3 Foundations of Social Media Marketing campaign

Ever since the social media marketing started making noise, scores and scores of so-called “experts” Social Media Marketing tips, tactics, tools, are afloat on the cyberspace. More often than not we find that most of these keep blubbering on the same things again and again, in different colors and shades.

Is there any method to madness in formulating and implementing a Social Media Marketing strategy today? This question was thrown open on a popular social media platform, to check the general understanding on whether there’s any strategy behind this madness, The responses received in this experiment suggested that if there’s any, social media strategy is all about (a) Identifying Audience (b) Identifying Content Hubs (c) Identifying traffic drivers (d) Creating and participating in communities. Many books written by “expert authors also outline and elaborate upon some basic guidelines as follows:

  • Why Social Media marketing
  • What are the tools
  • How to use the tools most effectively for marketing
  • How to measure progress and adapt

Doesn’t this indicate that Social Media Marketing (SMM) is still being primarily used as a TOOL? For example, the buzz flowing around the subject is all about “Tactics” – which sites, how to listen, how to be effective, how to optimize, etc. – and not about “Strategy”. A strategic framework or approach is usually either missing or is just superficially touched upon.

What should be the approach to make sure that your investment in social media is not just an experiment?

There are 3 foundations on which SMM campaign is built upon. We’ll talk about these 3 elements in this post and dedicate another post to the talk specifically on Strategy Framework for SMM.

Foundations of Social Media Marketing (c) one%inspiration

First and foremost, we must consciously acknowledge that there are 3 main drivers of successful SMM campaign: (1) Strategy (not tactics) (2) Technology and (3) Design. Strategy involves analyzing the needs and goals for engaging the brand on social media platform, and outlining potential tactics in doing so. While Strategy is the way to go, Technology acts as the backbone and Design as the interface of any SMM campaign.

Secondly, we must be clear about the role of technology. Even though it’s the backbone, it’s not an end in itself. Many thought leaders (e.g. Charlene Li) advocate that the most important mantra of social media marketing is:

It’s NOT about Technologies; It’s all about RELATIONSHIP.

As a result, when you say that your SMM strategy is to be on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, you’re actually talking about the Tools and Tactics only. It’s the relationship you create by using these platforms which makes a difference for you. Once you understand this and adopt it in practice, it’s easy to follow any guideline or develop your own simple framework.

Thirdly, Design being the interface with the users, a lot of effort must go in to make innovations and not just copy / replicate design approaches of successful companies. By saying this I necessarily mean that before you sit on the design table, you must imbibe into “Design Thinking” – which is an attitude to Solve a problem in simple newer ways at hand rather than aiming for a “good looking” interface. For example, if you need an interface to woo your customers to your Facebook page, you must get deeper into the social media behaviors of these customers and utilize these insights to see what’s required out of the interface. It’s only then you should go to the design table.

My next post will talk about a strategic framework for SMM campaign.


How do customers respond to your Brand?

I have always held a strong belief that Brands behave just like human beings do! As such an interaction of a customer with a brand follows exactly a similar pattern of interaction of one person to another unrelated person.

Let’s say a person X hopes to have a relationship with person Y. Every person does this from his own social behavior status, which could be broadly divided into 3 levels: (a) Acceptance (b) Association (c) Adoption

3 Response Levels (image copyright - one%inspiration)

Preliminary contact / hand-shake happen when each interacting person Accepts the other person’s invitation. This happens quite frequently, regardless of space, time or context. None of the participants have long-term intentions of carrying on; hence the relationship is superficial, and open.

When these persons meet again, there’s an existing element of recognition or identification between them, which breeds conversations, interactions and occasional dependencies. This stage is known as Association. There’s overt / covert liking of each other’s qualities, but linkages are not strong. There’s also a general agreement to meet / interact again, and often this behavior stays for a long time.

At the 3rd level the association solidifies into a firm relationship, which slowly gets deep-rooted. The belief and motivations of one person gets internalized in multiple ways into that of the other person, leading either of the persons to adopt the other’s belief, principles and attitudes. Strong and sustainable bonding is the outcome of such adoption processes.

