Thursday, May 6, 2010

Demise of social media website


Internet industry is teeming with social networking sites. Top websites that has captured the mind share are face book, You Tube, Blogger, Baidu, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, dig and WordPress. Although it is the trend, this in itself is no guarantee for social networking sites success? ‘Interactive nature’ of social media has transformed the meaning of ‘human communication’. This is a sharing mechanism that keeps users to the sites. Users increase the popularity of any websites and especially if I talk about social networking sites users work as a propellers to push to success. I opened my Face book account because some of my friends suggested me to do so. A high number of users attract the advertisers for advertising and this is how websites earns money and makes profit. “If anything goes wrong with ‘conversation mechanism’, it becomes the prime reason for the failure of any social networking websites”.

Since the inception of social media we have witnessed umpteenth sites lose popularity, after the initial success like yari, apna circle, bigadda, bharat networking, six degree, live journal and Friendster. Many sites have come and gone but the decline of ‘Bebo - Blog early, blog often’ really catches my attention. In April 2010 AOL announced to sell or shut down Bebo. The site was launched in 2005 and was acquired by AOL in 2008. Slowly it became the world’s most popular social networking site and still holds the position in UK and some other countries. It downturn started in 2007 when Face book over took it in terms of number of users.

Reasons for failure:

• Social networks need to have a clear purpose. It should define its target group from its inception. Many websites fail because of lack of conceptual planning and ignorance of users’ need. It prioritises monetization from the beginning and thus, advertisements are given more importance over users’ engagement. I am not saying don’t put banners because this is the way to earn money in Internet domain. But too much of it can result in the loss of user connect and may push them away. Social media website should have proper balance between advertisements and content. Ignorance of any of these two can be the reason for decline. So, use the space judiciously to keep your users engaged.

• Social media is about sharing; if you remove the sharing quotient then it will lose its essence. It might act like a king in the beginning but with the passage of time it will fail to offer anything new to users. Nobody wants to joins a social networking site that doesn’t do anything special other than what is already being offered by other websites in the market. Don’t be a copy- cat but try to lure users by delivering fresh and engaging features. This was the only reason people shifted from Orkut to Facebook. Facebook understood its users and gave a new angle to social networking. It added various features that helped users to share more with their friends. Games like Farmville and Mafia Wars are the top most games in social media domain. The number of Face book users is only growing with time.

• Social media website should be user friendly. Complexities in technology can diver users to alternate options. One of the vivid examples is Friendster’s failure. Though, Friendster offered different features it put an age limit for its users, blocking people who were below 18. Kids nowadays constitute the biggest users base for social networking. MySpace took a quick decision and offered all the required luxury to its users. But even MySpace could not keep the promise and headed downhill after a while. You cannot expect all of your users to be tech friendly. It is a good area that can give the website an edge. Social media is not merely about connecting people and sharing images and videos. It is also about being able to express them in the manner that users want them to be. I was wondering why the demography of Face book’s population is so diverse. The one simple reason I can see is its users’ friendly ecosystem. This is giving marketers enough reasons to participate and Face book enough points to earn.

Take away: Technology changes at lightning speed, so there is no guarantee that any one website will stay at the number 1 all time. Right now Face book is clearly leading but may be one day some other website can come up and take the hot seat in the social media milieu. As long as a social networking site can manage to offer engaging content, there is no reason for its failure.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Google’s Googly

When you talk about Internet, first word that pops up is ‘Google’. With the acquisition of ‘Episodic’ on April 2, 2010 Google added one more star in its kitty. ‘Episodic’ is a comprehensive platform for broadcasting live and on-demand video to web or any other web-enabled devices. You can host, stream, measure and monetize video content. This acquisition once again raised many eye-brows as when Google acquired ‘You Tube’ in 2006. At that time ‘You Tube’ was hardly making any profit. The turnaround is now in front of you. Here I will try to analyse how Google manages to turn these risky acquisition into success at jet speed.

Started from a garage, Google now has become one of the leaders in Internet space. If you go by sheer size, Google has almost 50% of the pie. Internet is one of the most fragile spaces, so in the end size alone does not count for much.
With the passage of time Google is only increasing its presence and there is no stopping it. It has redefined the nature of the game. No longer are the largest companies in any industry necessarily the leaders in today’s competitive world.

