Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Social Media Marketing

Shailendra | IIMK

Social Media Marketing: The Latest Buzz

Wikipedia defines social media as a media for social interaction using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media makes use of internet technologies to enable dialogue among the users. Social media marketing has gained relevance over the past few years due to the increasing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, Orkut and Twitter.
Internet penetration over the past few years has enabled social media sites to witness exponential growth. The number of internet users in India is 81 million i.e. 7.1 percent. This is low as compared to the penetration of TV (59%) in India. But the increasing competition in the telecommunications field will ensure that high speed broadband connections are available at low rates. The average amount of time spent on social networking sites is 1 hour per day, a large part of which is spent on Facebook and YouTube. This huge amount of time spent by a consumer presents enormous opportunity for marketers to target them.
How is it different from traditional media?
There are some basic differences between social media and traditional media.
• Social media is centered on communities where users share their opinion and gain others perspective unlike traditional media where the company sends unidirectional messages to the audience.
• Social requires the consent of the user and is more acceptable as compared to traditional media which infiltrates the personal space of a person.
• Social media is basically shared media where brands can simulate discussions at regular intervals but the final result of the discussion can have either positive or negative impact on the brand.
• Social media is long term commitment of the brand whereas traditional media like television commercial is short term.
Traditional media is preferred because of the reach of the medium. The viewership of television is much higher than internet penetration in India. It can be used to reach a large medium at the same time. The marketers are more familiar with the marketing strategy of traditional media. All of them are not comfortable with social media like Facebook, Orkut etc. The measurement standards in traditional media are well developed (E.g. TRPs) as compared to social media which is a new field and doesn’t have any such standards.
Social media scores in targeting the message to the right audience. It enables you to focus on your target segment instead of broadcasting the message to mass audience. The media lays emphasis on engagement with the customer and builds a relationship which is long lasting. The measurement tools are new but sophisticated as compared to traditional media. For e.g. Google analytics can be used to determine web traffic to a site and analyze it to improve the website. The cost involved in social media campaign is low as compared to traditional media.
Different Social Media Tools
A number of social media tools are available for the marketers to leverage upon. Popular among these are social networking sites, blogs, video sharing websites, discussion boards etc. Social networking sites like Facebook, Orkut and Twitter are gaining popularity among marketers. Facebook can be used for creating fan page of brand or displaying ads according to the interests of the customer. Dell has been using twitter to take order online and listen to complaints of customers. Professional social networking sites like LinkedIn are used by HR professionals to find prospective employees or invite people from different places for meet-ups. Video sharing websites like YouTube are used by companies to start their own dedicated channels to attract audience to a single place. YouTube is also exploring the option of live streaming sports events and product launches. Sunsilk gangofgirls.com and Nokia planetkerakhwale.com are examples of companies creating discussion forums for members to share and discuss issues which matter the most to them. These are some of the social media tools and their use by brands.
Success Stories
The key reason for success of social media is that people want to communicate with people not brands. That is the reason why celebrities like Gul Panag, Shashi Tharoor and businessmen like Anand Mahindra gained such huge popularity in the social media domain. Pepsi has achieved huge success by its Pepsi Refresh Campaign where the company invited ideas to change the world. The ideas belonged to the following categories: health, arts & culture, food & shelter, the planet, neighborhoods and education. People were asked to vote for the best ideas in each of the categories. Since the ideas were for the benefit of the society in large, the campaign gained huge popularity among the masses and attracted a huge audience. It created a lot of goodwill for the company and can be termed as a success. The campaign is still continuing and is doing wonders for the company.
Barrack Obama’s online campaign was another success story of social media marketing. An emailing list of 13 million members was formed which helped in communicating the agenda of the campaign and other important information. The mails also urged members to donate nominal money for the campaign if they could. The website MyBarrackObama.com had 8.5 million visitors per month at its peak time. Pictures and videos were regularly posted on the website. The success of the emails was tracked to ensure proper impact on the members like keeping the subject line appropriate. The campaign was open and transparent and allowed people to express their opinion rather than censor comments. The online campaign was instrumental in ensuring the win of Barrack Obama.
Social media can also have negative impact of the brand image. Nestle and Domino’s Pizza are perfect examples of how social media can wreak havoc on a brand.
Nestle acted offensively to the comments of some fans on its Facebook page. The page administrators ridiculed the customers and ordered them to follow the page rules. This created a bad image of the brand and it took a lot of effort from the company to revamp its image.
In case of Domino’s Pizza, a video prank by two employees posted on YouTube made the customers to believe that the food prepared there was not hygienic. The company had to apologize in public for the mistake committed by its employees. It opened the kitchens for the customers to visit at any time and see the sandwich making process to regain customer confidence.
The Way Ahead
The future of social media marketing looks bright. The increasing number of cellphones in the country can act as another platform for social media sites. Cellphones can enable location based services like finding a restaurant in a new city, determining road routes etc. Cellphones can be used for social media websites which provide multiplayer games like ibibo.com.
Social media can be helpful in co-creation. Facebook is a perfect example of how a social networking website can act as a platform for developers to collaborate and create new applications. Brands can invite ideas from the customers for new products and then determine the popularity of these ideas based on voting. The top ideas can be implemented to see the results. Levi’s jeans did a similar experiment with women’s jeans category. The top entries when produced on larger scale were well received by the customers and replaced the traditional designs of the company.
Social media can be a powerful medium to implement e-governance. Some organizations are already experimenting with Facebook-like applications on enterprise level to encourage interaction among the employees and increase productivity. The state and central government departments should provide a platform for citizens to voice their concerns. This will increase the accountability of these departments and increase transparency.
Social media is here to stay as marketing shifts from consumer-targeted to consumer-centric. In the future, the spending on social media will increase and brands will make extra effort to engage with their customers. Social media will help in creating products which are more relevant to the customers and are accepted by the masses. It will change the way marketing is done in a positive manner.


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anu mandava said...

Social media always be there, but it has raised popularity from past few years with facebook, twitter and many other social networking sites.I read this sentence in one media " Gradually newspapers are replaced by social networks". See it how much its effect on people lives?

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