Likewise, a customer’s response to a brand also follows a similar pattern:

Acceptance happens when a brand pulls a customer through instant promotions; e.g. “Buy One. Get One Free”; “50% Discount before 30th July”; “More you buy, more points you win.” etc. Garnier may launch a sachet pack of its shampoo variants, to woo customers into using the brand. Many consumer electronics brands also use the method to clear their inventories, by giving “Bundled offers” during festive seasons. Although behaviors vary from brand to brand, customers have a general tendency to claim these deals, with little or no regard to the Brand or its values. Additionally, customers tend to shift the moment another brand offers a better deal.

On a longer term this method follows the law of diminishing returns, and hence should not be used too often, unless the Brand itself symbolizes “Discounts” or “Value”. Many retail stores, have followed this method to great success – by making sure that returns are higher than the inventory cost.

Association happens when a brand pulls customers by appealing to their needs – whether emotional or social or rational. As a result customers start identifying themselves with the brands, and hence differentiation occurs between competing brands. When Garnier promotes Fructis shampoo, it’s appealing a customer’s rational need to have stronger hair. It’s not necessary that the customer, even after using the shampoo, will keep on using it forever. Needs might change, or another brand may offer the same need packaged with another one. The linkages here are not strong; therefore constant interactions and experiences are needed to sustain association and convert into long-term Adoption.

ADOPTION happens when the customer looks forward to the same brand to meet multiple needs. Let’s say that the Garnier Fructis shampoo customer had a few experiences with the brand, and has decided to use other variants of Garnier shampoo that meets her other hair care needs – e.g. shiny hair, damaged hair, etc. PLUS starts looking for Garnier for other grooming needs – e.g. skin care, hair color, eye care, etc. A combination of meeting needs in all the above cases, would makes her believe Garnier’s message of “Take Care”.

Adoption is a permanent and deep-rooted experience between a customer and a brand, especially since a customer’s belief about the brand strongly links with their own belief-system – emotionally, socially and rationally. If Innovation is what a customer looks for, repeated associations and interactions with Apple will definitely believe that the brand stands for emotion.

For a brand to be strong, a combination of all the 3 level processes is perhaps needed in some proportions.  Even though the first 2 levels are temporary, there are many ways to develop permanency through these stages. For example, while using Garnier for hair care, a customer discovers that the brand stands for “No Animal Testing”. This realization may motivate the customer to continue with not only the shampoo brand, but also with other Garnier products.

Therefore for a Branding effort to succeed, strategic efforts are needed to develop the relationship at each level, esp. since, like a relationship between 2 individuals, Branding also is a social process, where change is the element that keeps the relationship fresh.

Related Articles / Posts

How the Luxury concept developed

Super Luxury and sporty Bentley Coupe in Dublin @ The Four Seasons Hotel - Wonderful handmade car! Jan 2010

A recent article in the Indian Business magazine Businessworld, started me thinking on the concept of “Luxury” – the perception and reality of it.

“Luxury” as a concept has been prevailing in societies since the beginning of the civilization itself. Ancient societies including that of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and India, had clear-cut definitions of social classes, which barred one class from accessing the privileges of the other class.

For example, for Egyptian pharaohs, the very concept of luxury meant high pomp and splendor while living and then carrying it over to afterlife. As a result highly sophisticated and costly techniques were developed to preserve their bodies, which perceptually “guaranteed” the survival of the soul. Mummification, Pyramids, Tombs etc. resulted. The tombs were designed to safeguard their royal status and their journeys in afterlife. Needless to add, none of their followers, including their close confidantes could even dream of such luxury.

When subsequent classical societies were founded upon the debris of conflicts and wars, the military might of the victorious groups fuelled a certain kind of sophistication and opulence that generated heated debates and ideological wars. These debates helped further define the “exclusivity” of “luxury” – by arguing on decisions regarding wealth distribution and on the notions of “practical utility” and “waste”. Imperial societies of Rome, French, Japan and England are best examples.

