Social Media Changes In The US And Its Implications For India [Guest Post]

Eric Weaver shares how social media is changing in the US and how that might impact India.


Eric Weaver ((A veteran digital strategist, lecturer and thought leader focused on social business and marketing innovation, Eric has crafted and social transformation plans for the Bill Clinton Administration, Alaska Airlines, Hewlett-Packard, Holland America Line, HTC, etc. He speaks globally on social business, and has served as an adjunct or visiting lecturer at Dublin City University (Ireland), Pepperdine University, the University of British Columbia, etc)) is the Senior Vice President for Social Strategy & Intelligence at Mediabrands. I had interacted with him last year at a conference in India. While I was connecting to global experts last month to get their thoughts on trends for 2013, Eric thought of sharing how social media is changing in the US and how that might impact India. Below are the view points that he shared with me:

social media learning's from US

Here in the US, the glamour and glitz of social media as a “new” marketing form is gone. Nearly every major brand is using social media; primarily as an outreach and promotional channel (with limited success) and secondarily and increasingly, as an engagement channel (where some are beginning to enjoy success in building a vibrant fan community).

New ideas for utilizing social in innovative ways are in short supply, primarily because a lot of the really innovative ideas have already been tried (e.g., Old Spice video responses to Twitter enquiries; Skittles replacing its home page with a Twitter search; tourism bureaus crowdsourcing favorite vacation spots). So we’re not seeing a lot of “wow” social media implementations. Because India is such a different market, I think many of those ideas could be altered and applied to the Indian marketplace and have great success.

We’re also seeing many clients who are unsure what to do with social or how to do it well. They take care of the basic meat-and-potato tactics like maintaining a Facebook and Twitter presence. They post ads and deals on these channels, and they look for signs of success in the form of the quantities of “likes’ or followers (neither of which means much, because consumer sentiment is mercurial). Many Western marketers are overworked and resource-constricted, resulting in handling just those basics in addition to their normal marcom duties.

The problem is that the consumer is outpacing these resource-starved marketing teams. Online crises flare up, powered by social - sometimes these are real, embarrassing incidents, sometimes they’re viral misinformation or just the voice of a very unhappy customer who knows how to use social to their advantage. Most marketing and PR teams are NOT prepared for the rapidity and impact of these crises and are unsure how to respond.

Employees post YouTube videos that unknowingly give away trade secrets (do you fire them? Discipline them?) Franchisees and local operators put up hundreds of fan pages and Twitter feeds with little regard for a central brand message - and the plethora of these pages make finding the main page difficult (do you delete these pages? Force them to certain standards?)

Untrained community managers encounter negative posts and start deleting instead of engaging, causing a very vocal backlash. Parody accounts appear, confusing customers and tarnishing the brand (do you litigate? Or Ignore?).

Marketing often “owns” social media but customers want to complain or ask for assistance in social channels. When they hear silence, anger and frustration grow. The feeling is, “you have a fan page - why won’t you answer me?” They don’t know, and don’t care, that the company has not taken social seriously enough to resource for it appropriately.

This also leads to other departments wanting to play in social as well. PR, Human Resources, Operations, Customer Service - all want to get involved yet the leadership around social is unclear - so multiple company pages pop up and customers get even more confused and frustrated.

None of these incidents were anticipated, and when marketing teams are resourced to only do the bare minimum, these incidents throw the entire company for a loop. And in an environment where marketers are asked to do more with less, asking for more is dangerous to one’s job.

In 2009, McKinsey reported that 66% of all brand touchpoints were consumer-generated. Yet in a 2012 study by Ragan Communications, only 27% of companies surveyed had any full-time resources dedicated to social. One would think that companies would want to influence all those touchpoints being created!

So ultimately, what this means is that social in the US has moved from shiny new object to part of the marketing mix, but it’s not being realized to its full potential. Even with plenty of case studies showing the benefits of consumer engagement, our environment of resource constraint keeps companies from really resourcing properly and increasing awareness, conversion and loyalty via social.

Mobile devices are surpassing PCs for brand interaction

The other trend is that mobile devices are surpassing PCs for brand interaction. That’s one area where I see India aligning with the US.

mobile indian youth

According to a recent study by Snapdeal, tablets are on their way to outsell mobiles. The Aakash2 tablet, coming in around R1100 with a R98 data plan, should be a key driver of this growth. Both our countries will be entering an era of SoLoMo (pervasively-connected social that is local and mobile). When people can rate dealers and transactions and businesses on the ground, where they are, in real time, what will that do to online reputation (and reputation management)? Crisis management? M-commerce? When I’m standing in an airport and my flight is delayed, and most of the 200 passengers can instantly make a very loud online “noise” about their experience, how will that impact reputation - and future sales? Companies in the US are just now starting to be able to react quickly to such situations. India will need to figure this how to deal with this as well.

Engagement training, crisis management planning, reputation management, consistent employee governance, social presence management, franchisee social efforts, engagement scalability - all these areas will need to be considered and addressed by any company wanting to participate in social.

I hope this provides readers with some perspective of what I’m seeing over here in the US, and gives them something to think about as they consider how to embrace the world of corporate social media in India.

Cheers from Seattle!

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