Social Media and Big Brands - The Blind Adoption

By Habib Amir, Head of Digital, Clarion Communications, part of the WPP Group. 

There is more to converting audience into loyal consumers then simply being on Twitter and Facebook.

Majority of the brands continue to dictate their messages via Social Media and fail to get them across. Is it time to ask why?

The overnight growth of social media has provided a unique platform with a multitude of options to engage with a local and global audience in real-time – and what this means for the “audience” is that they are now more than just spectators. As social media platforms facilitate a reciprocal conversation, audiences expect to participate, present and shape the world around them. And managing such expectations without a coherent strategy is not easy. So many of the biggest brands in the world choose to either ignore social media completely or adopt it blindly – with a “if it worked for them, it must work for us” mindset.

Without an intelligence-based strategy, brands are not maximising their ROI from Social Media

Many brands display similar errors. For instance people are asked to “Like” or “Follow” without giving them a good reason, they are expected to comment on what the brand has to say but are not given permission to start a new conversation, audiences are fed promotional messages without being offered an incentive. By not giving the audience a unique reason to engage with them, they seriously reduce the ROI for their brand.

On the other hand, some brands that have managed to build a vast social following are not utilising those connections in the most effective way and need to be aware of the following:
  1. Fans vs. audience - within the Social Media space, fans, followers and subscribers only equate to ‘audience’ when they are actively engaged in conversations.
  2. Mass vs. personalised comms - there is a fine line between bombarding followers with a stream of mass promotional messages and relevant/personalised communications. 
  3. Brand objectives vs. audience expectations - determining the balance between brand objectives and audience expectations is crucial. 
  4. Listening vs. talking – striking a balance between monitoring and moderation of and pro-active engagement with existing and new audience.
  5. Hard push vs. maintaining engagement - it is crucial to have an intelligent strategy for driving existing audience to brand campaigns but a simple hard push does not achieve this.
So brands can drive a much higher return on their Social Media investment if such detail is considered within the brand’s digital PR strategy. To ensure such a strategy is coherent and integrated, all offline and online activities have to compliment each other to achieve the same objectives.

A common mistake is to start with minimal consumer insight and attempt to build a ‘consumer’ base. However, there are some critical layers in between.

At the core of this strategy, there has to be sufficient intelligence on online behaviour and purchase habits of the target demographic. Digital Intelligence is paramount. Who exactly are your audience on digital social platforms? What are their habits and behaviour? Who are their friends? What do their friends say? What do they consider ‘over-rated’? 
How to speak their language? Which websites do they trust and why? How long after they have viewed a product do they make that purchase? This is the intelligence all hybrid digital communications agencies must begin with.

Based on this intelligence, a narrative should be developed that is integral to the brand’s heritage - and one that instantly appeals to its audience. Only then should the various components e.g. social media page, app, website etc be built. It’s only after this that audiences are attracted, engaging conversations held, audiences converted to consumers and only following repeat satisfaction, they go on to become brand ambassadors and regular purchasers.

Even after the original objective is achieved, the strategy should ensure that regular communication with new audiences continues to retain consumers - and new conversations are created with existing customers to retain business.

One-way communication will continue to exist for a while through Print Media, TV and Radio but within the hybrid digital social space, the one-way model is primitive and unstable. The principles of engagement in the physical and digital world are alike - for starting conversations, anticipating the next move, having an interesting narrative, listening with interest and responding appropriately. Once these principles are adhered to, audience attention is fixed on the brand. Only then, digitally social interactions can result in real-life relationships, conversions, brand engagement and sales.

Download Social Media & Big Brands - The Blind Adoption as a PDF.

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