During the early 19th century the above concept of Luxury started getting liberalized – as in “Luxury as a means of economic growth” or “Luxury as a legitimate means of gaining living standards”. The 20th century saw the disappearance of “social stratification”, from which “Luxury” concept took its birth. Further, increasing spending power, industrialization and globalization, resulted in making Luxury a “choice”, for those who have can now “afford” it. One of the most important aspects of Luxury products – the “culture” built around its place of birth – hence, is slowly disappearing.

This last piece of development has actually diluted the concept of Luxury – equating it with an offer in which is available in any product or service category at a premium price. As a result of rising income and affordability levels in societies of BRIC countries and Africa, many of the brands and product categories which were previously perceived as “Luxury” have all of a sudden become available to a large mass of customers. The primary perceived value gained by these customers is “prestige”. Armani, BMW, Mont Blanc, Dior, Burberry labels, Hermes, Chanel, etc. perhaps are good examples of this. These brands are “premium, but attainable”, and have been described as “Luxury for the masses” or masstige, by Michael J. Silverstein

Therefore, even though Luxury has the general perception of Exclusivity, the current trend towards luxury goods and retailing in India could be primarily labeled at best as “Masstige Retailing”.

Further Reads:

Finding the effective tools to communicate with customers

What do you think is the most effective way to communicate with your consumers? LinkedIn question by: Fang Lu

This is a very broad question, for which there’s no one-line answer! In marketing communications planning, the tools to communicate are often the last things to decide. I’d try to give a perspective which might empower you to decide for yourself, the most effective ways to communicate.

Here’s a step-by-step methodology you MUST consider, before deciding upon your various options:

1) Gain a perspective of your battlefield – What’s the business environment you’re in? what’s the product category? Who are your competitors? How are they communicating? Is there anything eye-catching about their tools? Is there anything that you think is not right about them? Is there any rule or law that encourages or discourages certain type of communication? etc. More the knowledge you gain about your marketing battlefield, more empowered will you be in making your decision.

2) Gain differential knowledge of your product – By this I mean the strengths and opportunities your product have / offer, vis-a-vis competitors. Does your product really enjoy an exclusivity? Or is it s me-too? Does it really force customers to think different, or is it just a “better” product? Is it a category killer? Is it a price killer? Is it a market innovator? etc. etc. More the knowledge you have on your own product within the given market perspective, more empowered will you be in deciding on the effective message, which incidentally is as important as the tools to communicate.

3) Gain insights about your customers – This is the most crucial of all steps. In social media, it’s a part of the LISTENING process. Who’s your ideal customer (not “consumers”)? What’s his / her demographic and psychographic profile? How does he / she consume your proposed product? Is there any gap area, which still exists in his / consumption pattern? What are his/her hidden motivations, desires, ambitions? if you do not have a ready knowledge about him/her, you may need to have a Qualitative Research to find these out. Once done, you’d have more clearer indications about ways to communicate with your customer.

4) Develop key messages – All the above 3 steps would give you enough perspective to draw the unique product message that would make sense to your customer(s) within the battlefield of your product category and competition. Every type of message has its own best / optimal ways of communicating, for effective comprehension by the customers. For example, some messages are better delivered by means of an Audio Visual (TVC) while some by means of a web banner ad.

5) Identify the effective tools to communicate – Once you’re done with developing key messages and insights about customers, you may need to re-explore the current means by which the customers gain their product / market knowledge. You may realize from step (3) that though a net-gen individual falls within your customer profile, is actually not interested in using the websites reviews for product knowledge. Rather he/she is getting this info. through his closely held cafe-club network. So your most ideal tool could be perhaps a cafe-club event that engages these captive customers for about an hour and a half!

Therefore, to reiterate, effective communication tools / ways cannot be decided unless you explore steps (1) to (4) above. Not to forget that you can also consider any kind of “co-creation” tool before-hand (during steps 1-3), to let your customers decide the ways and means they would like themselves to be addressed by your company / brand.

