In its somewhat brief history, social media marketing has managed to become the optimal source for pushing brand identity and launching marketing campaigns. As more and more brands get on the bandwagon to establish their online presence, murmurs of social media marketing’s decline have also been shaping up in some quarters. Unfounded or not, the recent proliferation of fake news, fake profiles, daily outrage, political warfare, and privacy concerns have definitely dented the image of social media in the public eye. However, numbers tell a different story. Despite diminishing trust over certain issues and internet penetration still in its growth phase in India, Facebook users in the country crossed the 240 million mark in the middle of 2017.
According to social media marketing agency Social Bakers, brands have an average of almost nine million fans on Facebook, and close to one million on Twitter. Furthermore, the average number of brand-consumer interactions on Facebook hovers well over four lakh and the response rate is as high as 76 percent. Most of these numbers come from consumer-facing brands, with e-commerce, electronics, and fashion leading the charge of social media marketing conversations.
If Indians are getting together on a single platform in such astounding numbers, a huge opportunity in marketing on social media still exists. It is a fact that cannot possibly be lost on marketers, now or in the coming future. Therefore, the way forward from here is not just doing social media marketing, but doing it right. Using every technology and tool out there will be less important than using the right ones in engaging, effective ways.
Keeping in mind the recent updates and tech, marketers should look to leverage the potential of the ones which can engross and offer value-added solutions to both them and the consumers. So going forward into the new year, marketers should keep the following in mind in their bid to market their agenda and stay relevant.
Chatbots to the rescue
Chatbots are a bundle of code used to perform tasks and interact with users through the most intuitive interface – texting. Since their introduction on various platforms, chatbots are now mainly used as an interface for B2C customer service, sales, and marketing. Following the release of multiple chatbots by Facebook in 2016, many brands jumped on the bandwagon. However, very few are doing it right so far.
At the moment, most Indian brands’ chatbots are not designed to address complex issues and natural conversation. They continue to work on logic trees and keywords that aren’t very thought through. This means they are only adding another step to the process of consumer interactions and prolonging the turnaround time for resolutions. Hopefully, 2018 will see an upgrade in Indian brands’ chatbots capabilities.
Even Indian banks have realised the potential of the chatbot utility, with banks like ICICI, HDFC, and State Bank gearing up to train their bots to handle a variety of queries. With an eye on the future, these banks have maintained that they will continuously invest in the technology, which in all probability will facilitate customers and ease business transactions.
Social media stories are here to stay
Started by Snapchat in 2011, instant stories are a ubiquitous entity, appearing on almost every social media channel. This trend of temporary content – which puts individual and brand stories right on top of viewers’ feeds – will continue well into 2018, thanks to the authenticity it allows. It also encourages immediate engagement from followers because of its temporary nature.
However, with so much content also comes clutter. Over 200 million stories are being created now. The clutter is slowly moving to the top of social media feeds now. Standing out from others will hence continue to get more difficult as more and more marketers and consumers discover the effectiveness of stories. Brands will need a unique strategy for it in 2018, one that focuses on authentic, engaging, high-quality, and real-time content.
Trust and transparency will set the winners apart
Like mentioned earlier, fake news and profiles have diminished the trust consumers had in brand engagements and in social media in general. Hopefully, brands can take a cue and realise how authenticity and transparency are pertinent to their survival. Everything they say or that is said about them on social media will be under more scrutiny than before. This means that brands will have to truly walk the talk.
Being unethical or unauthentic in any stakeholder engagement – community, employee, investor – will get pulled up because it is an open world. This is going to have a deep impact on review marketing strategy as well. Paying for positive reviews, or faking them for that matter, will not keep getting footfalls to your store, restaurant, or job interviews. Social media has ensured that the truth-trust-transparency trio, for the first time ever, becomes an actual marketing and reputation strategy. This is going to get further established in 2018, and that is good news for consumers.
There is no doubt that social media will power its relevance through 2018 and even beyond, but that doesn’t mean marketers can put all their eggs in the same basket. That would be foolhardy, given how technology upheaves the landscape more often than ever. So going forward you need to keep a keen eye on how AI can dictate the next course for social media marketing, or prepare for VR as it furthers its reach and appeal. These are probably subjects and trends which may dominate the discussion going forward, and it’s better to stay ahead of the curve than to be left behind biting the dust.