Don’t get me wrong but social media is no more the same. The honeymoon period is over, “Social media has evolved, the mist is finally getting cleared.”
From acquiring fake Facebook fans to chest beating of million fans acquisition, today we are questioning how social media can create an impact on the overall marketing strategy. Simultaneously, social networking platforms have also evolved. From providing free organic reach to finally killing it by introducing targeted reach with heavy media spends, social networks are no more the same. These dramatic changes have also impacted the Social Media Day celebrations. This year, the excitement of celebrating the day was really missing.
Launched on June 30, 2010 by international media company Mashable, Social Media Day is an annual global event celebrated by social media practitioners and believers. The core idea is to recognize and celebrate social media’s impact on global communication. Over the years the day has been celebrated across the globe, Indians haven’t lagged behind. A country where social media is growing in leaps and bounds, the day has seen massive support from across the country.
In 2014, Lighthouse Insights celebrated one of the very first Social Media Day in Pune. The event was well received by the Pune junta but also got our resources exhausted in making it an eventful evening for all. Despite the requests to continue with the celebrations the next year, we decided to let it pass; we were grappling with a severe resource constraint.
Somewhere in the same lines, Social Media Day celebrations across India have witnessed a falling trend over the last few years. Cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore where digital is booming have ceased the celebrations. Even the excitement for the day on social media platforms (read Facebook and Twitter) has seen a drastic cut down (My Facebook timeline which is majorly occupied by digital marketers hardly featured one or two messages for the day).
One of the primary reasons is social media evolving as mainstream. Additionally, social media has also lost the charm and glory of early days. “2011-13 were exciting times when Social Media platforms allowed us to innovate, develop apps and do some nice integration stuff,” commented Rohit Awasthi on a Facebook thread started by me to gain a better perspective for this story.
Rohit, co-founder at Solomo Media, a digital agency based in New Delhi, further added, “There has been nothing new to talk about except same way of publishing your content on these platforms and pray it gets the reach and if not, pour some money. So even if we are celebrating the day, what’s the conversation we social media folks can have?”
Also, pulling off online events at a time when the industry hasn’t matured enough is also a massive effort. One of the very strong reasons why Bengaluru based digital agency Graffiti Collaborative stopped doing the Social Media Day Bangalore event for last two years. “We used to celebrate the event at Hard Rock Cafe. Did it for three years and then stopped. Too many me-too with a lot of marketing budget but without good quality and the audience doesn’t know the difference,” Shweta Thakur, Director at Graffiti Collaborative explained.
The surprising and frustrating part here is that cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru where most cutting edge digital work is done are the ones who have gone in back foot mode in celebrating the day. One of the reasons could be that all of them are busy making money. But the other important aspect lies in coming forward and taking the initiative. We Indians love celebrations and always participate with open arms. However, when the call comes to take the initiative to drive such events we immediately take a step back.
But not everything is bad, there is still hope. The positive vibes are not coming from cities where marketing budgets are free-flowing but from the non-metro cities like Pune, Kochi and Ahmedabad. These are cities where you might struggle to find lush agency offices or disruptive digital work but these are cities, which take a lot of pride in celebrating the day for the last couple of years.
Pune based digital agency, Social Champs has been celebrating Social Media Day Pune for last two years. The event has scaled up with every year and is seeing tremendous response from the local Puneri crowd, informed Kiruba Shankar, CEO at Business Blogging. He is attending the event for the second time as a speaker and he believes that the energy is not yet diminished. “Social Media day is yet to be mainstream, hence the day is still an excellent excuse for digital entrepreneurs, agency folks and social media believers to come together and share the joy. Social Media Day Pune has seen a tremendous response from last year, thanks to small and medium entrepreneurs, digital folks and students.”
One of the reasons why the event has been doing well is due to its open format. Gautam Ghosh, Social and HR consultant flew in from Bangalore to be a part of the event. He was initially apprehensive about Pune’s digital crowd but the open and informal format took the brownie points. “Most of the crowd was below 30 and with the event happening in a pub, it was relaxing, informal and had the fun element for a free flow of positive thoughts. Overall the event was an interesting experience.”
Social Media Day Pune was conceived with the simple idea of having a good time couple with some learning in a chilled out manner. Gajanan Sapate, co-founder at Social Champs and the brain behind the event, emphasized that from the first year the team has focused on building it as a community event. “Our objective is to celebrate the day along with learning in a very informal and casual manner. It isn’t a conventional conference. The initiative has got good support and this year we had a better and bigger response.”
Kochi is another city that has tried hard to mark Social Media Day since last few years. Speaking to Lighthouse Insights over a call, Sooraj Gopi, one of the organizers of the 2016 event informed that it has been quite a struggle to keep organizing the day every year. “Last year the event was cancelled as no one was ready to take the initiative. This year we came forward, gave our best and received an amazing response. We had a lot of guys traveling from different parts of Kerala to attend the event and understand how social media is shaping not only in the state but also in India.”
Sooraj and his team are confident enough to pull this show in the coming year too. “People in Kerala are waiting to be a part of such events which are a bit rare in this part of the country. We are very overwhelmed by the response and plan to make it a full day event in 2017.”
However, the success of such events will depend on the initiatives and consistent effort from the teams. “Lack of initiative is the reason why cities like Mumbai and Bangalore have stopped such events. People are interested to be part of but they hardly show interest when you call for support. Saying that Social Champs will try its best to keep the event alive and evolve into a community driven platform,” Gajanan added.
The saving grace for Indian digital agencies are the independent ones like Chimp&z Inc and Prodigitz Media. Angad Manchanda, Co-Founder at Chimp&z Inc informed that initially they thought of creating a GIF but later on the idea of video evolved. “Social media is our bread and butter but we need to challenge ourselves beyond brand work. We have been doing such work whether it was the visuals around Game of Thrones or the Super Mario video dedicated to the Social Media Day.”
On the day, the agency launched a cool video around a simple idea: “how can we have fun around relevant content.”
On similar lines, boutique digital agency Prodigitz Media created posters and a GIF for the day but with a dose of humor in it.
On the brand front some shared visuals on social media but nothing worth mentioning. Bajaj Avenger was the only brand that ran a dedicated campaign which ironically asked people to take a break from social media!
Social media is yet to touch double digits in the country, hence recognizing Social Media Day and getting together for celebrations is essential. While the metros have a taken a back step, it is encouraging to see cities like Pune and Kochi not giving up. Hopefully, we see a lot more initiatives and enthusiasm from the cities that proudly associate with Digital in the years to come.