Social media is a really happening field. Almost every marketing person has it on their agenda, so when they meet me they always want to know more. If the meeting is a business one then they want to know how to catapault their brand into fame and glory in the social arena! Everytime I just try to spruce their ideas and guide the topic towards building a more structured setup from where they can start of with some sustained activities which can then become the platform for more dynamic stuff.

One of the common thoughts I have come across is that they don’t want the usual run of the mill stuff – they want their social media to be true to their brand, they want something different, a class apart from the rest, yadi yadi yada…. and typically with these brands, I find that for months their enthusiastically created Facebook Pages are just langhuishing around. No new content, barely any fan activity. Even typical is some month old odd update from the brand thats either too ‘brand technical’ and not appealing to general fans.

For any of this to really get off the table there are somethings that I feel are crucial behind-the-scenes before something exciting actually happens for the brand on social media,

A for strAtegy

Structure & Sustainability
Like I have said so many times before, a sound strategy is necessary to start out with. It would also ensure that the activities are aligned to the larger brand image being put out and not ad hoc. It would ensure that they can be sustained over months, allowing fans to warm up to it and spike interactions. This would include an executive structure for the activity – who is going to do the work? Where is the top administration going to get involved? Very often pages langhuish cause they are looking for the right person or agency to execute their strategy.

Depending on the industry, the top management might need to have some solid presence like a Twitter channel or a Blog. They then need to be commited from the start rather than later not doing their bit and the whole strategy crumbling. I have written a more in-depth article on strategy here.

b for bUDGET

Show me the Money!
Probably one of the main reasons why campaigns are cut off mid way or they never take off at all would be that while the company can talk a lot about what it wants, the money they are willing to put in is quite little! They are more used to one-time traditional campaigns where the money is splurged and marketing is done. Social media needs a longterm outlook, so paying a good amount monthly is something they are too frisky about. Shelling out bucks for a two-three month campaign is what they typically end up doing and as a result once the campaign is over they come back to square zero with no basic presence on social media. The reason they come back to square 0 is also because they hire some goofers who start a brand page called ‘brandso-socampaign’ – this campaign can’t be run again and as a result the page is a dud after the campaign. If they had started a normal brand page then atleast they would have this page with high number of fans for next time. 😀

C for the honCho!

Top management involvement
This is another big hurdle. Traditional campaigns just need to be approved and then its off their table, but social media can have new developments daily! The top management would like to get involved but they don’t have the time, but they still want everything to be in their control and so the campaign remains fettered in a big way. The brand hardly interacts with fans because the right people don’t shell out the time. This is ofcourse not a simple matter because wrong responses from the executive person can really back fire! There are number of reasons for this – sometimes the top guy is technologically dumb! or he gets even less about social media than his marketing team! 😀
Again the solution I feel would lie in the initial strategy and structure – here the right mix of executive team and top folks needs to be made to ensure that the brands activities have the right man power behind them to grow! In the strategy the brand image and content strategy need to be drilled in so as to reduce risks of the wrong message going out. This risk can never really be eleminated as has been seen in examples from top marketing company goof ups like the Chrysler incident where the executive sent out a swear word into a tweet! Along with this some 101 on how to manage a social media crisis would be good too!

A lot of Indian companies seem to hire a college intern to manage their Facebook page, is just not done! I recently came across someone who used to supervise the content going up on a corporate brand page but she herself doesn’t have any technical knowledge about page working – she is now interning with another media agency! What really works is when brands start having a senior digital marketeer position in their management. It will also be great for us companies to talk to these guys, cause they know the field better.

So while the social media industry is interesting there is a just a lot random stuff being done. Just the other day met a person who was very excited about a website idea he had, which was plain old web 1.0! In the age of Twitter & blogs he was talking about websites. Its tough to understand when there is so much info available online, so many international brand case-studies keep coming up, why do so many Indian companies look lost? And then from somewhere we come across an NGO like Pratham having put out an exciting social media usage case-study!