Brands invest billions every year to reach out to consumers through social media hoping that it will increase their exposure among social media followers and eventually lead to an increase in sales.
Facebook makes ad revenue of more than $22 billion every year globally. Most of that comes from brands either seeking to get your likes or get their posts highlighted on your timeline.
As mediums such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and several others have grown in the last few years, so has the potential around them to market products.
But do those likes give the brands a loyalty, leading to increased sales, or in case of media houses an increased readership? Is it actually reaching out to the right audience?
A recent survey of 427 marketers at U.S. companies showed that 80% are unable to quantify the value of their social media efforts. And in a study of Fortune 500 companies, 87% of CMOs acknowledged that they canâ€™t document that social media creates new customers.
A study published by Harvard Business Review explains why marketers are frustrated by social mediaâ€”they are using it the wrong way. "Social media doesnâ€™t work the way many marketers think it does. The mere act of endorsing a brand does not affect a customerâ€™s behaviour or lead to increased purchasing, nor does it spur purchasing by friends. Supporting endorsements with branded content, however, can have significant results," the study said.
The study further said amplifying efforts with advertising can provide higher returns on investment while creating an opportunity to connect with the most loyal customers.
BestMediaInfo.com asked industry experts whether the high marketing spend on social media to acquire consumers is providing the right ROI to brands. Are they reaching out to right target group or is it just blanket advertising?
Brands such as Kotak Mahindra Bank are using dating app Tinder as a marketing tool. The bank ad offering high returns and easy account opening process shows up on tinder as a card while you swipe right on your potential matches. Is the bank reaching to the right TG through a dating app?
Speaking about the social media strategy that brands are adapting to reach out to the millennials, Karthik Srinivasan, Digital marketing/communications specialist, Ogilvy & Mather said, "For most end consumer-facing brands (B2C), social media would be an appropriate channel to communicate through, because anybody could be a potential customer. It is when brands want to target or focus on specific segments within their TG that social media, at least organic social media, becomes a bit of a misfire," he said.
"In that case, brands would need to use paid social media options to be able to micro-target within a larger segment. So, paying Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn would help them unlock specific segments that they may want to target. For instance, if a brand wants to target mothers, the social media platforms would offer, for a fee, the ability to target those (in their respective platforms) who have spoken often about motherhood as a topic (along with connected topics like children and parenting),â€ť he added.
So yes, social media channels do offer the right TG, but not in the free version unless the brand has built its audience base on those channels very, very carefully. For instance, a dedicated Facebook Group or a LinkedIn Group created and curated (entry restricted by approval by the brand's custodians) may not need paid push to reach the TG because the brand has invested time and effort to gather only the most appropriate people in those groups. But if the brand wants to reach relevant TG beyond that group, it would need to pay the platforms to get that ability.
Kalyan Kumar, Co-founder & CEO, Social Catalyzers, thinks brands are able to reach the right TG on social media.
"There are too many people on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and there are more than 200 million people who are present on such platforms. These communities are the largest congregation of people sharing common interests. All these people are willing to engage with brands as long as brands talk to them with a social context to a story," Kumar said.
An apt example of such outreach is when a quick service restaurant known for its 30 minutes delivery time tied up with tinder. People who matched with the profile page of the pizza brand got a free pizza date on Valentine's Day.
Talking about such innovative strategy, Ramya Nagesh, Planning Director at The Glitch, said, "Brands are getting increasingly particular about who they want to talk to on digital. While some brands are still taking the one-size-fits-all approach, some have started segmenting their audiences and planning out unique user journeys for them. From let's target everyone and see what response we get, it has become more of we know what response we want, let's go after that audience, even if it is a smaller/niche segment of the larger audience. Even from a communication and content perspective, brands are focusing on different messaging for different segments of their audience to move them along the journey that has been charted out."
The difference in social media is that people can now engage with your content, talk about your content and actually help your content spread. One should purpose the content to address people expecting a response. One cannot get to choose the audiences as much as your audiences get to choose you. Have you built the content for your TG so that they choose you for engagement?
Itâ€™s all about creating the idea and spreading the idea. Spreading the idea should be done organically where a lot of magic can be achieved by focusing the content properly and then using the right agencies, partners, thinking, strategies to spread it organically and then the brand could get victory.
Chintan Ruparel, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Terribly Tiny Tales, feels the TG on social media is very diverse and most of them may be real but there are many fake profiles. "When brands mindlessly boost their posts on Facebook, they donâ€™t know what kind of people they are targeting. There is a lot of nonsense unless you know your audience or unless you create really good content. It is a safer bet for the brands to rely on people who have already acquired good audience such as content creators like us, AIB and TVF," he said.
A few years ago, UB Group, the company that owns Kingfisher, tied up with TVF to do a web series called The Pitchers. For alcohol brands, social media provides a more liberal advertising platform.
"One should rely on the power of content. Also it does not mean that brands should not rely on data analysis and targeting. What we create and the kind of audience that we first interact with is very important," he said.
Instagram, in the last one year, has become a prominent platform for advertisers, including Procter and Gamble Co., NestlĂ© India, Paper Boat, Grofers, TrulyMadly Matchmakers and Sportskeeda. And it's not only advertising, but the brands are also using both celebs and micro influencers to reach out to their potential buyers. L'Oreal used about 200 key Instagram influencers across its various brands. Their make-up artistry brand NYX was the first in the category to be launched online in India.
What value does Instagram advertising provide to brand and how do they ensure the right TG?
Ritesh Singh, Co-Founder & MD, #ARM Worldwide said, "Each platform has its own merit, own content form, unique ways of users consuming content, time bands, events impact, etc. There are over 20 factors to be factored in at the planning stage, yet keeping it simple at the strategic note."
Singh added, "One big change which must to be considered is don't look at social media management in isolation, embed it with SEO, content marketing, PR & other owned assets."