Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Social Media is no "Passing Fad"

Social Media is here to stay. A year or so back it was widely speculated that “Social Media” (SM) is a fad and will soon evolve or vanish. However, no one can deny that SM is here to stay and perhaps even revolutionize the way we buy, sell, stay connected, interact and also evolve socially.

Just as the Internet revolutionized the world in the last decade of the 20th century, Social Media and Social Media Marketing (SMM) are in the process of doing the same. Just as with the advent of Internet a whole lot of ancillary industries evolved and are flourishing, the Social Media is nurturing quite a few industries already.

Any powerful invention will find its own use is so true, because social media is traversed all the boundaries that it was perceived to be built with. It is now a truly creative medium just like a canvas or cinema, which you can use to tell any story you want.

Social Media Marketing is of more interest to me as a marketer. Hence I will dwell more into SMM than SM in this blog. I would like to start with the most important phrase in any manager’s vocabulary – “What cannot be measured, cannot be managed”. And yes, SMM can be measured. There are various free as well as paid tools that are available with which you could manage your SM activities.

With the knowledge of we can track what is on SM and hence optimize our spend and increase our returns, let us now venture into how we could be associated and grow our business through SMM. The only prerequisite to be a good marketer in SM is you got to be imaginative and know your fundamentals well.

The Marketer has to follow the customer, if the customer is on the Moon we better be there and so be it for SM. The advantages that we have with SM are that the customer can double up as the marketer as well and when it comes from the horse’s mouth, the recommendation is worth much more. It is as close to as one can get as the product being recommended by a friend or a close associate/ family member and hence it is powerful and we cannot afford to ignore or let it grow organically. As marketers it is our responsibility to seed, grow and nurture these social relationships and what it can do for us and vice versa.

One Size Doesn’t fit all
SMM is by far the most creative as well as complex media that I have come across so far. But it is heartening to see so many creative marketers out there who are redefining many set principles and notions. SMM straddles from being a tactical tool to sell products and services and raise awareness to a tool that can facilitate research and understanding of the market place, target audience preference, etc to being a strategic tool that could facilitate or change the business.

The Different uses that SMM could be put to:

Crisis Management:

Alerts are set to highlight when there is a negative experience shared by consumers/ visitors in a forum or blog to tackle it by providing justification and the necessary corrective action we use it as a crisis management tool.

Selling Channel:
This aspect of SMM is widely and creatively used by many companies. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are the best resources in this area. Twitter was even used by the present American President Barack Obama in his campaign, need we say very successfully. Youtube is used by different technology manufacturers to promote product acceptance and demos. Facebook has innumerable success stories, please check Facebook marketing success stories

Brand Insight:
It can provide brand insight which is better than any market research. To explain in simple terms - Say for example you are Macdonald and when you find that your customers blogs or on discussion forums use keywords like tasty, delicious, wholesome and in contrast uses keywords like green, healthy snack, low calorie etc to talk about your competitor – Subway. It helps you macdonalds to form associations that your brand has in the minds of the customer.

Trend Insight:

Another area where SM can really benefit marketers is in getting a quick read on a trend. This is typically one of the hardest things to pick up using standard surveys. But social media gives you the opportunity to quickly scan millions of blog posts to see if there are themes emerging. For example look at this chart from Google trends where the red line indicates weight loss and the blue one MacDonald, see the occurrences when there is a spike in weight loss there is a drop in McDonalds. This would indicate an emerging trend to McDonalds, if the red line was steadily going up, it would be a cause of worry to McDonalds and they would react by introducing a calorie free range to their menu.

Consumer Insight:
Social media can help you to know your consumers better. (1) You could track all the topics/ keywords that are relevant to your brand and then evaluate the tempo of the conversations that are accompanied with these topics/ keywords. And then understand who are the contributors or influencers to these conversations online and then profile them (potential customers) and finally target them. Or (2) We identify a group of our customers/ potential customers and then track their behaviour online, which websites they frequent, how much they contribute/ influence their groups, what is their psychographic profile, interests, affiliations, etc.

Hence SMM is not just another channel that we could use to sell our products and services. But it could facilitate a lot more strategic marketing initiatives and helps to build a powerful brand for the new age.