We live in a brave new digital world where social media plays a considerable role in influencing purchase decisions and, sometimes, even personal lifestyle choices. Given this, it is only natural that brands are scrambling left, right and center for their piece of the social media pie. And, it is surely a healthy trend. The social angle definitely puts the limelight firmly and fully on the common man and brands are now running in circles to grab their attention.
On the other side, for brands, too, social and digital media give an enormous amount of granularity in targeting, analyzing and tailoring their campaigns to fit customer preferences. Add to this the recent surge in smartphone usage and you have the perfect recipe to build a brand the right way. You can now connect to the masses using just a fraction of your traditional marketing budget.
While this euphoria is justified, there are a lot of traps that brands have gotten themselves into over the last few years. So here are three social media mistakes brands should stay away from committing to ensure that they do not lose out on their customer base.
This is a malaise that has struck just about everyone—from underwear brands to news outlets. Being seen on the left panel of Twitter or the right side of Facebook is now an obsession. We can see news anchors proudly proclaiming that their ‘hashtag’ is trending nationally. We see companies going gaga over getting their brand name or message seen as a trend. In reality, the ‘trend’ fad is dead and buried. Most serious users of social media tend to block out the trending noise and go on with their business. One of the most annoying things that this ‘trending’ fever has led to is hashtag spam. This only harms your brand’s reputation. Brands need to stop doing this and start to focus on building consent-based and story-driven engagement.
There are two ways in which brands are doing this and both are equally disastrous, to say the least. The first mode is when brands go to ‘influencers’ and work out a deal to talk about them online. The problem here is that the metrics they use to identify influencers are mostly wrong. They go by numbers like follower count or number of likes to decide who is influential. Both these numbers can be inorganically inflated by paying agencies that get you a huge follower base. The catch is that these ‘followers’ are not people and do not exist. So when such an influencer tweets about your product, nobody sees it. The second method is to approach influence platforms and use them to gain online traction. Here the problem is that there are no platforms that employ technology to validate influence, that too by numbers. So when you want to market a mobile, a food blogger may be tweeting about it for all you know. Credible Influencers with a proven engagement model should be used to stay out of this trap.
Brands consciously build buddy circles. This refers to a set of people who are working for/with the brand and some others who are self-proclaimed ambassadors or commentators. This circle does just one thing--they keep posting too many, too frequent updates that say “See! We did this! What an awesome rocking brand we are!” The updates generally resonate in the circle for a long time till they die out. But social media users have become alert to this method and they are likely to block or mute such circles on their timelines. So all your planned effort goes down the drain.
Remember that these are times when even a celebrity like Shah Rukh Khan can’t save a brand by tweeting about it. People are smart and know what they want and where to get it from. The day brands stop these three counterproductive strategies and start working on story-based and content-based engagement models, the real potential of selling on social media will be realized. Always remember that social media is like a piece of metal. It is entirely up to you as a brand whether to make it a very useful tool or a weapon of destruction!