Fixing social media marketing for brands

MUMBAI: With social media becoming the buzzword for brands over the last one year, most chief marketing officers have now either created a presence for their brands on social media or are considering plunging into social platforms. However, the marketing community has still not been able to quantify the effectiveness of social media.

The speakers at the 8th Marketing conclave 2012, organised by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), offered valuable insights to CMOs on social media. The panel consisted of LIC India executive director Usha Sangwan, Kotak Mahindra Group head marketing Karthi Marshan, Shoppers Stop customer care associate and vice president- marketing and loyalty Vinay Bhatia, head branding & marketing communication Alok Saraogi Ashok Leyland and Group M national director social and insights Karthik Nagarajan. The session was moderated by IBM India/South Asia chief marketing officer Virginia Sharma.

Sharma said, "CMOs need to acquaint themselves with technology and social media as their roles change towards becoming a Chief Marketing Technologist. Marketers need to be authentic when communicating with customers via social media.”

It was also opined that companies should use negative feedback on social media as an opportunity to convert negative commentators for the brand into advocates by responding to complaints effectively on an open platform.

Bhatia said, “There should be one single team that is responsible for responding to the feedback of the customers. This team may take guidance from the various departments, but the communication to the consumer should be handled by this one team along with certain protocols according to the individual company’s policy.”

The speakers were unanimous in agreeing that social media needs to be customer centric in its approach and all digital medium needs to reflect the same thought process. The medium today is a vital tool for a consumer focused brand to speak and engage its target audience. However for it to be effective CMOs need to realise that it is different from advertising. For a brand to build a social tribe of online advocates and influencers it needs to have individual conversations between its consumers and itself.

Sangwan said, “Social media is a platform to connect with youth, understand them and present the USPs of your brand to add value to the target audience. We at LIC understand that today‘s generation believes in happy healthy fulfilling life as well as financial freedom, and our brand LIC stand for the same. Accordingly all our social campaigns have been based on this insight which has helped us to engage customers in a meaningful way.”

Marshan offered, “Marketers should remember that when your customer comes online to your website, he has already chosen your brand. Most of the times he or she visits the site to get answers to specific questions. Instead of trying to sell your brand in this case, address this query upfront rather than have him/her search for it.”

Another pertinent point that came through was that a brand needs to be sure of its identity and the social media campaign should be an extension of that identity. A brand need not reinvent itself solely for using the social media domain.

Agreeing to this point of view, Saraogi opined, “One must also remember that the entire organisation needs to be mature enough to handle the consequences of using the social media. The maturity of the medium and the users should also be kept in mind while operating in the online space.”

The panelists agreed that while being online is definitely the thing to do, each brand also needs to back its online performance by offline services and follow-ups. Only an integrated approach to social media marketing can bear the fruits it seems to promise.

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