IGNORE SOCIAL MEDIA AT YOUR OWN PERIL


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Brands can’t afford to get their customer experience wrong and there’s no better place to establish the right connect
By Tulika Singh

From knock knock to PING, from letters to e-mails, from postcards to tweets and from calendar-markings to notifications, ‘social media’ has re-defined all our good old traditional ways of day-to-day interaction. And brands have also woken up to this means of communication and engagement. The Internet has about 2.7 billion users across the globe. If they made a country, that would be as populous as China and India put together. And Facebook nation would come third.
This outreach factor alone makes the Internet the ‘must go to’ place for businesses, irrespective of their size or type. Content marketing expert and social media consultant Bikram K. Singh says, “Social media should be facebook-19seen as an ‘information sharing’ medium, which incidentally, is a two-way platform that a marketeer can use to seed the product deeper in the consumers’ psyche – something
traditional advertising can’t hope to imagine – and to get insights to optimise (fine-tune) the future messages or campaigns.”
Elaborating on the social media’s current relevance, Professor Sham Sharma, a management consultant, says that, “Mind is the new body. The new customer profile is: time-starved, overworked and stressed. Apart from this, physical fitness, mental health, academic highlights, career progress and material aspirations  are today’s benchmarks. Realising this, marketeers are coming up with suitable products and services. These have to be properly communicated through online media.” And what is better than the social media to captivate and engage the target consumers?
Though Facebook broke new grounds in social media advertising, some experts speculate that the social network’s growth may not last for long. Aaron Smith, senior researcher at Pew Research Centre, thinks that Facebook has been facing growth-stagnation issues. He told The Washington Post: “It’s hard to get more than 85 per cent of anyone doing anything. A lot of the easy converts in the younger group, or even in the older and middle-aged group, are already on the site. The senior group is the only area that has any substantial area for growth.”
The global big picture holds true for India as well, Manoj Deb, executive director of Bang In The Middle, feels. “It’s high time that businesses stopped considering Facebook as their primary platform. The rest of the world has certainly moved on. Most people have now moved on to Twitter and even Snapchat – an application most Indians don’t even know of. That is where our future lies and that is what corporate houses should be drafting their investment plans for.”

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On the flipside, some do believe that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Hence, a country’s technological advancement will always go hand in hand with its development.
More than ever, the Internet is increasingly influencing people’s decision on where to travel and how to share their experiences with others.
“By having an active social media presence, Kerala Tourism is inspiring and informing global travellers with things to do and places to see in Kerala. Kerala Tourism is using Facebook and other social networks to share beautiful photos and have meaningful conversations with people. That’s a smart approach,” says Chad Wiebsick, director of social media for Michigan Economic Development Corp, USA.
“Social media is about being social and having a dialogue with people rather than a monologue. It’s not just the number of fans but the level of fan participation that’s important in today’s social media world. Kerala Tourism is doing a phenomenal job by turning its fans into heroes on Facebook. It is able to constantly generate likes, shares and interests from people,” Wiebsick adds.
Hinting at the indispensable nature of social media, Professor Sharma says, “We all know that China has become a global hub for novel products and services. The rail subway in Beijing offers rebates on the fare for every empty plastic bottle thrown into the reverse vending machine. Philips in China has a joint venture making intelligent street lighting. You may feel that these are essentially social acts. Nevertheless even such acts have to be promoted so that the unaware become aware of these. Social media gives you the reach to do this effectively.”
There are, however, a few things to be kept in mind if the power of the social media has to be harnessed to its full potential. Maninder Singh, director of Roots Research, says all businesses eyeing the social media space must first remember that  it is a pull medium not push. “Secondly, when people are talking, it makes sense to listen to the conversations rather than burying one’s head in the sand. And last but not the least, don’t fail to ask your customers to advocate your brand and promote you,” he lays out a basic blueprint.
“The more people get hooked to any network-linked device, the larger will be the social media’s share in any marketing budget,” says Bikram K. Singh who believes that the only challenge for social media in times to come will be “posed by language”.
Bloggers also play a crucial role in social media campaigns. Today, there are over two billion blogs on the Internet. In a way, they have become the most potent form of word-of-mouth communication.
Social media is the “biggest fundamental shift after the Industrial Revolution,” says Eric Qualman in ‘Socialnomics’. To take over pornography as the number one activity on the Internet, all it took was four years. About 80 per cent of recruiters today are using social media, of which 95 per cent trust LinkedIn. Fifty per cent of mobile Internet traffic is for Facebook alone, 78 per cent of people trust peer recommendation while only 14 per cent trust advertisements. The million dollar question here is whether businesses can afford to get their customer experience wrong.

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