audience with a innovative idea on the device of their choice.

The Technology of The Future

Are Indian brands ready for wearables? Are Indian brands willing to experiment more with technologies like Augmented Reality & RFID?

I doubt most of them are.

We have just witnessed the launches of wearables such as Google Glass, fitness bands, smartwatches etc. While it may be early days, in a couple of years there is a good chance these might be the hottest selling cakes in the digital industry. Where will your brand be then?

In Altimeter’s report on Digital Transformation (authored by Brian Solis), Adam Brotman, CDO, Starbucks, stresses upon the impact of mobile on digital transfomation:

“I started with mobile; that was the heart of it where we really acted as a team.” “That worked well and catalyzed, moving into web where we were charged with figuring out what our mobile web strategy looked like and how it connected to our loyalty and payment groups. From there, it snowballed pretty quickly.”

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In the coming years, wearables will help brands gather more data. Take fitness bands for examples. Today, these fitness bands have all the crucial data about our health: from our heart beats per minute to our daily activitiy levels. Now imagine how useful this information can be for brands in the healthcare industry?

We will also see devices being interconnected, relaying information seamlessly to simplify our lives. We already have smartphones and smart TVs, now imagine working with smart refrigerators, toasters and even door knobs! In a handful of years our social lives are going to be filled with interconnected devices, are brands ready to tap into all this?

Digital Transformation: Adapt or Die

In today’s times, the technology is changing faster than ever. We have new technologies and jargons thrown around every 6 months, and many of them end up having a substantial impact in our lives.

Technology has become an integral part of a consumer’s life and brands need to realize this as soon as they can. If you fail to adapt, or adapt at a slow pace, you might just fall of the chart and have your place taken over by some hotshot startup.

This is where digital transformation comes in.

The Altimeter Group defines Digital Transformation as:

“The re-alignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital consumers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”

For the lovers of bullet points, here’s why you should be adapting with technology:

  1. Helps you identify the persona of your customer
  2. Trace their journey by tracking the data shared by them
  3. Get information about their lifestyle, social sphere and regular activities
  4. Trace their social fabric to find out factors and people who have an influence over them

Now all this might sound devious, but people are already sharing it over current social media channels. You don’t need to break into any vaults.

As technology changes our communication patterns, more data will be shared which can be used in ways more than one can imagine. All you need to do is to stay abreast of the latest innovations and monitor how your consumers are interacting with them.

When you understand how your consumers interact with digital, map their journey and observe all the data shared by them, you are well equipped to provide them with experiences that not only delight them, but also bring them closer to your brand’s philosophy – a crucial element in building an army of loyalists around you.

The best way to go about this, right now, will be to form strategic partnerships with companies that provide innovative solutions to understand your consumers and interact with them.

But adapting digital transformation is not an easy task. Providing an engaging digital customer experience will face challenges from several quarters, such as: In-experience, poor or divided vision and lack of budgets as well as talent.

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In all this, possibly the biggest hurdle is the allocation of budget for digital transformation. Be it investing in technology or talent, not enough money is being pumped into it at this moment. But there are people within organizations who are leading the change.

Tony Hudnell, Associate Director at P&G, who overlooks technical development related to CRM shares in the Altimeter report:

“We need to work with each brand to help them understand how to utilize our new platform to drive digital transformation and build new, meaningful consumer experiences. What we don’t want to do is spend time and money relearning things across brands.”

But How Will Brands Adapt?

In order for brands to adapt to Digital Transformation, two things are most crucial: Change Agents and Vision.

The brand needs enthusiastic people who are willing to bring change in the organization and convince team members to work towards the change. Their main role is to come with a case to convince the executive leadership about the necessity of the change.

The change cannot happen unless there is complete support from the higher ups in the organization.

In cases where the brand mindset is traditional, a strong business case is required for the transition to kickstart. In the Altimeter Report, Scott Monty, Global head of social media at Ford shares how change agents can influence the executives:

“This is about inserting yourself into every conversation. It’s about finding the common ground, being true to your brand, and helping execs understand how this all plays out. It’s our job to help them understand how digital transformation fits into [or enables] the larger picture — this isn’t the picture alone.“Take data from social spaces and turn it into insights. That’s where executive value lies.”

But the change won’t be initiated unless an internal team member stands up and takes the initiative in his/her own hands.

LEGO’s Global Director of Social Media and Search, Lars Silberbauer notes:

“It’s about finding those people in different departments who are willing to risk things to be a lead within the company. There are a lot of people who want to take a company forward.”

In my opinion, the CMO and the CIO should work in tandem to lead the innovation within a brand. While a CIO will look at supplying technology within the organization, the CMO should work with the technology provided to strategize and execute innovative marketing campaigns that are driven by data.

CIOs will play a bigger role in marketing as it increasingly becomes data driven and heavily dependent on technology. CMOs should seek better IT support from the CIOs so that they can monitor data points and derive insights that help them understand their consumers better. These insights should then be implement to provide enhanced customer experiences.

Talking about the importance of integration of marketing with CRM, along with other systems, Tony Hudnell of P&G shares:

“We wanted to create a scaled platform to talk to consumers directly and keep track of consumers in a consistent way across brands, across the company. We designed a central hub for all individual consumer relationships with P&G across brands. This allows us to understand what brands consumers are engaging with, how they’re engaging, and also look across brands to improve our consumer understanding through common metrics and analytics.

We tore down what a CRM is and built it back up in a scaled model and have had good success in Asia, the Americas, and now we’re expanding into Europe.”

Technology, however, is only just a small part of the brand’s digital transformation process. Unless there is proper integration amongst the verticals in a brand and a fluid internal communication, these changes will not happen.

Moreover, all this is possible if the organization in all its entirety is willing to put on the roller-skates and match the speed of technology adoption. This involves a change in the philosophy of the brand’s workings, which might be very difficult to achieve.

But once achieved, this will lead to the brand generating digital-first strategies which help them build products and offerings that provide the best value to their consumers.

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