Sunday, November 13, 2011

Social Media Marketing - A new dawn in Marketing Revolution?

Mansi Gupta | Delhi School of Economics

Social Media Marketing: A new dawn in Marketing Revolution?

In eight months of its grand opening at Gurgaon, Kingdom of Dreams, a unique cultural hotspot in India, has garnered a popularity that only a few would have thought of. A close look at its Facebook page and the fan numbers bear testimony to the fact. Over 130,000 fans discussing their experiences at the cultural galleries, making others go gung-ho about visiting the place.

A similar assessment of Facebook page of Pizza Hut with over 850,000 fans provides new food for thought. Latest World Cup Campaigns, and posts flooded with patrons going gaga over the new items on the menu, provide a perfect launch pad for every marketer’s aspirations of connecting to millions at a time.
And these are only a few of the millions of such success stories, marking an onset of a new dawn in the Marketing Revolution, to what is now called the “Social Media Marketing”. It is not a phoenix that has risen out of the ashes all of a sudden, but an outcome of diligent efforts of companies branding in the digital world.

Gone will be the days when marketers would be worrying about jostling with the competitors in the real time market arena. Not far will be the times when they shall be going berserk with anxiety over the dwindling fan followings at public portals like Facebook and Twitter. Is it the beginning of what will be known as a “Social Media War?” Howsoever it may be termed, but it surely is a trend that is here to stay for times to come, and shall only delve deeper and deeper in the grounds of virtual market space.

Broadly defined, Social Media Marketing involves branding and building customer relations over new media channels that primarily include advertising over Internet, through public portals. But, this is only one of the many facets of it Another subset of Social Media Marketing is the concept of Crowd Sourcing, which revolves around close consumer engagement, taking inputs from those who are to be targeted. This is perhaps what Unilever wanted when it decided to source consumer generated advertising content in April, last year and decided to give away 70,000 GBP in prizes. Same is the case with Starbucks with over 20,000,000 fans at Facebook, taking public polls and ideas and in the process retaining a large pool of loyalists.
So, the question that arises is that why every marketer is vying to be ahead of all in this rat race? The answer lies in the changing trends of Consumer Decision Model, which governs the laws of consumer engagement. It was not many years ago that the principle of the famous Funnel Metaphor decided the consumer engagement strategies of firms. Based on the premise that consumers narrow down from many brands that they see and get to know to fewer, and then, eventually final choice, the metaphor was the holy Bible of the marketers then.

But with the advent of digital age, the metaphor used traditionally by marketers to build on recall value and awareness strategies around the visible points at the periphery of the funnel, failed to realize why consumer engagement shifts.
Today the internet with 1,966,514,816 users worldwide, which shows a steady 28.7% penetration (per cent of world population), as per World Internet Usage and Population Statistics, cites why the digital success story is going strong and registering a phenomenal growth. And this is the reason, why more and more companies felt the need to mark their presence in this virtual market arena, roaring to be captured and tamed. So, what are the new rules of the Game? Is it a new kind of consumer involvement model that is based on the concept of the loyalty loop? Is it the one that draws strength from the concept of Buy-enjoy-advocate and bond? So, are we not looking at a concept which starts right from the time the consumer buys the product and keeps them coming back? Well, the answer to all these questions is an outright YES!

These are essentially the stages in the Model of Social Media Marketing. Well, now the question arises that how well this model is able to justify the growing needs of businesses to go online, where their target audience is waiting for them to open the doors and embrace the buzz! Does it not hinting towards the effectiveness of Social Media Marketing? Well, Yes!
Social Media Marketing is generally not taken up by the companies as a Standalone Branding Strategy. Often, it is undertaken as a Complementary medium to the traditional push marketing approach and advertising, with intent to catch the customers once they log off from the traditional media like the TV or the print media advertisements. To put it simply, the link to social media in a business’ traditional advertisement is a way of saying, “See you there”! So, it is right to say that the job of Social Media Marketing starts from where the traditional marketing ends, and not only this, it sews the loose ends left in the traditional campaign.

