Keep conversations healthy on social. Here's how...

Brands need to listen, learn, be proactive and, above all, be honest to its social community members for healthy survival

e4m by Priyanka Nair
Updated: Feb 26, 2013 3:20 AM
Keep conversations healthy on social. Here's how...

With the world getting closer because of new media communication channels, the very meaning of ‘a conversation’ has changed. Conversations happen over posts, tweets and videos. Brands have also changed their marketing approach with this new media style of conversations. Some brands take conversations on social very seriously, while others have failed to build impressive talks.

For instance, Starbucks, recently, was in news as it deleted a Facebook post by an irate customer. The post talked about crass treatment meted out to him at one of the stores in Delhi; it had more than 5000 likes, with 293 comments at the time of being deleted.

This is just one of the many social media controversies wherein reputed Indian brands have interrupted their social conversations. Does it mean Indian brands still haven’t understood the power of the social community? To decode what is the right way of building a healthy social media conversation, exchange4media spoke to few leading digital experts. Following are five best practices that brands can emulate.

Listen and learn
The first thing that brands needs to keep in mind is to ‘listen hard to be heard’ because listening can be the beginning of insightful and relevant consumer conversations. This is the fundamental truth for all forms of consumer engagement, including social media.

With listening comes some great learning – some that could be of great use while understanding consumer behaviour. Once that is taken care of, unlearn some of the legacy approaches of marketing to ensure that hard-sell style does not come out on social media.

Moderate conversations
According to Carlton D’Silva, Chief Creative Officer, Hungama Digital Services, “Never underestimate the intelligence of your fans. I think that is the single biggest mistake that most brands make. It is also best not to talk down to your fan base and be preachy. The best conversations can come from simple topics and provoking questions that are a perfect brand fit.”

Identify areas of interest for the brand and consumers – the common ground that makes for good conversation opportunities. Brands need to have the tools ready for monitoring, if brands aren't monitoring the social campaign, it may not understand the behaviour of the community and where its communication is heading.

Plan and be prepared
Dinesh Swamy, Digital Creative Leader, BBDO Proximity India explained that a consumer’s life does not revolve around brands, it revolves around life and hence, social gives the required space and comfort.

Elaborating on the point, Swamy said, “If brands are taking consumers opinions, ideas and criticisms, they are ahead of the game. Online advertising is evolving rapidly, with every day being full of new surprises. It has become more of a conversation than a lecture. Brands have realised that in today's interactive world, they need to participate and generate conversations. Through all the social touch-points, brands have the potential to have much more productive and meaningful relationship with consumers, and gain powerful insight into their perceptions of products.” Having said this, it is very important to have a clear plan which is flexible and can be modified whenever necessary in response to community feedback.

Be responsive 
Brands should let its community know that it appreciates consumer feedback and is interested in what they have to say. If brands make a mistake, they should own up. That makes the brand look more human.

Yashraj Vakil, Chief Operating Officer, Red Digital shared, “Brands need to focus on creating content that will generate response. Any feedback thereby should be taken as positive learning and should add value to the brand's image on social in the long run.”

Brands should focus on getting back to its consumer’s conversation. Shying away or being irresponsible can pull the brand’s image drastically. After all, social is platform open to all and accessibility is just a click away. Not being responsive creates bad publicity and puts off the consumer’s perception of the brand.

Be honest
Brands, at the end of the day, are dealing with humans on social. Brands that genuinely believe in adding value to people’s lives will be rewarded manifold. The aim should be to adopt a persona, ensure that it is consistent with the brand positioning and speak in a tone and voice that is consistent.

Brands should put content with a real interest to create conversations, wherein one can learn from consumer experiences. Lastly, brands should be genuine and transparent to keep conversations healthy on social.

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