When it comes to social media engagement and online presence as a whole, different companies and brands around India are at different understanding levels of what it’s all about. Some embrace the fundamentals of social media knowing fully well to put the online audience first, understand what they’re looking for, learn what they enjoy on social sites and converse with them openly listening to what they have to say. Others may see it only as a massive base of target customers to whom you can market your products adapting traditional offline hard-sell techniques the only way they know how.
Here’s a tale of two identical businesses, in the same industry, based in same city (New Delhi) that I’ve worked with to develop blogs for with two very different mindsets and two very different outcomes.
Tale 1 – The Company That Was Ready
Back in October 2010, we were approached by an e-commerce company from the pharmaceutical healthcare products industry to widen their online presence and help develop a blog that could help them drive more awareness for their brand in the long term. I was extremely reluctant since the pharmaceutical sector in particular has a notorious reputation for spamming and ruthless online marketing campaigns giving it a negative image. Somehow, this particular brand seemed very reputed and even ‘likeable’ which I learned after some Google research. However, I strongly suggested not blogging about the products, pharmaceuticals or the business and proposed developing an online magazine / blog which showcased interesting stories around healthcare in a very simple light web style format. To be run as a publication with quality articles, posts, infographics, share-able facts, graphical health resource for online audiences that isn’t heavy reading, technically worded or …boring as a lot of healthcare content can be. Surprisingly, the client agreed, said cultivating a community and resource for healthcare is exactly what they wanted and went a step further to say they don’t want any of their branding on the blog for at least a year. The mutual plan was to run it like a web publication coming up with interesting, ‘share-worthy’ content around healthcare and that is exactly what we did.
Less than half a year in, the blog was doing remarkably well. Tens of thousands of monthly visits, a respectable number of page views, infographics / posts being shared on social sites or liked. Visitors organically joined the Facebook page for updates and offers for guest posts coming in too. Branding was added down the line cross-linking the community to the e-commerce site and vice versa but not effecting the way the blog was run. The blog and the community built around it turned out to be an asset and healthcare brand continues to have very loyal fans and customers online (Something we won’t take any credit for). This is a company that constantly listens online chatter, addresses issues customers may have, thanks others for their positive comments and really knows what being a social business is about.
Tale 2 – The Company That Was Not
Mid 2011, another e-commerce business from the pharmaceutical and healthcare space come in and start discussing building an online presence for their new and relatively unknown brand. As the blog strategy is discussed, I still suggest very strongly against talking about healthcare products, pharmaceuticals or the business as such keeping in mind most people don’t like being bombarded by marketing from companies in this space on the web. We proposed a different angle again developing a content resource for their target audience slightly different from the first but again keeping in mind what people online like reading and sharing. The client this time was not very convinced of how it could work if we were not blogging about their products and directly trying to convince people to go to their website and buy with some re-assuring and explanations of how communities are developed online, decided to proceed.
Just 6 days into the process after the blog went live, the client calls saying it’s not working because sales are not happening on their website! Despite my best attempts to make sense of how things need to be approached differently if they’re to build an engagement online, it was over ruled and they demanded we at least publish blog posts related to their industry news. We complied since they insisted we had to try their way and it was for their brand after all. The online response was….well not much to talk about here. People on Facebook, Twitter or Mixx are obviously not going to click and read a post titled “Input costs for pharmaceutical production inflated by 3%”. They’re not going to comment on it and have a merry conversation around chemical cost inflation posting comments and they’re sure as hell not likely to share this post with their family, friends and contacts. On the flipside, they may report it as spam, see it as irrelevant or even worse develop negative perceptions of the brand.
Sure enough, the call came two weeks later saying this is not working either and the decision has been made that we are to blog about their products directly promoting their benefits and pushing readers to buy off their site so they can start seeing sales (in week 3). If blogging about input cost rise could have online audiences fall asleep at their screen, blogging about how terrific a particular weight loss syrup was or why there is nothing like this hemorrhoid cream is …just a bad idea!
1. There is nothing social about it.
2. It’s not going to help folks online love your brand.
3. In fact, it’s just bound to do the opposite.
So this is where we stepped off the train with this particular campaign simply not willing to spam the web with blog posts that are like those emails you get that go right to your spam folder. A few months later, we learned the site disappeared for reasons unknown. Pressure to ‘generate sales’ instantly via social media may have been partly responsible for the demise but we’re just speculating.
The Final Chapter
All we know from this is they were two companies from Delhi with two identical businesses, same end objectives, same target market online. Only one was ready for social media and embraced it the way one should and the other was not quite ready and expected social media to be something it clearly isn’t. The first is thriving and much loved. The second was met with disappointment and eventually failure.