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Winning the relationship game

Social media communication, unlike broadcast media, cannot be forced upon the consumer

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ExactTarget, a global interactive marketing services company, recently released the results of a survey in a report titled, ‘The Social Break-Up.’ The big-but not surprising- take-away is that brands and their fans ‘break up’ for three basic reasons: brands talk too much (frequency), they repeat the same information (boredom), and that there are other brands out there who do it better (relevance).

Gulshan Verma, vice-president & country head at Komli Media (India and North America) believes a good conversation between a brand and a potential consumer can be broke down as follows: 40 per cent of it would be about things that are of interest to the consumer, 40 per cent tangential references to the brand and 20 per cent direct conversations about the brands products and features. “When Steve Jobs passed away, several autism societies talked about the impact that the iPad can have on teaching children with autism. That’s an example of good conversation. They were often widely shared,” he says.

Fans/followers unsubscribe if they find that topics are completely unrelated and add no real value, adds Advit Sahdev, CEO & founder, ODigMa. Sahdev says, “A user on social media does not come to purchase. They come to socialise or get information. When they see posts that are only related to sales and promotions, they unfollow brands.”

Why should brands be bothered with social media? In India, over 50 million users use Facebook, about 13 million users throng on LinkedIn, more than 15 million have Twitter accounts. Indians generate the second highest traffic for Google+. Industry reports suggest that more than half the online population in India is socially active on one platform or another, making it an indispensable platform for brands and marketers.

Research firm Gartner advises brands with a social media presence need to ensure that their content is kept fresh so they instantly attracts the attention of consumers, as users are likely to be turned off by dull or dated content. In fact, getting ‘liked’ online in some form or another has become a de rigueur of most digital marketing campaigns.

But that does not mean consumers will never unfollow brands. “Too many brands focus on chasing fan numbers and hitting the magical million mark and then forget to actually reach out to and connect with these fans. They neglect life after the ‘like’, and that alienates consumers. It’s like being invited to a party only to find that the host is busy inviting others rather than mingling with the guests that have arrived,” opines Ashok Lalla, digital marketer, founder and author of ‘The Future of Digital for Brands’.

Social media communication, unlike broadcast media, cannot be forced upon the consumer. Hareesh Tibrewala, joint CEO, Social Wavelength, highlights that one may begin to follow a brand because of some incentive (say, a contest) while not being interested in that brand. “However, later they realise that the content from the brand is not as clever or interesting. Hence swiftly unfollowed.”

The only way ahead for brands, points Yashraj Vakil, COO of Red Digital, is study consumer preferences in advance of social efforts and continually monitor what consumers expect and want in a particular channel. He says, “If you cannot bring in fresh ideas, new contests or promotional offers on to your social pages like Twitter or, Facebook then don’t push spam on to the user’s pages as that will always turn off the fans.” The reality is that customers can and will cut ties with brands that do not take their best interests into account.

So how does a build a sustainable social media strategy? What metrics do you use to measure social media in the first place? Here, Shrikant Shenoy, media director, Lodestar UM, offers some directions taking cues from the agency’s study on social media, Wave 6, which is among the longest running studies of its kind that aims to arm planners with the ability to devise a social media strategy as well as measure and compare the value of marketing activities.

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