Social Media for brands: setting the context

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Going by the rapid increase in Facebook fan pages from brands, you’d think that ‘I want a Facebook page‘ is the new ‘I want it yesterday‘ in advertising & marketing. At a recent Social Media Workshop conducted by @afaqs in Bangalore, the participants were keen to know about this platform more than anything else in Social Media [at least that’s the impression I got]. Marketers, students, ad agency folks, digital media specialists are all keen to do ‘something’ on Facebook. ‘Something’ being the operative word. Facebook aside, almost every brand is seeking a Social Media presence. It is common to see Social Media icons even in print ads and hoardings nowadays. Not surprising because Social Media is definitely in the radar when it comes to CMOs. However, most CMOs and their departments are still grappling with the medium be it in terms of its role in their scheme of things, its implementation and ROI. In a survey done by IBM, CMOs cited ‘data explosion’ and ‘social media’ as the Top 2 things to convey their ‘under preparedness’ to manage the impact of key changes in the marketing arena.

IBM CMO Survey

In this context, a few things that come to my mind:

– the earlier era of advertising was one-way communication where marketers sought to create ‘like ability’ for their brands.  Advertising was the prime vehicle to create this ‘like ability’ and it had an effect on the consumers in a subliminal way. Yes, consumers talked about advertising they liked then too – mainly among friends & families. The old way was primarily dependent on what the brand says [positioning, proposition] and how it says it [advertising].

In today’s context, marketing is dependent on what, how, where the brand speaks and what the brand does. The ‘where’ element kicks in thanks to the explosion of screens, platforms, technologies and tools. A brand maybe required to convey a singular idea in different ways depending on the medium – a blog, a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, a Pinterest page or a blog. The ‘does’ part kicks in because a brand is transparent to all nowadays. If you say one thing and don’t mean it by action, there are enough way for brands to be ‘caught out’. The best example of ‘walking the talk’ is in what P&G is doing with their ‘Proud Sponsor of Moms‘ campaign. They didn’t just stop with an emotional  60-second ad [as we’d have all done 10 years ago] but followed it up with action: Add to it the element of real time consumer feedback about brands [and in some cases content created for the brand by consumers] you’ve got a heady mix and a real challenge.

I believe the trick is in [a] not approaching this as a ‘one size fits all’ [b] not seeing ‘new media’ [digital or interactive or whatever you may want to call it] as a separate medium from advertising or marketing communication. I think in today’s context, consumers have the power to engage with a brand. But it’s important to remember that they don’t want to engage with any brand – only brands they love. And equally important to realize that brands are essentially intruders in that space. Consumers love Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare or whatever else the latest tool is – primarily for engagement with their friends, families or topics of their interest. It is unnatural to expect them to gladly welcome a mouth-wash brand or a hair-gel brand in that space. Sure, if the brand is already revered, liked or if it provides content that seamlessly sits in their online experience, it makes it all a little bit easier. But the way in which brands are spawning Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and expecting consumers to flock to them is a bit odd.

Brands can help consumers enhance their online experience by taking any of these roles: help consumers express their opinions, provide them with relevant news, by being useful in some way, provide entertainment, sell products or ideas. The pundits have referred to this as ‘content’. And if that ‘content’ – it could be a mind-blowing ad, a Twitter feed, a blog post – is available for easy sharing across various platforms it is said to be make new media adoption easy for brands. Easier said than done. For every Old Spice, Blendtec, Airtel or Kolaveri Di there could be several failures or also-rans in this space.

What do you think are the must-do’s for brands when it comes to Social Media? Do comment in. Part 2 of this topic follows in a separate blog post.


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  1. 1. Try to be more social and human.

    2. Give a reason for people to like you.

    3. Don't run communities as campaigns 🙂

    These are some of the things a brand should be doing when it comes to social media 🙂

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