Industry experts throw light on the right way to nail the social media strategy, the pitfalls to avoid, and effectively using brand management tools to gain the upper hand in consumer engagement
Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | July 29, 2015
It is said that in digital marketing, content is the king and social media is the king maker. Brands are increasingly beginning to realise the growing importance of social media in their marketing mix. All the major channels in social media – be it YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Line or blogs – have emerged as very powerful influencer marketing tools to reach out to the target audiences effectively.
With consumers taking to online shopping in a big way, buying behaviour is changing. Blogs and consumer forums have taken the place of word-of-mouth when it comes to seeking opinion before a purchase decision. No longer is merely having a token digital presence by way of a Facebook page adequate for brands.
Monitoring social media conversations and stemming adverse comments before they do irrevocable damage to brand and company reputations have become a challenging task for brands.
In such a scenario, BestMediaInfo.com spoke to a cross-section of industry experts to know how brands are nailing their social media strategies, the pitfalls to avoid, the right way to use brand management tools and more.
Are brands managing social media effectively?
Praveen Sinha, MD & Co-founder, Jabong.com, remarked, “The importance of social media is no longer debatable. Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter help us understand trends and fashion choices dominating a particular season, basis which we try to design and choose our merchandise. For us, these platforms are more beneficial for consumer insights rather than driving traffic or generating sales. They help us reach our customers directly and share best of brands we have to offer.”
According to Pooja Sahgal, General Manager, Marketing, Maybelline New York, “Big Data is not just a buzzword, it’s a new fact of life. With the reality of Big Data, we need tools to analyse data in a way that brings real business value. At L’Oréal India, we use various tools that are deployed to strengthen our understanding of the consumer across the path to purchase, from discovery to purchase and advocacy.”
Adding further, she said, “In the discovery phase, tools like CEB Iconoculture help us spot trends and gain cultural insight, while tools like TGI and Euromonitor help profile our consumers. Tools like Socialbakers and Unmetric help us measure and improve social engagements. Google Analytics, Omniture and data collected from our e-retail partners help us understand and optimise purchase behaviour. Lastly, for advocacy, Radian6 and Explica8 help us understand, evaluate our social footprint and identify our influencers.”
Zafar Rais, CEO, MindShift Interactive, observed, “The way consumers shop online is changing, especially when it comes to lifestyle products like apparel, accessories and home decor items. A great mix of social media content, conversations with your fans and followers, driving attention through videos, GIFs, Emojis and other trending tools, along with a great media plan that is able to follow a shopper through his web journey as a recall factor, are means of engaging with shoppers. Influencer marketing is another tool used effectively in creating brand advocates for your brand that add trust and reliability to your brand.”
Aashutosh Chaudhari, Co-founder and Vice-President, Sports365.in, said, “The consumer’s buying behaviour is evolving and a large number of the population has shifted to online shopping. An engaged customer not only leads to brand loyalty, but reduction in customer churn rate, increased opportunity to upsell and cross sell, etc. We at sports365.in use various platforms and tools like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google advertising, SMS marketing, e-mail marketing, etc., to showcase not only our latest products, but to interact with customers and provide superior customer service. Our social CRM initiative makes sure that their queries are resolved as soon as possible.”
“Sports365.in has run various contests based on sporting events like Wimbledon, Indian Premier League, Tour de France, etc., on social media along with our brand ambassadors (Mahesh Bhupathi, Yuvraj Singh, Dipika Pallikal) to connect and engage with the shoppers and target audience on the regular basis,” he added.
Social media benefits
Pooja Sahgal said, “Content is at the center of our digital framework. We have profiled and clustered audience segments of Maybelline New York and probable Maybelline New York consumer using social insights. We create this content keeping in mind the established audience segments. Additionally, we believe in innovating and finding new ways to talk to this audience in order to keep the content fresh and our users engaged. The engagement could be something as small as asking them to share kisses or something as big as creating a song to promote a lip balm. Social media engagement with the brand increases even by receiving addresses of places selling fake Colossal Kajals. Fans are always ready for something new.”
Zafar Rias added here, “When you’ve gained insights on the marketing strategies you wish to implement and are able to identify who you wish to speak with, your audiences will automatically engage and spread the word about you. Brands such as Za from the House of Shiseido speak the voice of their consumers, leading to a higher engagement and outreach through recommendations.”
According to Sehgal, the other key aspect to make the right content work for the brand was by distributing it right. “We’re constantly researching distribution channels, constantly deploying, optimising and measuring the effective of each channel. This approach towards social has worked well for us so far. Today, Maybelline New York is the one of the biggest communities in India, with a very high rate of engagement,” she added.
Chaudhari here opined that being a growing online sports portal, they made sure that sports enthusiasts were aware of the brand as well as brands they were associated with and the promotions they ram on their website along with the latest happenings in the sports and fitness world.
“A social media strategy plan is prepared well in advance for the three months, which is implemented very carefully to make sure that our customers are well informed about our deals and offers through various types of advertisements and promotions. Also, we run special offers which are specifically created for our social media followers. Sports365 has been able to generate a great customer engagement and positive response from various activities on social media,” he added.
Revenues and results
While there has been no dearth of social media campaigns by brands, how effective have the campaigns been in creating brand awareness and generating revenues?
Sam Balsara, Chairman and Managing Director, Madison World, commented, “There lies no doubt about the fact that brands have not started using social media quite well till now. Social media is not the only preference for a brand. But the fact is that even if brands do not use social media, they get featured in the medium by the consumers. Having said that, even if brands are not actively using social media, they need to track the medium to understand how consumers or competitors are talking about them.”
Sahgal added here, “For every product, we have a launch on our digital platforms. Through our engagement activities, users become aware about the product. Many of our digital-only campaigns have created a significant spike in search volumes – which shows the users’ intent towards the product.”
Digital presence has further strengthened the e-commerce sales of Maybelline New York’s, with the e-commerce’s contribution going up from 3 per cent to 6 per cent for brand Maybelline, making it one of the most important channels for driving revenues.
“Brands that create content through consumers, engage with fans consistently and work towards building a relationship with their fans without hard selling are the brands that tend to be far more successful in achieving ROI in the form of recall and revenues simultaneously. E-commerce players need to consistently put together a fool-proof media plan that will enhance the brand’s outreach and lead to conversions,” said Rias.
Chaudhari added here, “Creating buzz over social media is always of great help as it makes more people aware about the company and eventually helps us in acquiring new customers. We recently experimented influencer marketing campaign with our brand ambassadors around IPL, where we asked our Twitter and Facebook followers to come up with interesting designs and quotes around all IPL teams over the period of one week, which we used to launch our private label for sports apparel. There was a great response from the people and those with the best quote were awarded with their own designed T-shirts.”
“Social media is overflowing with rich data and the availability of various targeting possibilities over this rich data has made mass customisation possible. What further drives this is the ROI that we have been able to achieve. Not only can we create and work towards driving a set objective, but also facilitate customised solutions to achieve those set objectives – for example, there are different ad units to drive different objectives like app installs, show product range, drive video views, etc.,” Sahgal concluded.