Perspective | Social, digital platforms bring along risk and bloopers element!

We live in an era where an individual, generally, can be reached out to through numerous platforms, better known as mediums. This, we believe, is a 'sanjeevani booti' for any marketer, seller or story-teller as its one message going to one receiver through various platforms. Digital and Social media are highly competent marketing tools for brands but the medium’s sheer pervasiveness and the speed with which messages goes viral would mean that it can go both ways for the brand – positive and negative, especially because platforms like these are not always moderated appropriately and can be misused (hacked). At some instances, marketing on these platforms is close to aiming in the dark - you hit some bang-on or you miss some!

In the recent times, we have seen some brands falling prey to ill-managed social and digital activities (for example incorrect tweets); so do we see the medium (social and digital platforms) being misused, abused, poorly understood?

In today's Adgully Perspective, we try and understand from industry minds, their thoughts on the aforementioned issue and as to how much of a hit-and-miss can a social media platform is for marketers.

Vineet Bajpai, Founder and CEO, Magnon\TBWA said “There is a great amount of excitement around the digital and social marketing opportunity and all marketers and brand managers want to make the most of it. However, the promotional construct, advertising models, consumer interactivity and security / access parameters around this medium are still in a relatively amorphous shape, fructifying gradually into clear and measurable marketing opportunities. The art and science of digital / social marketing is still in its evolution and that is understandable, given the speed at which this medium has grown. Hence hit and trial methods, learning errors and operational mistakes cannot be avoided, both at client and agency level. But I am sure we will witness rapid learning and ideation in this space, and it will soon become a well-understood and supremely effective medium”. Speaking about the measure to mend a damage that happens on these platforms, he said “When an error happens, the best way to do damage control is to be transparent with your audience, explain why it happened, and state the corrective measures taken by the brand to prevent a similar incident from occurring in future. Episodes occurred in the past also radically highlight the need to have an experienced and dependable digital agency managing your brand’s social media presence. If things go wrong online, and sometimes they do, an agency with solid experience, specialization and a proven track-record would be able to guide brands out of troubled waters sooner and better than anyone else”.

Sanjay Tripathy, EVP and Head, Marketing, Product, and Direct Channel, HDFC Life said, “With brands on this platform producing and publishing content in such huge volumes constantly, errors are bound to happen once in a while. However, this clearly highlights the fact that while social media channels serve as excellent avenues to have one-on-one conversations with users online, the success of your effort lies in not only planning, but managing your initiative well. While most brands have come to realize the importance of digital and social media as part of their marketing mix today, they probably do not manage them as meticulously as required. They probably are still a few steps away from giving it the amount of seriousness they'd give to a traditional media channel”.

Tripathy believes that the key to success on social media is to be constantly on it, but at the same time also speak to the right kind of audience with content that is of their interest. “So while entertainment, news, sports, etc. may be topics of general interest and may have a larger audience on social media, a brand like ours caters to niche audiences with a specific and well defined set of needs. This is where building a digital/social media strategy becomes all the more challenging. While it is in the hands of the brand custodians to manage poor use of digital platforms, I believe that misuse or abuse or overuse is also under their control. That is where the true power of this medium lies - you can mould it the way you like, but also treat this as an art that you will need to excel at. This is the age where consumers have the power to decide how, when, where and how much a brand can communicate with them. As long as you know the control buttons right, you can be assured of using digital and social media to its best”, he added.

Prem Kamath, Head, Channel V opined that, “What is critical is that one needs to ensure that there is a consistency in the messaging so that a brand’s identity is seamlessly translating across everything that it does, thus building clear understanding of that identity. What is required is a great amount of focus in the partners to understand what that brand’s philosophy, tonality, brand behaviour is and then having checks and measures to ensure that what is created ties into the brand’s philosophy. Hence if a brand is rigorous about both these steps, the risk involved in the inevitable situation of outsourcing services can be minimised to a large extent”.

