Six social media alternatives for brands in 2014

Facebook and Twitter are the current darlings of brands, but there are a number of other options available. exchange4media takes a look at some of them & the opportunities that they provide

e4m by Abhinna Shreshtha
Updated: Jan 8, 2014 9:31 AM
Six social media alternatives for brands in 2014

The internet is bursting with social networks. Facebook and Twitter are the current darlings of brands, but there are a number of other options available. exchange4media takes a look at six social media platforms that should feature in your digital marketing plans this year.

Tumblr - Number of users in India – 1,855,000
Tumblr is one of the fastest growing social networks in India. According to comScore, the micro blogging platform saw an 130 per cent increase in its user base between March 2012 and March 2013. Compare that with Facebook, which grew 28 per cent in the same period. Tumblr’s basic premise is the promise of discovering great content and if you are a creative marketer, Tumblr, with its ability to post images, audio and video, is manna from heaven. Also, brands can share not only their own content but posts about them from other blogs.  Users can also ‘reblog’ interesting posts, which is akin to the ‘share’ feature on Facebook and ‘retweet’ feature on Twitter. However, Tumblr’s features focus on users being more visual than garrulous; so it might not be everybody’s cup of tea.

Ebay’s Tumblr account is a good example of how the brand focuses on great content, including videos, images and audio. Posting a video of two guys who built a car of Lego bricks, eBay adds a link to its own website where visitors can buy Lego products from. CNET also uses Tumblr to share interesting stories from the world of technology and science. Primarily utilizing images, and the occasional GIFs, it plays on the user’s curiosity, who can then follow the link to the main story on CNET’s website.

Pinterest  - Number of users in India: 1,514,000
Pinterest is one brand that has captured the attention of digital marketers worldwide in the past couple of years. Already listed among the top sharing destinations online, even surpassing Twitter and Facebook in some verticals, it has also seen explosive growth in India in the last 12 months. comScore estimates that Pinterest’s user base in the country grew by a staggering 589 per cent between March 2012 and March 2013. Internationally, the photo and other content sharing platform is widely accepted as a top referrer for e-commerce websites. A September 2013 report by Business Insider claimed Pinterest contributes 23 per cent of social generated e-commerce sales in the United States, as compared to Facebook’s 28 per cent. Not bad, when you consider that in 2012 this number stood at 2 per cent, while Facebook contributed to nearly 51 per cent of all e-commerce sales generated through social media.

Interestingly, for both brands and users, the people behind Pinterest seem to have realised the inherent opportunities that the platform has for e-commerce and marketing. Last year, Pinterest launched an analytics tool to allow brands to track the effectiveness of their posts or ‘pins’. Another feature introduced recently is ‘rich pins’, which allows users to get additional information like product pricing and availability when they click on a pin. The company is also experimenting with ‘promoted pins’, which will allow more targeted reach for brands.

If you want to check out some brands that are carrying out interesting campaigns on Pinterest, be sure to see Peugot’s Pinterest Puzzle Challenge, which the company carried out in 2012. The French car maker created several boards depicting different models with some pieces missing. People could search for and find these pieces, pin them on their own boards and share it with Peugeot, with prices going to the first five submissions.

Google + - Number of users in India: 2,200,000
One will be forgiven for having written off Google + as another failed experiment by Google but it seems Google’s latest social media platform has seen something of a resurgence in recent months. Google said last October that Google+ had seen a 58 per cent jump in users in the past 6 months and this is just part of the amazing turnaround that has been witnessed in the last year or so. Currently, Google+ has upwards of 300 million active users monthly (A recent report from Internet analytics firm GlobalWebIndex puts the number of active Google+ users close to 360 million, second only to Facebook). According to GPlusData, India has around 2.2 million active users.

What works for Google+ is its integration with other Google services, primarily YouTube (which the company seems to be pushing). Plus (pun unintended), don’t forget that it has the power of the world’s most powerful search engine behind it. The SEO-related importance of this can hardly be understated, especially with the new promoted posts feature, ‘+Post’, which allows ad placements across the Google ad network while driving engagement back to the advertisers Google+ profile. Google Hangouts, which allows a user to video chat with up to 10 others, is another feature that marketers could look at. An extension to this is Google Helpouts, which allows content creators to reach out to consumers in the form of videos, which can range from fashion advice or tips on selecting the best security camera. Think about the potential this has for a brand in customer care and post sales help.

With most social networking platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, reaching the right audience requires some effort on the part of the marketer. With Google’s Circles, brands have a ready method of dividing their audience in terms of location, demographics, etc. ESPN is one brand that utilizes Google+ brilliantly. On its page are memorable sporting moments, hangouts with athletes and ESPN journalists and some light-hearted and witty banter. Google+ had a rough start to its young life but 2014 could be a breakout year for it and the brands that advertise on it.

Quora - Number of users in India: Unavailable
What do you expect from your social media activities? The ability to reach the target audience, brand visibility, engagement and, if possible, a bit of CRM added to the mix. Quora is one of the more interesting social media platforms the internet has given birth to in a while. In a very basic sense, Quora is a Q&A website. You ask questions, people who know about it or are interested in the topic, answer and the conversation continues. Unlike sites like Facebook, users only know each other through common interests and their answers; give good answers and your value goes up and you get more visibility. Also, interestingly enough, internet watchdog Alexa states that 30.8 per cent of the traffic on Quora comes from India, more than any other country in the world.

So, how can brands leverage Quora? Well, one thing to keep in mind is that Quora does not appreciate overt marketing so you will have to be more sublime about it. More important than the marketing perspective is the fact that it allows you to understand the pulse of your consumer much better than other platforms, perhaps barring Twitter. For example, if someone posts a question about the best coffee to be found around New Delhi, as a manager for a coffee chain, your spider-sense should tingle. Of course, most of the questions are more highbrow than this, which, in fact, makes for better engagement with the audience. Quora is especially useful for SMEs and smaller brands who might not have the financial muscle to carry out in-depth customer feedback exercises. Also, since you have the option to only connect with people with similar interests, you can reach out to an even more targeted audience. Quora is also probably the only social networking website that can potentially allow you to interact with a college student, a retiree or a CEO on the same post. After all, it’s all about opinions and everyone has one.

Instagram & Vine

Number of users in India: Not available (globally both boast of active users in the 140-150 million bracket)

It makes sense to put Facebook’s Instagram and Twitter’s Vine in one category. Both have the basic premise; of creating short, creative videos (15 seconds for Instagram and six seconds for Twitter). In fact, it is widely believed that Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram was a direct challenge to the launch of Vine. Though Instagram originally started off as a photo-sharing application, similar to Pinterest, it was the launch of its video feature last year that caught everyone’s attention. With the launch of Vine, both the platforms saw a tremendous surge in popularity with users and big brands jumping at the change to create innovative, short videos. With online videos expected to be the biggest ad revenue earners in 2014, it will be interesting to see how these two platforms continue to evolve. Instagram has already started experimenting with paid ads, while Vine, for now, is seemingly staying away from paid advertisements on its feed, though this could change soon.

Major brands such as Mountain Dew, Virgin Mobile and MTV India have already used Vine for promotions. Instagram has also been a favourite of advertisers, but the launch of the new video content has given them even more opportunities as seen in the Armani campaign to launch its new perfume, Si. Expect a lot more buzz around these two in 2014.

Watch the Revlon India Vine ad... 

Watch the Mountain Dew Vine ad... 

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