Yes, you heard it right! And this comes from a guy who has worked with few really good agencies known to churn out the best for India’s social media scene. Mind you, social media handling is no ordinary task; it’s a specialist’s job! And no, I am absolutely not talking about the agencies that hire college going kids or catch summer job freelancers to put up updates on a Facebook page and ask them to use the peppiest English they have ever come across to engage fans on a Facebook wall!
Look what happened to Nestle and McDonalds as they went about generating more buzz and tried to get more fans on Facebook and Twitter respectively. I am sure these campaigns were handled by people who knew social media in and out and yet failed to gauge the response of their own fans while dealing with them on their own page! These brand/community managers were experienced but failed to tackle a situation where fans were supposed to go gaga over their brands and not hijack a whole campaign, turn it on its head and make it backfire on the brand itself!
Just imagine, how worse it could have got if a novice, inexperienced community manager had handled the situation which even made the specialists see stars during daytime. Thanks to the fans and people who vent their anger against brands who they felt treated them unfairly and hit the hardest when it hurts the most- at the time of a campaign!
Social Media is a double-edged sword; it can wound a brand unless handled with utmost care!
- Social media is not very old; it’s evolving and still is in its infant stages compared to print, radio and Television as mass-mediums of communication. When the new medium itself is ever-changing and ever evolving, there’s no question of “Experts” popping up in this domain. Thanks to personal branding, self-promotion and automated tweets (set up by some employee working for their CEO’s), top names of the industry boast and call themselves “Social Media Savvy and Expert” without even knowing the ABC’s of community management of these platforms.
- Social Media is a “mass medium of the masses and not the classes” (you must have heard this phrase used by film critics innumerable times to make people understand the commercial success of a film against some movie pitted against it which gets shown in few overseas film festivals only to disappear in thin air in no time. )
- People engage, love, hate, pour out their emotions, aspirations and dreams on a Facebook page! If a brand is catering to them every few hours through its updates and tweets, they want them to be good and interesting, just like the “Paisa Vasool” entertaining blockbuster movie they go to see to the theaters once in a while. But if that’s not the case, they will not hesitate to tear it down to shreds without even the slightest compassion.
- The only “Free Media” forum available to the most common public and citizens of the world. Social Media’s role was widely influential in incidents like the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt and Barack Obama’s selection to the post of President of United States, as the first colored man in history, which made history. How Social media influences people’s interests and decisions with its amazing ability to make things viral in just a few hours is its most phenomenal aspect till date - which beats every other medium out there. Kolavari Di’s fame and Union Minister Kapil Sibal’s disregard are India’s shining examples of the use of social media power to build or destroy a brand or individual.
- The most Direct form of reach for brands to their end users. Fans can either make or break a brand’s image on it’s own Facebook page, thus driving home the point of the whole “reaching out to the consumers” paradigm in order to judge for itself what a brand stands for and can deliver to it’s target audiences. (Market research and future planning becomes easy!)
All the above points make Social media more vulnerable to attacks from its own loyal fans, followers, over- zealous enthusiasts and competitors!
There are many aspects of Social Media Management that common people are unaware of like ORM (Online Reputation Management) and Response Management. Brands and companies look after their image on various internet platforms but mostly on social media circles like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube since these areas are “highly viral” and today any bad news travels much faster than a good news around the world, thanks to the internet.
I myself had worked on the Online Reputation Management of Commonwealth Games 2010 –New Delhi and managed responses on behalf of India’s fortune 500 companies regarding their complaints and consumer queries on their brand Facebook pages, Twitter and across consumer complaint forums all over the net in the past.
- Social Media fills in the shoes of customer service quite well since corporate clients give much more attention to bad things said online than any form of grievances. (We usually get a phone call from the client asking to respond immediately, sometimes even with a tailored message and make it go away as fast as possible). Of course, immediate due attention is paid to the complaint.
- An agency can take care of all these aspects of the game, while on the other hand clients are themselves unaware of many aspects and how it would affect a brand and sometimes freak out at the slightest negation.
- Community and Brand Managers working at an agency stress on the active participation, guidance and help that is to be given to a loyal fan, aggravated customer or a disgruntled contestant who hasn’t yet received his copy of the cookery magazine that he was promised after he won the contest on one of the Facebook pages.
- Continuous monitoring of pages on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube Channel at the time of a new campaign, media planning and spending accordingly, better crisis management and better conversion rate (in the form of sign-ups and new acquired fans) are some of the things that an agency can do and that’s why they are hired in the first place!
- Market Research becomes easy to judge from the number of likes and Facebook feeds shared on the wall by people when on the page or while playing a new Facebook application through Facebook Insights. Direct response in the form of posts and feeds (both negative and positive) can be made into a report as well that goes to the client every week/month for evaluation- which many times a client would miss or think of it as useless.
- Immediate attention, quick inter-mediation, fast response time and problem resolution is the hallmark of any good social media agency which are found wanting in corporate clients. If an agency does not respond to a Facebook post, tweet within 2-3 working days of an unhappy, curious fan or follower, then it has no right to call itself a social media agency!
The real test of a brand lies not just in reaching out to more people but also to keep its existing customers/fans happy. It’s really important to realize that at the end of the day it’s the people who make a brand and not the other way around!
Without passionate, enthusiastic and loyal fans, a brand would be just like an unknown entity and social media fans have lots of passion who love and like the brand they endorse or follow either on Facebook or Twitter! They need to be catered, fed and are made to take interest in a brand 24 hours a day- that’s what a social media agency does, that’s what they are there for- and that’s what they do better than the clients!