Industry veteran Sam Balsara, Chairman and MD, Madison Media said, “Social media is a double-edged sword and I believe that marketers have realised this long time ago. In my view, the nature of the medium is such that a marketer cannot discard the option completely. Today, marketers understand that if one cannot overlook and cast off the medium, he/she might as well actively participate and get the best off the medium. The issue here is also that of specialisation, which for me, by-and-large is an advantage as specialisation develops a body of knowledge and a cadre of specialists and experts which enables a brand to offer quality service at competitive prices. Of course with specialisation the responsibility of the marketer increases so as to accurately coordinate and integrate the effort”. Affirming his point, adding 

further he said, “Conventionally, advertisers have always felt in control and powerful with the message being beamed for one person to billions. But the arrival of social media has kind of moved the power from just the marketer to even the people receiving the message. That is the duality which many marketers have to learn to deal with. According to me, it is a new paradigm and I think marketers are getting used to it and so are consumers. Just because there is one wrong comment or a hundred critical reviews for a product or service, it doesn’t stop the makers or service providers from doing their job. Both positive and negative pieces are available for a reader on various social sites; and that means at the end, the decision lies with them!”      

Nimesh Shah, Head Maven, Windchimes Communication is of the opinion that as there is a range of marketers who operate in the social and digital circuit, some have got a complete grip on the medium and its whereabouts while some are still in the understanding period. “It is the sheer nature of the medium that it requires a marketer to deal with a specific TG and adopt it very well. The fallacy is the assumption that it is one message going to many readers (consumers). One has to 

understand that be it Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter – each of these platforms are distinct from each other and should be treated differently. The tonality and the manner in which a message is given through each platform are different; for example a Facebook post could be put up in informal language but the one on Linkedin has to formal, and business-like, while on Twitter your tweet has to crisp and to-the-point!”

Extending the aforesaid subject matter we also asked the spokespersons whether hiring multiple agencies or individuals to work on a brand's social and digital mandate variate the tonality of brand's ideology, image and communication intent? Is it that too many cooks (social and digital media agencies) spoiling the broth?

Bajpai strongly stated that it absolutely does! “What clients must appreciate is that social media optimization of a brand needs to be an integral part of a long-term, strategic marketing plan. It needs to be in sync with the brand story and promise, and needs to propagate consumer conversations that are consistent and sustainable. A social or digital marketing plan of a company cannot be a patchwork of fragmented efforts. It has to be a well-knit communications engine that is a collaborative creation between the client and the digital agency. For this reason, it becomes vital for brands to engage interactive agencies as long-term partners and ensure a measureable and consistent social media framework”.

Singing a similar tune, Shah firmly stated that a social media sin that a lot of people commit is placing Facebook and Twitter as the same account to be outsourced. “It just cannot be done that way! Though no one agency usually offers the best services under one roof. It is a time for specialised agencies and experts working for each vertical. Each media has evolved over the years and tried to break the clutter and make way in a complicated market. Brands and marketers now spend about 15-30% of their ad spends on digital, splitting it into media buying and social media and content creation. As far as digital is concerned, it is usually the various popular website to be targeted, while social media is more current and calls for constant communication and consumer retaining efforts. But with all this, one also needs to note as to which sector the brand belongs as that is the factor that decided the degree of social and digital engagement”.

Tripathy also held a belief that it is subjective and depends from brand to brand. “While some organizations might like to believe that having more partners on board leads to more creative inputs and hence a better end product, others might wish to work with a single trusted partner who understands the brand so well that they can come up with innovative social/digital marketing ideas while still maintaining the brand tonality and image”.

He also stated that one needs to give into the fact that digital as a medium is volatile, dynamic and ever evolving, partnering with subject matter experts will always help bring finesse to your marketing efforts. “For example, while a particular agency may excel at designing social media content strategy for a brand, they may not necessarily be the best at delivering the content in various formats like text, image based or video. This is where specialist partners play an important role and engaging with them makes the final output more fruitful. Hence, while it is important to explore what various partners can bring to the table, it is also important to know when and who to pick and choose”, he added.

Kamath is of the opinion that, “We definitely need to minimise the element of risk, which almost all business run and we need to put in systems and processes to ensure that the risk come down to literally zero”.

Thus, what we understand from this extensive exchange of thoughts is that, though digital and social are here to stay, blooper and goof-ups will unavoidably tag along with the mediums. It is only conscious efforts and smart acts that need to be put in place to make merry of the opportunistic mediums!


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