The headline may sound confusing, but that’s on purpose. With the lack of understanding of social media and its associations, businesses may find themselves feeling lost in this new social avalanche.
Unfortunate or perhaps fortunately, for sincere social media marketers, the above is a reality. In India and around the world, the blitzkrieg of a new platform for advertizing has caused a panic among marketers, who feel they are behind in the race. "Good advertising companies" are passé as age old wisdom and acquired expertise are a hindrance rather than an advantage with the advent of social media. While everyone has joined the bandwagon, only a few people or companies "get it ". This reminds me of a comment by Unilever's Simon Clift, "Digital marketing's like high school sex. Everybody's talking about it. Few people are doing it, and those doing it, aren't doing it very well.”
Here's the scenario for most marketers today looking for a digital agency to adopt or "engage” in social media. There's no science, just a few basic steps derived from the study of the popular campaigns and how they were envisioned. These are working now, and NOW is the time to adopt them.
To begin with, take out from your total ad spend a definite percentage for social media. After years of sitting on the fence, the online ad spend has reached close to 10 to 30 per cent of the total marketing budget and it is going to go higher and so, should be the focus of on social media.
Secondly, interview the top ten company’s social media marketing agencies in India and a few from around the world, if possible. While it is prudent to plan a strategy with careful consideration, spending too much time on implementing it may just nullify the purpose as the world of social media evolves every single second. Have the agencies submit a proposal and a plan based on a twenty minutes brief. Then, thoroughly but quickly scan the proposals to identify the "what", "how" and "why" of social media based on your end goals.
Subsequently, zero down on the top three agencies and add the best practices (or deliverables) offered by the eliminated agencies to the original brief. Depending on the responses of the chosen agencies, rank them and then enter the final round of correspondence.
Lastly, present a miniscule budget (for starters, a small percentage of the overall digital marketing budget) with all the deliverables factored in. The ball is now in the agency's court and more often than not the agency will be the first to blink considering the sheer amount of work already put in.
At this juncture, the social media marketing firm has two options-
1. To simply smile and walk away
2. To add the "Brand” as part of their kitty to attract more business
In rare scenarios, there is another approach you might witness and this is my personal favorite approach - to understand clients' apprehensions regarding the ad spend on new media and subsequently prove credibility and deliverables in the first 6 months subject to the condition that the contract is to be revised by a certain multiple if the goals are met.
During this gestation period, the agency will put in additional effort and will often offer more than the commitment just to ensure that the objectives are not merely met, but exceeded considerably. The "fans" count will go up exponentially, "likes" will pour in from all corners of the world irrespective of the targeted demography and engagement with existing clients or prospects will spiral out of control, in a good way. The vigor with which the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Flickr will be pursued will not only amaze you but may also make you wish you had entered this domain of advertising and brand promotion a century ago.
Eventually, the euphoria may subside and the benefits of brand promotion will take a back seat. For most brands, the metric for ROI is "conversion" of a fan into a sale and this expectation, grossly misplaced, brings in the element of your dissatisfaction with the agency. Unlike many other advertising platforms, social media platforms may not necessarily be able to showcase the exact figures of conversions. Here, your digital marketing agency has the opportunity to allay your fears and explain the nature of social media. If correctly done, instead of changing the agency, you would rather bring in a change in your expectations from the social media initiative. So, instead of looking for bookings and sales to fatten the balance sheets with quantifiable success, your focus should be to extend your "reach" to potential 800 million users on Facebook alone and most of us login every single day! Imagine an equivalent exercise on traditional platforms and suddenly the dollars spent on social media puts peanuts to shame.
This only gets more interesting. Social and Search amalgamate and hence, your presence online (by no means a website!) assists you in reaping the benefits of huge online buying decisions, which by some estimates, is close to 60-80 per cent of all purchase decisions made worldwide. Today, we need to do everything as nothing works in isolation.
To understand your problem or the desired aim at hand and go to a chiropractor dentist or surgeon is one thing and to hold his hand throughout the surgery, while reading and getting information from the daily news is completely another.
When urged to write a piece to help clients make best of their online marketing and social media demands and to assist in giving them something tangible to take home, I thought it prudent to cut to the chase and state the facts. Gone are the days when an agency could mislead you for long, so why attempt to hide the causes for most social media and online strategies not taking off? Jumping in the turbulent seas of social media will never be a walk in the park and will cause heartbreaks as the social media industry witnesses every single day!
Parting thought - take your time to choose a professional agency, carefully review the case studies and check their LinkedIn recommendations. Once you have chosen a partner to engage social media, let it lead the initiative while retaining an advisory role and audit them once a month or two to gauge performance based on KPIs set at the initiation of the alliance. Continual minor tweaks in the strategy are a must but refrain from hopping from one strategy to another. Allow me to end this note with one of the best quotes by mashable.com’s Editor-in-Chief, Adam Ostrow: “As opposed to trying to attract millions of eyeballs and monetize them with ads, branded social networks are less about profitability and more about creating loyal and engaged customers that will ultimately create revenue in more conventional ways.”
(Avijit Arya is Founder and CEO, Internet Moguls.)