When a bunch of people who come from different fields sit and discuss on a common interest then it has to be an interesting time spend. One such event occurred last Saturday courtesy Social Media Club Pune (SMC Pune). SMC Pune, which is a non-profit club, had arranged a panel discussion to find out if social influencers influence customer-buying behavior. The meet up was organized at the cool office of Zomato and the panel consisted the likes of Arun Prabhudesai, Neil Sequeira, Parag Dixit, Radha Giri, Saurabh Sengupta, Sandeep Saxena, Sonali Brahma, Yash Sharma and even I was invited to the panel discussion.
After a round of some snacks and casual introductions, Shikha Pakhide the woman behind SMC Pune commenced the event. She was behind the camera recording the event and Swati Maheshwari was moderating the discussion. The discussion started with a simple question – do social influencers influence customer buying behavior? Arun who himself is an influencer as he has been running Trak.in for close to 5 years now said that there are no two thoughts on it. Yes it does to a large extent and gave the example of Alok Kejriwal. Alok is a renowned person in the Indian entrepreneur community and the thoughts expressed in his blogs are highly rated. Arun himself being an entrepreneur looks upto Alok’s thoughts as he is influential to him as well as lot many others, which is true.
However this would differ from person to person depending on their interests. For example as a blogger I consider Nikhil Pahwa, Preetham Venkky as my influencers. But then these are people who are busy and are hard to get a notice of yours. So how should one interact and attract these influencers. A question that was thrown to me. No short cuts and you will have to build relationship over a period of time. However I think that one should take a step back and ask one that why should someone write or talk about you. For example if you are a startup and you want to be featured on Pluggd.in then one should ask why it should be done. End of day it has to be your content and core idea that will make influencers look at you. If that is good then you can go ahead and indulge in platforms such as Twitter and Blogs to create meaningful discussions.
With this we have also seen that brands have found a sweet way of pushing their products by attracting social influencers. Neil who has been running Buzz Factory for a while now said that he has not faced a situation where he was told to do so for other benefits but he is aware that this behavior exists. Parag, who is the co-founder of Sheep Stop echoed the same sentiments but he said that for them brand evangelists or people who love their startup do the job most of the time. Parag shared their recent example of Kala Ghoda where loads of people had come to them just because they knew them via online media. Small, personalized behavior of Sheep Stop has got them a set of brand evangelists and which is now an investment for the startup with an increase in sales too. Radha Giri who has been an online marketer also shares the common belief that people become evangelists in two cases. One if they like your product or service and two if they feel that they are the proud owners of that product. Radha also stressed that brands should scout for brand evangelists and nurture them. Saurabh and Arun both had a viewpoint that brands should not only look for positive reviews but also look more importantly for the negative ones. Saurabh who is in the food business where these situations happen daily said that dealing negative comments is an art. He thinks that if one could try to resolve the negativism then you have got a big brand evangelist. He also said that people who love your brand and care for it are the ones who will give you feedback barring the trolls and he also emphasized that no comment is negative. It is just a feedback and brands should take it that way.
Carrying the discussion further Suarabh was asked that, has brand evangelism increased sales for the business. Saurabh said that they are more than happy if people talk about their site and the apps that they have designed. Zomato has always loved the tech part more as earlier Saurabh has shared to me in an interview. He gave an example saying that today people love tech, apps, etc. And brand evangelists are talking the same with relevant feedback, which not only has helped the brand to improve but also has generated positive word of mouth. Parag also joined in the conversation and shared their story how at their end Twitbid has helped brand evangelists talk about it. Faasos was another brand that surfaced in the discussion as a brand that is often talked about positively because it cares for its customers and hence attracts social influencers too.
Moving on with the discussion Sandeep shared an interesting story when he was asked that, consider you are a social influencer for your domain, what points you would consider while participating/initiating conversations online. Sandeep shared that he believes in the pull method where he actually sat down and gave a thought to which are the fields he could be an influencer in and he finally found out that he could add value to genetics because that is his field along with startups and entrepreneurship as he is passionate about them. Sandeep’s example boils down to a very common point that is ‘objective’ to which everyone in the panel said is a must.
Sonali added that social media has been a boon to ascertain best influencers in the market. One needs to track both positive and negative sentiments to find out the best influencers. Yash who runs Change Republic shared the same thoughts and said that social media has helped them to spread the word and connect to interesting people. He shared an example where a person connected to him just because they had a social presence.
Social Media has given birth to social influencers however one should also respect the community that considers them as influencers. Nevertheless after a very engaging discussion the house was open for questions and yummy pizzas courtesy Zomato. SMC Pune has planned to upload the session on Youtube which I think would be great to watch and will update here too once it is uploaded.
In the mean time, you can share your thoughts on social influence and how is it affecting people. Do you think it does influence customer-buying behavior or is it just a hype?
P.S. Neil has also blogged about the event and you can check his takeaways for the event right here.
Slider image courtesy: marketingsmb.wordpress.com