I generally don’t use FOUR-letter words in my blogs, but this one is straight from one of the brand managers, I spoke with following FACEBOOK’s “taking down (of) the official India pages of fashion house French Connection UK and chocolate giant Cadbury’s Bournville for violating the codes governing hosting of such pages and halting the social media promotion blitz that these brands have been riding on”. Read Srividya Iyer’s excellent report for more details.
My Point is that marketers need to wake up to using Social Media more effectively.
How? 3 years back, on a similar discussion with the India head of Nike, world’s largest sports brand, I had advised that social networks such as Facebook, Orkut, Friendfeed, and the like are passing phenomena, but Social Media isn’t!
My proposition, which comes from having been a player and observer in the digital Space since Craigslist started as a usenet group is as follows:
- People want content
- Content they want to share with other people relatively easily
- Which in term creates higher engagement between people
The whole phenomena of ‘likes’ and ‘fans’ mean nothing if people aren’t interacting with each other on a common platform- provided by the brand, NOT facebook, and on common or divergent interests. Look at the number of posts and likes on your own FaceBook posts and then visit a Brand Fanpage and you’ll notice the difference. Your posts get you more comments than likes, its JUST REVERSE for Brand fanpages.
So, while the hype and hoopla around FaceBook corporate pages went North, I with my Social Media Conversations Startup, Cloud9Media, advised brands to go Deep.
The result: 3 Niche social networks, which are now, interaction zones for people who are interested in following their interests in these areas, meeting with people of similar interests and creating Brand engagement beyond the social/online/digital play.
www.epl4india.com, is a Global Soccer community, where followers of clubs as diverse as deportivo,and Manchester United, exchange notes, set dates for joint viewing, as well as chat about the latest team movements, along with the usual ‘play’ dates.
www.highstreetperk.com, is a Fashionista hangout, where women mostly, share and connect with each other on latest fashion trends and styles, as they roll off the lines in Paris, Milan, and Tokyo, as well as the best deals for last season’s timeless classics, along with a coffee date, for joint shopping expeditions or even ringside passes for the upcoming India Fashion Week.
www.eatoutdelhi.com, is a Foodies social network, where people discover new chefs, new cuisines, restaurants, and share via blogs and videos, and also set up dates and trips to explore new culinary experiences in and around Delhi.
All the above have Facebook pages, some have twitter handles, but the important thing here is that it’s not about the number of likes and fans per page, its about the engagement which these niche social networks provide for the users and their interests, as well as the platform they provide for their brands.
What’s more, this approach, which I should have patented J is now playing out among brands, and brand managers are slowly realizing its not about the reach and visibility that the digital audience, is supposedly providing.
What the social media space actually allows brands to do is to build a positive experience zone that can bring more and more like- minded, People with similar interests onto a positive BUZZ and sales spiral. My experiences in the last 3 years, suggest that for every brand that we have built niche social networks for, sales have spiraled across all channels.
The Reason? Social Media is WORD OF MOUTH on Steroids. You share something on social media- be it on a network like FaceBook, or an Innocuous tweet, and the whole world of people like you, and who like you, gets to know. It doesn’t matter if you’re announcing a new romance, or sharing your heartache, or even stating common cause with the young and the elderly, people in your brand target group know each other, within seven degrees of separation, and therefore they know. When that happens, you see demonstrated behavior from across all categories, i.e. the trend we called in 2009 on Gladiator shoes in Highstreetperk, quickly became such a rage, that the brand which we were advocating told us that they were all sold out.
The Lesson? Build your own garden, use the fundamental truths of Social Networking, and allow your users to bring in more people like them because you provide a common platform which becomes shorthand for excellent lifestyle experiences around your brand.
And, of course, read The Economic Times report again on FaceBook rules and regulations, and ask your eager beaver social media agency to provide you documentary evidence that they know what damage you might have to bear, before you spend millions of dollars just to be where you think your brand might get visibility.
Remember, visibility and interaction are at different stages of the sales cycle. On social Media, its all about discovery and bonding with who or what you discover.
Last word: Many years back, at a meeting in SFO, a colleague who had flown in from Washington DC to meet me had said, “am here, because you cant fax a handshake!” I believe, social networks do fill in some of the interactions, but you still need that physical connect.