Going by chats with agency folks and some Brand Managers, the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers seem to be the new benchmark for a brand’s success in the social media space. I have seen vigorous nodding of head, followed by raised eyebrows in admiration of 500+ fans for a brand on Facebook. This count seems to be the new ‘awareness’ benchmark of TV advertising of the ’90s (remember the days when every brief used to be about creating awareness?). Just as people questioned the utility of a mere awareness score, sheer quantity of fans or followers will soon be questioned. But we are still in the novelty phase in India as far as brands & social media are concerned. Notice the mandatory URL of a site, Facebook/Twitter page in mass media advertising.
Image Source: HubSpot
On Facebook there are several brand pages with a huge fan count but zero interaction or engagement. Ditto with brands and Twitter followers. Even among agencies in the digital space, a Twitter feed is still a means to tell the world about their own work – a sort of digital newsletter rather than a means to engage or dialogue. I recently mentioned a digital agency’s work on Twitter and was surprised at the lack of response – in any form – from them. The silence was broken after a good 24 hours when real-time search, reactions are the order of the day.
Clearly, social media and the need to engage with audience is not a must for every category, every brand. Many of them do well with good ol’ TV advertising – which is still the most powerful medium of them all. I am no social media expert and purely as an observer of the goings on, some thoughts on brands if they have to resort to a presence in social media:
– don’t open a Twitter account or start a Facebook page just for the sake of it: a barren Facebook page or a silent Twitter account does more damage to the brand than staying away from these platforms
– be clear on the purpose of social media presence: target audience of certain categories (technology, gadgets, service brands, financial products) are likely to spend a lot of online time in these social media platforms. It’s natural for brands in those categories to engage with their audience there. Being clear about the role of these platforms helps. Is it meant to address service issues? Create leads? Entertain consumers? Build on the brand personality (Hippo does a good job on its Twitter account)? Convey new news (Fastrack comes to mind) on the brand?
– Not all categories, brands and campaigns evoke enthusiasm and participation from social media fans & followers. Not all brands & campaigns have ‘newsworthiness‘. What’s the point in an Insurance Company posting pictures of its company get together on Facebook?
Most importantly, its better to have the customer base growing rather than just the number of followers.