Has brand marketing on social media become just another item in the checklist today? Do all brands actually need to be on social media, and do brands indeed get the full value out of it?
Yashraj Vakil, COO, Red Digital, was of the opinion that every brand needed social media. He said, “They just don’t know that they need it. What's important is to recognise what social tool a brand employs to spread its message and objective and more importantly to have a message and objective it wants to spread on social media. For example, retailers and restaurants could benefit more from Foursquare and Google Buzz than Facebook when they speak about offers and increase footfalls realtime. At the same time brands such as Adidas which is looking to become a one-stop destination for cricket on Facebook or Godrej who are looking to enhance customer loyalty over a longer duration, but not necessarily realtime, are better of using Facebook.”
He added, “I have noticed that one of the biggest mistakes brands do when they decide to manage their own social presence is start with a lot of fervor and then lose interest over time. Managing a brand's social presence is a full time job. Especially on Facebook, brands often make the mistake of creating groups or community pages and even profiles instead of fan pages. They realize this after 5000 odd likes and a few months. Valuable time is lost before they outsource it to social media specialists who couldn't care less about the brand! This knee jerk reaction and choice of people to handle a brand's social presence makes brands averse to the medium and hold they opinion that they don't quite need social media or its unaffordable, but, like I said, every brands needs social media, they just don't know that they need it.”
You cannot not ‘do’ Facebook
That said, brands have to take their messages wherever the audience is. David Fischer, VP - Advertising and Global Operations, Facebook, recently announced that the social network had 25 million active users in India.
Ajaay Gupta, MD Capital Foods, brand owners of Ching's Secret and Smith & Jones range of food products, said, “If you manage a brand B2B, B2C, government, education, NGO whatever, if you think you don't need to be social its time to whack your head. You should be sharing who you are and what you do in the world all the time. Social can't be treated as a one off campaign. Social is 365days and all waking hours. The consumer is going to talk about you on Facebook, Twitter, etc., whether you get online or not so best get going and proactively participate.”
At the same time, building up fans and likes on Facebook is not the solution either. That can be driven through a number of paid means, and hardly represents the effectiveness of a brand on the social network. Even an engaging one off campaign on social networks can have a negative impact – the community built up does not go away when the campaign ends.
Rajiv Mehta, MD, Puma, observed, “Today’s consumers are a demanding lot, especially so if they are young, fashionable and on the move. New mediums of communication like social networking sites, blogs, micro blogs, photo sharing platforms, and location based applications are all redefining the lifestyle habits and aspirations of the youth. So, Puma strongly leverages social media as a strategic move to meet the sport inspired lifestyle needs of today's youth. We connect with the target group real time using Twitter and Facebook.”
He added, “Puma also strongly utilises social media to engage with young consumers, steer conversations in meeting their lifestyle needs. At Puma, social media is not only leveraged as a marketing tool but also as an excellent avenue to receive consumer feedback thereby making the environment truly inclusive. We also have initiated the process to implement e-commerce for our customers in the long run. Plans on the cards include tapping every other element of social media that helps connect with the pulse of our new age target audience.”
Engage with the audience
Shankar B, COO, Ignitee Digital, remarked, “There is no point in just putting it on the checklist. The most important thing for social media marketing is not the number of fans and likes you can build up, but rather how you converse with those people, engage with them. All brands need to be on social media, but the days of just putting up a few polls and contest are gone. The social media landscape is changing very fast, and the audience is now maturing very quickly too.”
He added, “One unfair comparison which comes up a lot now is to measure the RoI compared to traditional media. If brand X puts 10 crore on Star Plus, and 10 lakh on Facebook, then why do they demand that social be measured for RoI? Do they ask the channels to show the benefit? If you’re only making small investments in social media, then it’s not right to make a direct comparison.”
The consensus is clear – brands must look at ways to get the greatest benefit from social media, but today, with the increasing complexity of social networks, it’s not enough to have one person in the office put up updates and polls. Proper planning and regular interaction is critical for the success of a brand in social media and, therefore, in revenue.