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.