Monday, 12 August 2013

How Commercial is your Social?

An article exemplifying the powers of social media published in The Hindu-Business Line:

Gojiyo, Godrej’s own social network, ran a contest on the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. The winners meet the director and stars of the film

While marketers agree social media strategies should yield revenue, most believe engagement is a greater goal to pursue.
December 21, 2011:  
In January 2011, Titan's Fastrack brand celebrated a big achievement - one million likes on Facebook - by having a 50 per cent off sale at its stores on a Sunday only for those fans. By 3-4 p.m., the crowd was unmanageable. The police had to be called in, shutters were downed, and people were only allowed to enter in groups of ten. By 7-8 p.m, all the stores were stocked out. A single day's sale totted up to Rs 2.75 crore. News of the sale was intimated via status updates on the Facebook page and nowhere else.

If that's what a single day can bring in, imagine the greater potential of digital and social media where 2.3 million likes (Fastrack's FB page now has that many fans) have the potential to translate into an effective five million reach, says Ms Simeran Bhasin (Marketing Head – Fastrack). Titan is now planning a purely digital campaign for a new line of watches releasing later this month, and it will spend double of what it traditionally has spent on a digital campaign. “Our endeavour is to prove it can also be successful in generating revenue, contrary to the opinion that it's good only for awareness,” she says.
Anisha Motwani, Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Max New York Life (MNYL), is among those who think a social media strategy should not stop at creating awareness and engagement. “It has to yield business results. How else do you justify investing in it? No engagement activity's an end in itself. What's wrong with looking at it like a profit and loss account?”
MNYL runs igenius, a Facebook community for parents (1.02 lakh likes), and Khushiyon Ka Planning (over 65,000 likes). The difficulty, even contradiction, says Motwani, is that social media should remain social and yet lead to business.
The impetus to buy should come through a cuppa and conversation rather than a business meeting. MNYL branding is not in-your-face on the igenius page, but the firm hopes to derive business out of carefully nurturing a community by discussing subjects relevant to it. Khushiyon Ka Planning is a more direct and newer venture which hopes to inculcate the insurance habit for long-term savings and protection. Through discussions on all the things big and small that make life happy (a home, travel, money, beating inflation), it hopes to make the point that they all require careful, systematic planning and a long-term view.
Ashutosh Tiwari, Executive VP – Strategic Marketing, Godrej, says a seminal step Godrej took was launching Gojiyo, a virtual 3D online environment with social networking and online games. After visiting the platform, the disposition of people to purchase a Godrej brand went up by 17 per cent for those who had never not heard of the brand, while it went up by over 35 per cent for those who had heard of the brand, he says.


Rajeeb Dash, Head (Marketing), Tata Housing, says that while the company's social media strategy has led to leads, sales (its Innora Park project in Pune was sold totally using digital media) and brand building, it's “somewhat of a fallacy to understand social media as a means of making money”. “The value is in the perception, and the company's ability to manage this through consistent communication.”
C. R. Vinay, Chairman and Managing Director of Customer Centria, a customer engagement and experience company, says companies need to be in the space consumers are in today. Creating communities around brands and interests, starting conversations and keeping them going, and making relevant and specific offers to those groups is the way to go. An adventure sports company, for instance, should talk about trekking, not just put its shoes there, he says. “Brands should realise this is a people-to-people medium. The upside is humongous, the downside … you have to be mature enough to handle the conversation,” he says, referring to the famed ‘United Breaks Guitars', a YouTube video by a customer on how United Airlines damaged his guitar and then delayed compensating him for it.
MNYL's Motwani points to a Catch 22 situation facing companies investing in social media – if you don't invest in it, your business won't grow; if you do, you have to make it pay. Everyone's speaking of social media, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done, she says. For instance, how does one measure the effectiveness of various indices, and what are they – intention to purchase, customer referrals, recommendations, or are they looking at an engagement measure? “Are people even thinking of measures of success? Finally it has to yield more business,” she says.
Vinay says, “If you don't spend, the competition will. Are you willing to take that chance? There are different metrics, but the crux is, how do you quantify them? The revenue models are still evolving. The cost per fan model is not going to last.” Fan, he quips, is a short term for fanatical, and marketers need to understand that. RoI is not a return on the money spent, it's a return on the conversation, he says.
When MNYL started out on Facebook three years ago, Motwani didn't intend any hardsell for the first three years. “Sales were not a primary measure, they were an outcome measure. The direct measures were active engagement, intention to purchase, brand equity.” Links to insurance policies were only through the Web site. “We also started measuring how many among our community were/became customers over a 12-month period,” she says, adding that over 7,000 members became customers. The company also tracked how many customers became igenius followers. Business worth Rs 46 crore from over 18,500 igenius members has come in 2010-11, though it really cannot be compared to the premium income of Rs 2,061 crore as it's not considered a distribution channel. “Quality of traffic to the main Web site is one way to evaluate the long-standing results of engaging online, which's a lot more impactful than a search engine-generated lead,” says Tata Housing's Dash. People are staying longer, and looking at a variety of options. “On an average 25 per cent of our leads come through online media and we are planning to increase our focus and budget targeted towards this medium,” says Dash.
Also, says Tiwari, Godrej is in the midst of a brand valuation exercise, where it is studying Gojiyo's contribution to Godrej's brand value. The total brand value of the Rs 13,000-crore-revenue Godrej group is $2.9 billion of which $2.25 billion is the Godrej masterbrand. “I would say social media and our digital properties are contributing quite substantially to brand value,” he says.
For Fastrack, social media has been an advantage in another way – its advertising has come in for criticism on moral grounds and sometimes, some channels and the censors reject them even before they are viewed, claims Bhasin. The digital media allows viewers to judge those aspects themselves. (The ads are reviewed by the Web sites before they go up.)
“You need to have a theme that can multiply and grow, it needs to have legs, it needs to be long-term and sustainable,” says MNYL's Motwani. Turning conversation into cash is a challenge which, it seems, will play out slow and steady.

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