Google’s success:
One thing is clear. They are obviously not just organizing the world’s information’, they also own publishing platform/content like Picasa, Android, You Tube, Adscape, DoubleClick, Feed Burner, Postini, etc. That is what brings to light Google’s true strategy. Crux lies in Google’s strategy. Innovation and out of box thinking are the reasons behind its success. It has a reputation for risky acquisition and partnership and playing by its own rule to create innovation and value for its customer. Google has an upper edge in synergizing its product by seizing an opportunity to bolster its current advertising business model. Google always take first step and probably creates the new business paradigm shift, thus exponentially increase its user base. The real issue is integration; Google is working toward it by delivering maximum products mix in the online domain. It’s not only adding more option but re-branding many of its acquisition to integrate its offerings and there-by adding more value to its products. Today, competitors live in the hopes to sell their ideas or services to Google in order to become a part of profit opportunity by being linked with the dot com giant.

Everybody is keeping an eye on; what will be Google’s next move. Due to high competitive environment, Google also faces problems ranging from management, organisation to technology. One thing is quite obvious, though Google is in the online space so its revenue is based on advertising. However merely adding new avenues for ad is not its only strategy. Google knows that its ad space is high in demand not only because that it has more space but also because it functions on target advertising model. Google not only maximized its income, but also increased the relevance of those paid search ads. Its relevancy is driven by the attention people pay to it. Attention and trust of users are very important pillars in the online business. Google maintains it by delivering tailored and relevant search result. Google focuses on its users’ friendly experience by optimizing its service for end users’ first and for revenue second. It firmly believes that the better the user experience, the more easily money will follow.

Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are deeply involved in its mission to organize world’s information. Now Google is widely recognized as the world’s largest search engine that provides relevant result in a fraction of second. The key success is its underlying technology called ‘PageRank’- a unique algorithm formula originally developed by its founder that can sort results according to their perceived importance.

Take away: Google started out as a search engine but soon leveraged other opportunities to hold and increase its presence in the Internet space. It also owns stakes in niche markets. It is one of the most important search engine companies with nearly 50% share. Today Google has competitive advantage over others, but to remain competitive in this information technology world it has to be flexible enough to fit itself in this giant ecosystem. If Yahoo and Microsoft are successful in delivering similar or better services than Google, then Google will be in deep waters.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Social media strategy for brands

Twitter and Facebook are becoming a big social media platforms. So, companies are using them as a medium for marketing. Whether it’s an online product or an offline product social media is turning into as a very effective marketing tool. To have a strong presence in social media companies have to have some strategies in place. Social media marketing is different from traditional marketing strategy. In integrating your social media efforts with real products and activities, it is important that you care about the complete customer experience. Success of social media strategy depends upon on your ability to recognize problems and seize opportunities to solve it.

Why brands want to use social media for marketing?

Facts: social media has a huge user base. Roughly Facebook having 500 million and Twitter having 50 million users. 2/3rd of the users fall between the age group of 18-35. Studies have shown that time spends on sites like Facebook, Twitter, You tube, Blogger etc is increasing at an astronomical rate. Brands are using digital media for interactive advertising in the following forms:
 Search engine
 Display banner
 Classified
 Rich media (audio and video)
 Lead generation
 Email marketing
 Sponsorship

 First of all, first brand should have its own Twitter account.
 Direct tweeting about the product is not a fruitful idea. This can bore users because there is not any exciting element to divert attention. So, first listen to users. Brand should participate in some micro sites/group/ Twitter account where people are thinking and talking about related words of your product. They should project themselves as a fun/advice provider rather than to be pushy about its products.
 Social media is all about two way communication and communication builds relationship. So follow users religiously and start retweeting. This will help in building relationship. Most important this will increase your follower’s base. Above two steps will give you insight about the market and what exactly people want.
 Now start tweeting. But not directly talk about the product. Present your product in interesting ways. Like some quotes, jokes, opinion etc. An important thing, Twitter is a discussion not just a broadcast, so engage users by delivering exciting topic. Then let users retweet you. This creates base and helps in brand building.
 Tweet about some links and integrate your product-link with this. Help diverting traffic to the product website. May be users visiting the site won’t register but at least this will increase brand recall/page views. In my opinion a micro blogging website like Twitter can be used mostly for brand building rather than lead generation.
 Company should create blogs in different blogging websites and tweet about them. Invite users to leave comments about related topics and further divert users to your website or invite them to follow you. Blog posts should be optimized for SEO.
 Companies can get instant feedback and real time information from Twitter that can help in research. And this will enhance the product presentation.
 Slowly talk about the product and its consumer insight. Keep it interesting, engage them and build relationship.

