‘Tapping into the Power of Social Networks’ came up for discussion at the Indian Magazine Congress (IMC), organised by the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) in Mumbai on September 6-7, 2010. The panel members discussed how social media is the future and can be used not only to leverage brands, but also create brands. A one-on-one consumer interaction would definitely create a better consumer-brand connect, the panellists said.
The session was moderated by Kalli Purie, COO, India Today Group Online, while the panel members included Kiruba Shankar, CEO, Business Blogging; Mahesh Murthy, Founder, Pinstorm and Managing Partner, Seedfund; and Raul Suarez, Managing Director, Zinio International.
Kalli Purie commenced the discussion by pointing out that social media was the number one online activity. Also, 50 per cent of the users were under the age of 30. A plethora of activities were taking place in the social networking space; video sharing, picture sharing, music sharing being a few of them. She further pointed out that today people were no longer searching just for pages and content; in the world of social networking, ‘people’ were being searched for (for recommendations and so on).
Kiruba Shankar, a well-known blogger, podcaster and on Twitter, remarked that in today’s world, the consumer was becoming more and more important and that they wanted their voices to be heard. “What a person says in a social network forum is important and vital for his circle of friends. Today, the consumer wants not only content, but interaction too,” he added.
Raul Suarez pointed out that two-third of the global Internet population visited social networks. “These people want a more integrative medium. Brand can leverage value from this phenomenon not by getting thousands of followers, but by getting thousands of influencers,” he added. This phenomenon, where the consumer actively interacted with a brand, as in the case of magazines, created a unique content. He further said, “The term ‘social media’ might even lose popularity, but social media tools themselves will not.”
Mahesh Murthy noted, “Audience aggregates business, however, we haven’t been able to leverage it online. Comments are more important than the news itself, because that is what makes the news real. Such an action, where news is open to comments and deliberation gives a brand trust and credibility.”
He went on to point out the three levels of ‘engagement’ in the social media space. The first stage was the unprompted engagement, the second was the active engagement, while the third was passive engagement. The first level got the consumers to write un-prompted; the second one was a more active engagement, where there was two-way communication. In the third model, the consumer was passive and just a spectator. Murthy stressed that in the social media platform, it was not important to have just numbers. Rather, it was more important to get people to interact. It was important to listen to the consumer, react to them and then try and outreach (leverage the brand), he pointed out.
What comes out of such a framework is an enticing revenue model. If a brand is able to leverage its product to lakhs of followers, it becomes an instant hit. Also, the consumers are very happy since it is a more interactive medium. Servicing the consumer at the first point of contact also implies cutting on cost. Advertisers, too, can be lured by these exponential numbers that social networks give. The deliberations of this session would have certainly opened some eyes in the industry. One shouldn’t be too surprised if we see magazines hunting for more ‘followers’ in times to come.