‘If you are not on social, you are antisocial’ seems to be the mantra for brands. These days making their presence felt on social has become a critical focus areas for brands. The panel discussion on ‘Building smart social media strategies’ at the CII Summit explored both sides of the double-edged sword of social media and debated how marketers should leverage this medium to their advantage.
The panellists included Harish Bijoor, Brand Expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc; Paul McInerney, Principal, McKinsey & Co, Tokyo; Rishi Dogra, Head – Digital Marketing, Pepsico India; Farida Kaliyadan, Vice President – Brand Development and Consumer Insights, Aditya Birla Group; Sanjeev Kapur, Chief Marketing Officer, Citi India; and Nawal Ahuja, Co-Founder and Director, exchange4media Group.
“The earlier trend is being reversed now. Today consumers see something at a retail store and buy it on Flipkart. Social media provides the power back to the consumer. Marketers’ competencies are under the scanner and in question and they are still grappling with the situation. Social media is all about marketing to the impatient generation,” said Harish Bijoor, Brand Expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Research suggests that 40 per cent of the population is connected online and 25 per cent of the time spent on the internet is on social platforms.
“The distinctive advantage is granular information provided by social media. It is important for marketers to understand the brand sentiment on social. What is critical to know is that there is a 70 per cent increase in buying propensity when it is coming from a social reference. By 2015, India is slated to be the biggest internet market,” said Sanjeev Kapur, Chief Marketing Officer, Citi India.
Whilst there are on-going debates and conversations on the advantages of social media, which include interaction and consumer information the platform provides for brands, disadvantages are undeniable. According to Paul McInerney, Principal, McKinsey & Co, Tokyo, alignment, co-ordination, access to talent, budgeting, targeting and flexibility are the challenges posed by social media.
The key to successful social media engagement campaigns lies in creating relevant content. The roadblock being faced here is in terms of new policies introduced by social media networks.
“For instance, Facebook now charges a premium amount to make posts visible to users even though they are fans of the brand. The idea behind this is to make the users interact with only those brands with whom they have a higher level of engagement, so that ‘unliking’ isn’t an outcome of bombardment of posts by brands. Besides, it is also a monetising platform for Facebook,” observed Kapur. “The dichotomy in the market is large brands don’t understand social media, and smaller digital agencies don’t quite know how to build a brand,” he added.
Farida Kaliyadan, Vice President – Brand Development and Consumer Insights, Aditya Birla Group, warned marketers about the ‘frightful aspect’ of real-time. Marketers must ensure that in a bid to engage consumers they don’t overdo handing out freebies, which results in the consumers de-valuing the brand. At the same time, she also urged marketers not to become policemen, or else consumers would feel they are being stalked. “It is critical to be discreet. The key is to drive consumer delight without being intrusive,” she added.
However, Rishi Dogra, Head – Digital Marketing, Pepsico India, felt that in India we are still skimming the surface of digital and need a more robust measurement matrix.
Nawal Ahuja, Co-Founder and Director, exchange4media Group, urged marketers to take a step back and really understand social media as the ‘Frenemy’ with its unique set of opportunities and challenges.
Whilst social media also has the advantage of providing brands the ability to hyper-personalise, it is really then upto the brands to develop capabilities like data mining, and focussed targeting in a manner to be able to leverage these advantages. However, with its plethora of advantages, it does bring with it a bevy of warning signs to the much enthused marketer to handle this medium with much care.
“However engaging and dialogue-driven social can be, it is still plagued with a few barriers, owing to its novelty and highly dynamic nature. Social media has the ability to cause perceptions. And in the world of marketing and branding, perceptions are more important than the truth,” concluded Bijoor.