Given the complex and ever-changing nature of the customers today, it’s natural and more effective to design a communications plan, which makes use of a combination of tools and media consumed by your customers.

Also look for Other Answers in LinkedIn. and Strategies for Effective Business Communication

How to Reposition brands in a Connected World

Whether or not many companies and marketers accept it, we’re living in an extremely connected world. Mobile phones have revolutionized the way we verbally communicate with each other; Internet has drastically changed our behavior within our groups and society at large; and the integration of both these technologies, has shifted our perspectives of “reaching out” to the world outside of ourselves. As a result we’re discovering hundreds of different ways everyday to re-invent ourselves on every frontier of our existence – perhaps like never before!

However, what about the brands, which have been constantly giving us meaning and reasons to use them, since our toddler days?

Many brands have been able to retain their stronghold, by delivering the values they have been promising over all these years. It means that these brands have been extremely successful in differentiating themselves from the competition. It means that these brands have been consistently maintaining their presence within the purchase consideration set of their customers, and in most cases making sure that they are indeed the chosen ones from this set.

Then, there are many other brands who have found themselves cat-napping during the communication revolution happening around them. How can these brands re-invent / reposition themselves?

The answer lies within the “communication revolution” itself. Here’s how:

Creation of a new value-system of the customers (Image (C) Shantanu Sengupta)

A brand is after all a composite set of direct and indirect value-based proposition / promises delivered to the customer, in order to differentiate the core product from a competition. The best way to visualize brands is perhaps to visualize them as human beings / personalities in the real world. In this way, brands are able to mirror important facets of their target customer personalities, while creating a unique set of promises that satisfy the customer’s needs at the time of purchase.

Therefore, just the manner in which the customers are changing their ways of communicating and evolving into new “avatars” or personalities, these “cat-napping” brands too need to reposition, by following the changes embraced by their prospective customers, to evolve into new “avatars”. The figure below makes it clearer.

Today’s Customer M, who is connecting more and more frequently thru various virtual means, to other customers with different value-sets, is destined to adopt additional set of values, influenced by his network. As a result, Customer M has now an augmented value-set (Core + Influenced values). On a longer time frame his core values may have the chance of being proportionally dominated by influenced set of values – to the extent that he might now have a newer value system – “MX”.

Lesson for “cat-napping” brands:

  1. Augment the value proposition, by promise of the additional benefits that meet the needs of the socially enriched customer
  2. Retain the Core values intact during the process of augmenting the value-proposition
  3. However Give Up Control, if the core value system is meta-morphing into a new, but composite value system
  4. Re-Gain Control by promising long-term benefits, reflecting upon the new-composite value system

The Art of Targeting in Social Media

Social media has become the melting pot for many types of customers – many of whom have grown up with traditional media, but have adopted the social media very well!

A cursory search generates scores of articles, blogs, tips, etc. on how to best use social media for marketing yourself, your company or product / service. Not to talk of 100s of book dedicated to the various strategies, tactics and tools employed in social media marketing. However, you’d hardly find the magic mantra to correctly target your campaign.

In my previous article, I talked of ways to identify the clusters of customers / social media users, who’d help in your targeting. In this post I’ll share the magic mantra of social media targeting.

While developing a campaign today, the first thing you must accept is that the marketing world has seen a few major paradigm shifts in communication thought in recent years:

1)      Shifts in Communication Planning Process – From the baby days of advertising, when communication meant just creating direct feature based messages, the communication planning has progressed through positioning, brand development (account planning), connection planning, engagement planning, to its current focus – propagation planning. In simple terms, it means planning the ways and means to spread a belief or a practice among new groups of individuals.

2)      Shifts from “Classical” Marketing to “Flipped-Funnel” Marketing – This is best described by the image here.

