In 2013 India recorded the highest growth in social media, 37.4 percent, and the numbers are still rising as you read. Although conventional ways of branding and marketing still thrive in our country, large business houses are gradually shifting their focus to social media marketing. Samar Singh Shekhawat, senior VP, marketing, United Breweries Limited, talks about why corporate leaders should take social media seriously and how it can enhance business-consumer relationships.
Should CIOs and CXOs take social media more seriously and what are the advantages of increased social media presence?
One needs to extend personal as well as their brand’s presence in all social media platforms. Most leaderships in Indian corporates are very hesitant to have a large presence in social media because they are unsure about the way it will pan out. Anyone who is a marketer or in a position of leadership in any field should recognize the reality of social media and the aid that the digital world can bring.
Through social media, one can interact directly with consumers, brand evangelists, loyalists, and even critics. What works for the brand works for the leaders.
Are your social media strategies different on Twitter and Facebook?
There is no clear line of distinction, but it is more like the difference between carrying out promotional activities in different mediums like radio, television, and print. A leader needs to look at the marketing strategies in its entirety and determine what to do on Facebook and Twitter.
First decide upon the brand positioning and messaging and then choose the social media platform to promote. Every social media has its own pros and cons to explore and that should be kept in mind. Facebook has the luxury of longer, personalized and detailed messaging. The attention span on Twitter is less and brands typically are not big on Twitter but personalities are, and the audience in Twitter is more evolved.
Social media must be generating a lot of data for your company, how do you analyze it and what kind of tools you use?
There are a variety of tools, like listening tools, monitoring tools, engagement tools, to analyze data. One needs to establish what the requirement is and decide what needs to be measured. For example, a device to measure the amount of sugar in your tea would mean nothing if your audience don’t have sugar.
It is important to decide what you want to measure. There are various factors that can be measured—engagement, people talking about it, shares, tweets, likes, pictures posted, click streams, amount spend on viewing a particular thing, sentiment analysis, so on and forth. The next step should be then to decide the platform for promotion.
How do you use the data generated by social media?
One of our main focuses has been getting consumers to tell the brand story and messaging. Through events like The Beer Olympics and Beer Premier League, city-based consumers decide what will be their brand team’s name. They decided team logos, voted on it and finalized it.
This ensures that the consumers get more and more involved in our brand story. When you are creating something for a brand that you love, then hopefully you foster a brand advocacy and brand loyalty for a life time.
What is the biggest challenge in the field of social media marketing?
The biggest challenge we face in terms of agencies, brand marketers, and professionals understanding this medium is that it is very new in India. The actual number of people who understand social media and use it to further their brand messaging are very limited.
How accurate is the data generated by social media?
By and large the data generated in a country like India is accurate, but a leader has to have his or her own mechanism in place to determine whether someone is trolling you or it is a fake account. One can use spywares, malwares, and monitor URLs, to determine fake data.
If someone on social media is being too critical about our brand then we go back and check if there is a motive behind it and what the real issue is. Similarly, if someone goes on praising the brand for no reason, then that data can also be inaccurate.
Where do you see social media marketing 10 years down the line?
Social media marketing will be seamlessly integrated into main stream media and everything we do ten years down the line.
I see much more e-commerce, I see much more buying and selling, banking, insurance, planning holidays, movie tickets, buying durables through the digital world in much larger numbers in the coming ten years. I see virtual reality, holograms and augmented reality doing much better than what it is today.