It’s not like 2009 where brands and businesses in India discarded Social Media as a FAD. I remember quite well how doubtful business communities were. Fast forward to 2012, after 3 years and what do we have? India has around 60.5 millions active Facebook users, around 15 million Twitter & LinkedIn users and the ever increasing influence on mainstream media, politics, education and entertainment. A major paradigm shift, which brands never expected to happen, and yet it happened.
As brands in India are starting to spend on Social Media Marketing, the world in large is already taken by the emergence of Big Data and its impact on business. It’s not only about the data and analysis, but also about actionable analytics that brands are looking at. What can you do with these data, is one question in their mind. And in midst of this change lies another change – The eco-system of Advertising Agencies, Digital Media Agencies, PR Firms, and Marketing consultants. Young graduates, who have been in tune with the new media, are the new heroes of digital marketer.
India in large, is still figuring out the effect of social media on businesses. Though brands have started to invest in Facebook Ads, YouTube Ads and other portals, the concept is still naïve. Social Media for them is still an advertising venue [FULLSTOP]. This is how most brands think in India – “I have X marketing budget, there are Y places to invest. As Social Media is still experimental, I am ready to spend Z% of X.” Hence at the end, we have a social media campaign that starts with Z% of X marketing budget, which mostly gets invested in Facebook Ads. The flaw here is to start by assuming that social media is a part of your MARKETING budget.
If you visit any top brands making its presence on social media through Facebook or Twitter, you will notice that they receive an enormous amount of request from fans. Fans do not like the page because they literally LIKE the brand, instead they want to follow up with updates and get information. Be it TATA Docomo or Airtel or Flipkart, people are not just listening, they are ASKING too. The sad part is most of those questions remain unanswered. WHY? Because the traditional thought process says, “Answering customer query is not a part of Marketing team, its customer support team”. This is how different functions of a Brand are operating in silos. The gap between these functions needs to be bridged before any BRAND can call them self a social media friendly brand.
Implementing social media in businesses is more than just hiring an agency to handle social media properties. It’s about investing in technologies, human resources and planning for long-term opportunities. If done correctly, social media can become the most important part of your organization; else it will just be a place where you thoughtlessly spend money buying fake profiles.
Of course, bashing brands alone is not what I have in mind! There are specific trends which I have been seeing in the market. Firstly, brands are saying to themselves, “Lets not fool around.”
Key trends in what Brands are thinking:
- What are people talking about my brand? (Intelligence)
- My end goal is to increase my customer base, can it help? (Purpose/Goal)
- How do I influence people to talk about my brand? (Action Plan)
- How do I execute and manage my social media plan? (Resources)
- How do I validate my social media activities? (Measurement)
Brands in India have started asking these questions and keeping it as an agenda in their weekly meetings. This thought process is leading them to go to the market with a purpose in their mind and till they are satisfied they are always asking about it. They are asking this to their Advertising agencies, PR agencies, Technology partners, Market researchers, Thought leaders in the industry and so on. And there is a huge overhaul happening in the field of agency industries because suddenly they are facing a question which they have no answer to.
This is happening not only in India but in other parts of the world as well. Hence, we come to read about new social media companies being acquired by large companies. The skill set required to solve the new problem is still not defined. If you want to hire a social media manager, HR will go blank. (This in itself can be an interesting topic to discuss.)
Now I have come to the most interesting part of the story and how I see it winding up. Just to give a recap: Change in Consumer trend has forced Brands to invest in social media. Traditional companies don’t have enough skill sets but they cannot ignore their agitated customer base.
As a result, we are seeing innovation from new companies, which are quickly getting acquired by biggies. The market is seeing void in the skill sets. But no market is validated unless it scales. In order to scale, we need a technique of transferring this knowledge base and producing manpower with the required skill sets. So all the pressure is now being transferred to the Universities and Academics, who have no idea what the hell they are dealing with, because there is no papers or books or research on it. What they have is a YouTube video of a 24 year old guy/gal who call themselves Social Media Expert. But the race is ON, to create the standards.
For last few months, I have personally been engaged in talking to top professors in IIMs and even from US, who are interested in knowing how it can be implemented in the core curriculum.
So in summary, what I can say is that it’s time for innovation and setting up standards in a chaotic market. Because currently, the one who can provide intelligence and validate social media will come out as a winner.