Flipped Funnel Marketing (source: The New Marketing Landscape By Dan Pankraz)

3)      Media Democratizationtowards an ever widening media landscape 

3 kinds of media (source: Group M)

– Media has essentially evolved and broadened to PAID, “EARNED” and OWNED types. Earned Media is the most important shift over the last few years, wherein choosing the right channels marketers can expand the reach much beyond the paid media. Owned media is one’s own media channel in terms of blogs and micro blogs, which has a community built around it.

4)      Shifts from Funnel-type to Pyramid-type of awareness generation process – Classical communication models depended more upon AIDA model – i.e. starting off with awareness generation among a larger set, losing out a few through the stages of interest development and desire creation, with the hope of zeroing down to a small subset of a few purchasers of the product / service. This has given way to Pyramid type of targeting: you start off with a small subset, and let the members of this subset spread the awareness among their 6-degrees of separation. After some time, you can surely hope to have a much larger “aware” as well as “committed” base.

Idea courtesy: Brandon Murphy (from 22squared), Karen Evans & Evan Slater)

5)      Shift in Focus within the Adoption Curve – Pyramid type awareness generation has encouraged usage of social media in parallel targeting of the customers. Therefore in addition to mass marketing, which targets the majority of early and late adopters, one targets the miniscule innovators, and the laggards too to increase adoption rates.

Image Courtesy: Griffin Farley

Once you have accepted these major shifts in communication thought, it will be easy to adopt the magic mantra for social media targeting:

Target NOT the people you wish to reach BUT the people that they reach

In simple terms it means that you need to target the influencers of your target first, before thinking of targeting your core customers. Results? Effective utilization of resources, and the chance to improve your targeting process.

How to Brief a marcom consultant

Often, when it comes to advertising / marcom briefing, the attitude and approach displayed by a few senior managers / leaders, is amazing!

A couple of years ago, I came across a very senior person from a leading Co from the services sector, who wished to promote one of the services offered by the company thru social media. The service itself, I was told, has been running for quite some time, but has not been adopted by customers to the Co’s expected levels till then.

In absence of a clear and concise brief, I asked a few historical questions related to the project, e.g. its current usage, awareness, adoption, etc., core problems being faced with the service, the company’s past efforts to increase adoption rates, PLUS why did the company feel social media was the right way to solve the problem.

The response I got, just amazed me! He expected these answers to be coming from me!

Now, in a normal set-up, every marcom consultant usually comes up with insights gained through some sort of research, based on a hypothesis floated by the client. However in this case, the response made me feel strongly that the client didn’t have any support feedback mechanism in place while launching the service! Isn’t it largely a waste of his marketing budgets?

While briefing for any marcom campaign, follow the FIVE basic requirements: 

1)      What’s the marketing PROBLEM you’re facing? – In fact, without a proper understanding of your marketing problem, you’ll be directionless about the need-gap areas of your marketing program. Identifying need gap areas will lead you to the next question.

2)      What’s the OBJECTIVE of your marcom campaign? – Without a clear-cut objective, you should not approach any consultant / agency. Otherwise, there’ll be a general tendency for them to respond with an objective definition that suits their understanding of the project, and not necessarily yours.

3)      Who’s your core TARGET for the campaign? Who are the influencers? – Often many marketers fail to define this, or consider that “all” groups within their product usage segments are their core targets. This is a flawed way of marketing communication. Your core target actually drives your brand’s personality to some extent. The influencers feed in to the ecosystem in which your brand’s personality survives. Hence you need to be extra careful!

4)      What’s the proposed DOMAIN of your marcom campaign? – The geographic / psychographic / usage / or any other segment domains defines the playing field for your marcom campaign. The clearer the domain is, the more effective is your investment.

5)      What’s the RESULT you’re expecting after the campaign is over? – Try to clearly specify the result you wish to achieve, if possible in numbers. When not possible in numbers, try to establish a qualitative factor that would decide the campaign effectiveness.

If you’re planning to invest in a campaign, without having a clear knowledge of the above factors, your investments stand to be ineffectively utilized or lost! And yes, DO NOT propose a solution to your problem while briefing, even if you know that’s the correct one! If you do wish to still, give enough details on THE REASONS behind your assumed solution(s).

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