This is justified with a wholesome experience that we get when we select the phone model that we wish to purchase, and the Company website plays the role of a nearby retail store. Merely advertising the product on TV and print media does not ensure many eye balls these days. And that is why, companies take special care to meet their target audience online, where there is no dearth of creativity that can be put to work. They know that the consumer these days spend more time watching stuff online than remaining glued to their television screens. According to a study, an average internet user spends 13 hours a week online, excluding e-mails. However, this does not necessarily indicate that Social Media Marketing is the only effective medium.
Generally, it acts like a complement to garner as many eyeballs as possible

Now, the question arises that how Social Media Marketing converts these eyeballs to potential customers for the businesses? It also leads one to think that is it not too dangerous a thing, considering it leaves the business open to criticism and negative publicity? Well, Social Media Marketing can be considered as a double edged sword, a tool that opens myriad of opportunities to businesses, but may also present unanticipated events in store, that may go off the track. So, it is up to the marketer how to carefully cut through the competition, to make himself heard! And not just to let the products speak, but also to let the customers be heard. This is what ensures the retaining of the pool of the loyalists.

So, how to ensure that an online marketing campaign does not come under the hammer, and thus, protecting the brand from negative publicity? One way is to understand why it might be so. Probably, the situation might not just be that grave, and might be warded off with a little interference. For instance, have a look at a hypothetical situation at the social media campaign of a fast food chain:

Campaign says, “Time to savor sugary delights with our new exciting range of strawberry mousse topped with soft coconut gratings” Following are the comments posted by users:
A: Yummy! I have tasted it and found it really good.
B: I second.
C: Waste of money! The coconut gratings with strawberry make a poor combination. On top of that, slow service spoiled my date.
D: I found it terribly good.
E: I second C.

…suppose a hoard of customers now try to bring on board the criticism, and the product is losing the sheen. In such a situation, a little interference from the brand saying, “We apologize for the unpleasant experience that you might have had with our service. Did you try our new range of dark chocolate mousse? Probably, you might like it better than the strawberry one”. Such a response may re-instill confidence in the patrons, and they feel that they are being heard!

So, the point that is to be considered is that some times, the customers are only looking for a platform to be heard, and vent off their frustration that might come up with an occasional bad experience with the brand or service! So, instead of reacting immediately, it might be advisable to wait and watch, for it may happen that the onset of a storm may be abated by a pleasant cool breeze of positive poll. However, a timely interference by the monitoring team shall be made in order to make the customers feel that they are heard and they matter!

Now, let us analyze the Social Media Marketing Model with respect to Indian Market to explore the scope of it in the times to come. India ranks 4 in the world in terms of number of Internet users, after China, United States and Japan. India has over 6% of total world’s population of internet users, and it is only expected to grow, as per Internet World Stats. China has 21.4%, followed by United States (12.2%) which is followed by Japan (5%). This shows that there is a huge scope of Social Media Market in Indian Market. And the growing number of brands showing successful social media presence bears a testimony to this fact. Often businesses try more innovative customer engagement activities online, as witnessed by the New ICC World Cup 2011 Campaign adopted by Pizza Hut at facebook, gauging the craze for cricket in India. Another success story is of Pantaloons Group with over 520,000 fans at facebook, giving daily updates on their new collections and receiving feedback from the patrons. And same can be observed in services, with institutions like Career Launcher coming up with GD/PI tips, B-school updates and quizzes to keep the MBA aspirants hooked.

To conclude, Social Media Marketing is not only a new wave in Marketing Revolution, but a metamorphosis of businesses’ initiatives towards connecting to customers digitally! It is more of a complementary activity, rather than a standalone strategy, which is to shine in the times to come.
The brand’s strategy has moved on from being production and selling oriented to being consumer oriented. Bottled Coke improved distribution and better bottle design improved convenience and appeal– brought “affordability, availability and acceptability”. But Coke figured an improvement in the same might appeal to consumers more - contoured bottle.

The strategy now has shifted its focus to ‘3Ps’- preference, pervasive penetration and price-related value. It uses ads and merchandise to build emotional attachment and has successfully developed an affinity over a period of time. Coke welcomed astronauts to ‘the home of Coca-Cola’. Such campaigns not only placed Coke in the ‘winning moment’ but also emphasized the brands ‘belonging’.
It achieved brand association by playing on the interests of its consumers– sports, entertainment and music– hence reinforcing the association with celebration and happiness. The latest campaign on Facebook, the ‘Expedition 206’ has three brand ambassadors trotting the globe on a mission to find out ‘what makes people happy’. With such promotional campaigns it attempts to create a brand essence of optimism and independence. The channels of communication may have changed from a simple billboard or signage to digital media - the message and the trademark remain the same.

But Coke realized its biggest strength only after it committed its biggest mistake. Coca-Cola developed hybrid brand architecture, the driver brands and sub-brands, along with Pepsi, ate into Coke’s market. To make it worse, Pepsi launched a series of youth campaigns followed by a Pepsi challenge which proved Pepsi to have a preferred taste. Coke panicked. After an intense market research it withdrew ‘Coke’

1 comment:

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