by Sunil Shah

4 (okay 5) Problems With Social Media Strategies in India

Feature
Jun 04, 2015
BudgetingBusinessCar Tech

A lot money is being driven into social media marketing. But some of that’s being wasted, unless you apply these fixes.

Indian enterprises are pouring a lot of money into social media. According to a EY’s Social Media Marketing: India Trends Study 2015, report a full 90 percent of Indian brands plan to spend up to 15 percent of their marketing budgets on social media.

Not all of those investments will get the same amount of RoI. That’s because not every company’s social media strategy is as comprehensive as best-in-class companies. 

“Merely having a presence on Twitter or Facebook doesn’t mean that you have a social media strategy,” says Vishal Tripathi, research director at Gartner.

Here are some of the more popular social media strategy flaws.

Mixing Channels

You wouldn’t use a slotted screwdriver on a Phillips screw head would you? In the same vein, you shouldn’t use Instagram, instead of Facebook, or Twitter.

But you’d be amazed by the number marketers that will use inappropriate mediums to carry their message, preferring to blast their message across all mediums. Think of restaurants that want to boast of the largest buffet using Twitter to spread the word, when pictures on Pintrest could probably go a lot further.

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“A lot of the time, people don’t have a clear strategy around why they want to use a particular channel. It’s sad but that the content strategy many marketers apply is the same whether they use Facebook or Twitter. They provide the same content on Twitter and on Facebook. That is a big issue, and a challenge, with social channels,” says Tripathi.

The mistake executives in charge of social media are making is ignoring the strengths and the weaknesses of different social channels.

“Every channel whether it’s a social media channel, or an ATM channel, or a mobile channel–has its own innate abilities and the focus must be to leverage it in the best possible way. For example Twitter is all about trending content, sharing and participating in new ideas. It’s different from the core of Facebook, which is predominantly about connecting with people,” says Joydeep Dutta, senior manager, Digital Advisory, EY

He says there are number of challenges with today’s social media strategies, some of which are highlighted in this article.

It also works the other way around: Customers have different expectations from different mediums. For example, people who tweet at a brand expect a reply in one hour, according to research from digital marketing firm Mainstreethost. That probably implies that urgent complaints are most likely to be placed on Twitter—possibly making Twitter an optimal channel to service customers.

Not Targeting

Just because marketers are using a new channel to communicate with consumers, shouldn’t mean that old lesson are forgotten. One of the foundations of marketing is segmenting and targeting.

According to EY research, “identifying and reaching the right target audience on social media,” is the biggest challenge Indian enterprises face with their social media strategies.

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The lack of segmenting and targeting isn’t new. The same challenge was evident with the way online and mobile banking solutions were developed and marketed in India by lot of banks, says EY’s Dutta.

“When mobile banking first came to India, every bank was quick to develop an app or some kind of a Web-based solution. But if you asked them what was the enrolment and the adoption of their mobile banking initiatives, most banks would report responses that were not promising. And that’s because they had only thought of being in that channel, but they had not thought about how to target a particular segment, what kind of key functionalities or use cases they need to build to attract that segment, and how and where to market the product or how to integrate with other channels,” he says.  

Today, creating and maintaining a social channel is relatively easy, given the number of third-party social agencies that offer the services. The hard part is figuring out exactly what you want from a channel, and who to target in order to get to a specific goal.

“I believe that putting up a new channel should mean being very clear about defining which type(s) of audience it is targeting and how you want to go about it” says Dutta. “There’s a need to better define target audience better and it shouldn’t revolve only around their age group or income but a much holistic persona needs to be defined that can cut across the traditional boundaries of segment definition.”

Working in Silos 

A popular TV writing device is the use of bad communication. When two parties on a sitcom don’t realize they are working at cross purposes, it results in hilarity.

But there’s nothing funny about bad communication when it happens in business. When one side of a business isn’t aware of the data another side is collecting, it leave customers frustrated and ready to switch loyalty.

Unfortunately, that’s the way many social media strategies are run today: In silos.

“With social media channels, it’s very important for marketers to figure out how to integrate a new channel with their current portfolio of channels. Today, that is what is missing in a big way. Lot of new channels work in isolation,” says Dutta.

Dutta gives an example of how this should work. Take for example, he says, that a customer called up a call centre of a firm to report an issue but does not hear back in the said timeline. The next day, he expresses his displeasure on Twitter or some other channel of convenience and choice.

“If the firm is able to have an integrated and single view of the conversation and expression of emotions for the case across channels they would end up focusing on resolution rather than getting caught up with channel dynamics, which happens a lot. Until channels are integrated with in-built intelligence to co-relate issues, these challenges will exist,” says Dutta.

He also adds that it’s important to question while defining channel strategy, what the rub-off effect one channel has on another.

Not Creating Processes Around Social Media

A lot of Indian enterprises use digital or PR agencies to help with their social media initiatives. As well as that works, they need to cement that arrangement by setting up processes that empower these agencies.

“Currently, social media companies pick up a Tweet or a Facebook post and send it to their clients (companies) not knowing who the right person is to address the issue. It then circulates within the organization and that takes ages,” says Tripathi. “Organizations should know which resources to use for different scenarios. They shouldn’t be running from pillar to post, or emailing 10 people to find an answer. The cycle to resolve social media complaints needs to get shorter.”

Not Having a Conversation

For over 95 percent of Indian organizations, the primary objective of their social media initiatives is to create brand awareness or highlight brand news.

That probably explains why there’s so much of one-way communication on social media. For a platform that got marketers all excited because it allowed them to peek inside the minds of their consumers, there’s precious little two-way conversation.

“Currently what we have is a one-way communication. Say a company launches a new soap. They will inform consumers on social media, but did they use social media, in the first place, to do a survey and see what consumers wanted? Social media should be a conversational channel, where companies can have an effective conversation with their consumers, where they are constantly in touch with their audience,” says Tripathi.