Same as Twitter, start marketing on Facebook. Though it has some different features so brand can follow these steps:
 Do all the steps what ever done in Twitter.
 Company can have user account and it should create pages/groups/communities, where it can get fans.
 Add interesting applications that has an engagement factor. When any users use this application then ask users to become a fan. If user is already in the fan list, then divert them directly to website.
 Now within pages keep adding interesting topics like, tips for beauty, healthy relationships and so on, depending upon the product try to give entertainment quotient to your users and integrate the product link to these topics.
 Facebook and fan list are good sources of market research. So, crunch data about the users profile and do target marketing. Divert them to the product website.
 Bundle the product with different interesting offers and involve users and build relationship eg, discount on holiday packages, beauty parlors etc.

Global phenomenon:
Global brands involved in social media marketing and use it as an imperative tool to improve interaction with customers:
 Dell announces company and product news, talks directly with customers, responds to complaints and regularly asks for feed backs.
 Dell organizes quizzes through Facebook and provides interactive experience to users.
 Dell also Tweet with links about discounts and promotions. With all these activities Dell’s estimated earnings are around $6.5 million.
 Cisco is also leveraging social media. Through blogs it is doing one to one conversation and this is helping in SEO.
 Cisco is organizing virtual events through Twitter like teleconferencing and so on.
 Cisco is doing all its global product launches through social media and getting real-time global impact, two way customer interactions etc.

Take away:Company has a great scope in social media marketing as not many players are very active in this domain. It can give them first movers’ advantage.

Friday, April 2, 2010

3 E’S of Social media

Internet has ushered in the next revolution called ‘social media’. The catch here is the word ‘social’. I have been observing the industry for quite some time and I have seen a seismic shift in this domain. ‘Social media’ has evolved itself as tool of marketing, branding and networking. On the other hand it is moving as the fastest growing communication medium around. This opportunity has paved a way for various brands, companies and marketers to be a part of this media. What makes social media even more exciting is the introduction if Web 2.0, WiMax and 3G connectivity. Studies have reviled that more than 60% of mobile web page views are to social networking sites. Users are increasing at an astronomical rate and ample of web application are being introduced to churn into this market. In the end it’s not about number of users it’s about level of engagement and 360 degree view of users’ experience. It’s about relationship building, reputation management and sharing of ideas and knowledge. Social media has become a catalyst and it’s neither an end nor a beginning of any marketing activities. It is turn out to be an effective tool when, it is finely woven into the fabric of a brand’s activity other product information. After spending fair amount of time, I got 3 most effecting activities that shaping social media into a ‘multipolar world’.

Entertain: Quotient of entertainment starts from ‘engagement’. Social media is offering millions of multimedia applications and features that not only increasing the number of users but also entertaining them. Data indicates, that average time spend by users are increasing day by day. Users are making friends, fans and followers by sharing status massage, uploading photos, playing games, downloading music, blogging and getting customized information. Some of the examples are like coke FB Fan club. It has fans around 5,290373. Game like Mafia Wars and Farmville are the most played games on FB.
Educate: Social media is about connecting with real people and networking. The interactive social media platform offers a higher credibility because these are open, transparent and carry third party opinions. Today digital world has fulfilled a consumer’s need for reliable information. People are talking about brands 24*7 with their peer networks and even other network influencers. Within a fraction of second users get to know information about products and services. Brands are engaging them to create better product, improve existing one and thereby building the brand together.
Earn: social media is giving an opportunities to monetize their audience through marketing and advertising. Social media has the power to expose website/brand to large group of people through active syndication. Results in higher visibility and multiple search entries. For users, presence + performance = leads = sales = revenue. Like Dell has earned around $ 6.5 million sales with social media as an advertising platform.

