Today, Indian brands seem to swing from one end of the media continuum to the other. This has come into existence post the emergence of social media in brands’ digital media plans. However, many Indian brands are blinkered while expressing themselves on social media platforms.
It has been observed that brands are focussing on content that is boring and repetitive for consumers. Indian brands are happy to do anything for ‘likes’ and grab consumer attention. Typical content strategies used by Indian brands revolve around contests and promotions to the out of context use of the Indian ABC of content namely, Astrology, Bollywood and Cricket.
In India, though there are multiple social media channels, Facebook essentially dominates the numbers. Everything else comes a distant second. Twitter works when used in some fairly specific ways. The YouTube-led viral strategy is a bit of a lottery and often what really goes viral may not have brand relevance.
“Brands usually mention their key objective as engagement. However, due the proliferation of social media channels, engagement today is very ambiguous. What is an engaging post on Facebook, goes unnoticed on Twitter. Besides, if it is not defined well, engagement does not have any correlation to any specific business or brand outcomes. We need to define what these engagement parameters are in order to build a healthy social conversation,” said Venkat Mallik, President, DDB Tribal and RAPP India.
With the changing dynamics of social media, the question that arises is, have brands got their content strategy right? Well, digital experts believe there is complexity in this area.
Elaborating on this, Mallik added, “The first thing is clearly to stop force fitting mass media and interruption strategies on social media. It is important to remember that social media and digital marketing is about permission marketing. This is a cardinal rule for success. There are some basic things that brands in India need to get right in the use of social media. Social media is not only about this over-used word called ‘engagement’.”
Getting the content right and creating an engaging experience on social media is easier said than done. Where some brands have chosen to just carry forth their marketing and advertising messages, there are others who have departed significantly from their brand positions just to try and create conversations.
Both are not the correct approaches to social media. According to Sanjay Mehta, Joint Chief Executive Officer, Social Wavelength, the right way is to find that intersection of brand relevance and viewer interest, and generate conversations and engagement around that central positioning.
He further explained with an example, “If you are a camera brand, it should not be about your camera brand and its exciting features, but about how it can enable your user to create fabulous memories and great photography. So can the brand put out content about better photography techniques and get users to share their pictures and create conversations around this passion that many users share? If that is done, it can be engaging, and yet enable the brand to remain subtly present around its fundamental premise of manufacturing great cameras.”
One of the key ingredients of any good and lasting conversation is that it needs to be natural. Anything that is force fitted will eventually lead to mistrust and lack of interest. So, while it might help brands achieve short-term goals, it will definitely not last in the long-term. Brands need to learn how to be social and that can only be done if they stay true to what they stand for.
Vineet Gupta, Managing Partner, 22 Feet said, “I see a lot of brands trying to do social as part of a campaign. That does not work beyond a point as social is much beyond campaigns. To be more long-term and meaningful, marketers need to adopt a user-first content approach. They should focus on things that matter to their consumers as well as make sense to the brand, but that should not be the starting point. In here, it is always the user first.”
Brands, hence, need to come out with smarter content strategies, move out of their comfort zones and define what engagement means to them to survive in the social world.