Take away: Effectiveness of social media majorly depends upon understanding the customers. It’s about getting the right message, at the right time and in the right way. Social media is not a sales mechanism, it’s a relationship mechanism that eventually drives sales.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Humour Marketing

Humour marketing is one of the tools of marketing, through which brands are marketing their products and services with the ting of humour in it. This is different from traditional marketing, where the main aim was just to inform people about their products and services. Persuasive nature of humour has forced brand to think beyond advertising. Studies have shown that 94% of marketing practitioners see humour as an effecting way to gain attention. Humour marketing helps in arousing curiosity thereby enhances liking. ‘Humour marketing’ is just like a ‘viral marketing’; it automatically gets its own life and starts spreading like a virus. Everybody wants to see it, and when they do, they all want to share it.
The success of humour marketing lies, when marketers infuse emotion in advertisement, be the unexpected, offer more than product and have some sequel and connect with comment. I remember Sony made Bravia TV ‘bouncy ball’ ad, product was not seen but has a strong recognition. Studies show that many of the most memorable ad campaigns around tend to be funny. Audiences like to be entertained, but not pitched. Just take the example of ‘crazy frog’, it started off as a ring tone of a humorous ad campaign and has become biggest selling ring tone in the world. Traditional marketing strategy is more of ‘target marketing’ but as we delve into the core of ‘humour marketing’, it is beyond ‘target marketing’. Examples of double mint chew gum and Max New York life insurance has great sense of humour in it. Humour is the blood of media, whether its on-line media or off-line media. This supplements the very nature of marketing and gives them an innovative angle to package the product. There is a thin line between funny and obnoxious, so marketers have to be cautious enough to include humour in marketing communication. Benefits of humour marketing:

Humour helps increase brand reach- Humour marketing is one of the fastest ways to increase brand recall by boosting mind share. Here marketers don’t have to push the brand again. Brands embraced with social media are the perfect example of it. Any content with humour reaches to million in a fraction of second. If a brand makes users laugh then this relationship will help the brand to reach more and more just like viral marketing. Whenever anybody utter ‘Amul’, only two words come in mind and that is ‘utterly, butterly’ and ‘The taste of India’. It has started 40 years ago in 1967 and still fresh in the mind of people.
Humour gives new dimension to brand- Humour marketing is more than reaching one users to another easily and quickly. This helps in product extension and an effective tool to inter into social media like facebook, twitter etc. Humour also adds a visual dimension to a marketing strategy and differentiates the brand from competitors. ‘Raj ma’ ad of kurkure is more than an ad. Radio channels are airing the contest related to the ad. If we talk about ZooZoo, there are toys and merchandises have available in the market.
Humour increase brand engagement- Humour marketing not only help in brand building but also build relationship with consumers by engaging them in various product offering like games, merchandise etc. Users feel the brand association and spread the positive word of mouth. Ultimately the close-up ad ‘kya ap close-up karte ho’ has an amazing sense of humour. Even people started singing in the same tone. There are ample of examples that have changed the face of brands with humour marketing.

I think we would all agree that ‘HUMOUR’ sells, just think about one television commercial as an example. The one we all remember and don’t mind seeing again and again is our add sensation ‘ZooZoo’. I still remember when this ‘ZooZoo’ commercial came and this became the buzz word in on-line media as well as off-line media. This commercial was created to promote the value added services (VAS) of Vodaphone during IPL 2. As ‘VAS’ is the cash cow for cellular industries so, Hutch turned Vodaphone came with a new concept. This ‘ZooZoo’ commercial was a melange of creativity as well as humour. Everybody was pondering about their birth; it was neither an alien nor a puppet. It was a semi alien semi-human character living in an earth like place.
Success of ‘ZooZoo’ was more than the humour content; way of storytelling was an amazing concept. Vodaphone has decided to air 25 distinct commercial in this campaign, each laden with different story. I still remember I used to copy ZooZoo’walk. These presentations have taken the advertising to the next level and it’s beyond marketing. The engagement of ‘ZooZoo’ in social media is an avid example like Facebook, twitter and You tube. Now the brand association of ZooZoo has reached the zenith. People have started buying its merchandise like toys, t-shirt etc.

Take away: Every success has the risk quotient, and those who dare reach the zenith. Humour helps both in retention and attention. It operates on an emotion level thereby has a sense of brand association. Humour sells, so it doesn’t mean that every ad will have humour in it. It’s very important to decide whether or not to use humour. Type of product has a great implication on marketing communication. With the advent of digital media and new communication technologies has ushered in a fresh wave of humour marketing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The state of digital marketing in India

Digital marketing is a media vehicle to promote a product or a service through Internet, mobile or any other interactive channel. The concept of digital marketing started during 1990’s with the emergence of Internet evolution. We further divide digital marketing into Pull vs. Push.

Pull digital marketing: This involves the user who seek out and directly grab the content via blog, specific links/sites and streaming media.
Push digital marketing: Content is being sent by SMS, RSS and EMAIL.

Rapid changes that are occurring in on-line/digital marketing, reshaping the way businesses and consumers interact with each other. Advertisers are eager to understand and utilize the Internet technology to build customer relationship. It has become an effecting tool for marketing communications medium. This has resulted in an array of one-to-one, real time, personalized product and target marketing. Digital marketing has given birth to customized marketing that is closely linked to individual customers’ needs and wants with goods, services and information just a mouse click away. Internet advertising has recaptured the imagination of marketers, who see a massive potential to raze the profile of their brand through digital marketing tactics like:
 Blogging
 Microblogging (Twitter)
 Blogger relation
 Email marketing
 Social media advertising
 Social network participation
 Search engine optimization
 Pay per click
 Cost per acquisition (CPA)
 Cost per impression (CPI)
 Streaming media (Audio and Video marketing)

Growth factors for digital marketing:
Internet user base- India has witnessed continuous growth in the Internet adoption majorly in urban areas. There are 50 million Internet users, but numbers of claimed and active Internet users are 57 million and 42 million. Internet access growth started accelerating in 2002 and changes the face of Web and Email. Even Internet has starting penetrating to the bottom of pyramid.
Web 2.0- It manifests itself as a social network and facilitates interactive information sharing on the World Wide Web. The ‘Web 2.0’ has changed the face of off –line marketing tactics and offering ways to dramatically improve marketing reach while simultaneously reducing cost. This includes web-based communities, web applications, social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis and blogs. This user driven online services has catches the attention of marketers.
Emergence of social media- The term ‘Social Media’ was used first after LinkedIn created their social network application in 2004. The very concept has risen steadily in 2006Social media has a huge base roughly Facebook having 350 million and Twitter having 50 million users. . Recent studies indicates that social media is becoming a more important part of the ‘global media consumption’ for internet users. ‘Gen Y’ the future consumer eats, drinks and sleep social media.
Mobile marketing- Mobile penetration in India is the second highest in the world today. There are 350 million mobile subscribers in India and every month over 8 million users are being added. Mobile value added services, smart phones and 3G technologies, have made this sector even more lucrative.
Online activities- With the advent of Internet, users are involving in online activities with double fold. Users have got various reasons like:
• Job search
• Instant messaging/chatting
• Check general news
• Dating/friendship
• Check sports (other than cricket)
• Check cricket content/score
• English information search engine
• Matrimonial search
• Streaming media (audio and video)
• Download music
• Games

Currently digital advertising has a very small component of total advertising spend and that is only 4%. Current studies have shown that, Indian online advertising market is Rs 245 crores and it will experience the highest growth over the next five year. As digital advertising is continued to grow, so marketers need to understand the implication of various parameters of consumer behaviour. The challenge for marketers is to have a clear and deeper understanding of every media vehicle so that can selectively target right users. Internet has opened up a lot of opportunities for marketers for targeting customers in an interactive and informative way. Digital advertising fruit full for target and personalize marketing and gather information across geographical boundaries in accost effective manner. Digital advertising not only helps in lead generation but also result in brand building. As the influence of Internet is surmounting, marketers should take a collaborative approach. Still with having this vast users base growth of online display advertising is very less compared to other developed countries. Companies should monitor its need and accordingly shape up their digital advertising content. Digital advertising consist of banner ads, sponsorship links, pop-ups content based ads and rich media. In India marketers are still apprehensive about digital marketing. Lack of awareness and lack of expertise might be the reason for not delving into this sector.

Take away- Recent financial debacle in the US and its aftermath on the India economy has resulted in differences in market dynamics. However increase of Internet user base, extensive usage of Internet by political parties for elections and consistently usages of Internet for advertising by SMEs are the whooping factors strongly supporting for sustained growth of ‘Internet Marketing/digital advertising’ market in India. The above data points are yet to mature in India and secondly this growth is likely to driven by, when local languages have a sizable share in Internet domain.