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The Power of Social Media: Not just What you think
Sneh Sharma
Sneh Sharma
Director Digital Marketing, Webenza
Social Media is much more than that which is commonly defined. People have been sociable on the web for years and social networks have existed since the days of news groups and forums. The technology and implementation is much improved but the desire to connect, follow thought leaders, be part of something and communicate remains the same.

For a brand, being sociable is hugely important as it means they understand the importance of touch points and the opportunities each one of those has for an interaction/conversation with a customer/user.

As a strategy, learning to be sociable is much bigger than a brand and it needs the full involvement and commitment of the entire organization, not just the marketing department.

As a channel; you can certainly treat Facebook as a channel, or Twitter, but (for me) it's more about learning to use digital as a medium and leveraging the networks that exist and those you can be involved in. Social media certainly defies the typical definition of a channel.

Our standard channels are generally one way. We turn the TV on, we listen. We turn the radio on, we listen. We drive by billboards, posters and signs, we read. Social Media has changed it all, but social media is not a magic bullet that changes things with a mouse click or in a blink of an eye; it is the outcome of people's desire, emotions and the advent and support of the Technology.

Influence of Technology

Technology has an overbearing influence in the way we engage with our customers at each step.Today there is a unique possibility of sharply segregating our customer interaction points and have the best in class response in virtual real time. The customer is aware of this and demands nothing less.There are fewer shrouds to hide behind and justify a delay. 
And now the customer is also keen to meet the chef and in the kitchen...virtually!

Technology on the whole is offering businesses of all shapes and sizes an array of options that can help engage their customers, creating bigger impact with a lasting impression. Technology can help enable conversations, making businesses more transparent and consumers feel more in touch with a brand/product/service. 

Needless to say, technology is not enough by itself to 'engage' and I fear that some businesses often rely on this. Developments in technology may offer new outlets in order to communicate but the way in which we, the public do so, is exactly the same as what we've done for years. Businesses, marketers and agencies should know that technology is nothing without a great storyteller behind it. 

To be engaging you must create something others want to be part of. Technology simply offers a greater choice for businesses, marketers and agencies to deliver that message.

Technology has forced us to "get found" by customers versus interrupting them. The traditional rules of marketing are dead. It no longer matters what you's what others are saying about you. Customers are no longer listening to sales reps, reading spam messages, or watching television advertisements. They're using social networks and search engines to shop and gather information. The only way to stand out in this day and age is to match the way you market your products with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products.
It is now an inbound marketing strategy, which is pulling the customer to you rather than pushing the message on them. 
It is no longer a one-way conversation; it is a two-way conversation involving the customer. 
It is not based on interruption anymore but by permission from the customer, if not; the customer will not be engaged, you have to offer them value, if not; you wont get their attention.

ROI on Social Media

There are multiple ways by which ROI on social media can be evaluated.
A very short example: Social media could be an indicator of consumer behavior, buying patterns, preferences etc. These are useful insights that any marketer would look for. This information can help businesses strategically align their products and services to fulfill the needs of a larger audience.

So, in this case, social media can act as a platform between the current state and the future state of businesses. Once current state and future state mapping is done and businesses start realizing the benefits, ROI calculation is not very difficult.
I think the best way to get the answer is to ask, "can anybody quantify what they have actually made on social networks?"
I would recommend you to search for a case study called "BLENDTEC",its a US based blender manufacturer which quintupled its sales just by using viral marketing and social media marketing. To put forward a couple of more interesting topics, DELL,the computer maker sold over 3 million laptops just through Twitter and IKEA, one of the world's largest furnishing store, made a huge impact by a great social media campaign and pulled millions of people to its stores just by using Facebook.

There are some good Indian examples as well. Inkfruit and Hokey Pokey ice creams are some of the more beautiful and effective strategies started from scratch.

Now the question is; what about the ROI ?
ROI for social media can be calculated in 3 ways:-

1. Volume - Number of followers, fans on your Social Media properties - this gives you awareness and reach, which tells you how many people are connected to you and know your brand.

2. Engagement - How many comments, likes, retweets, mentions - this gives you an idea how engaging your content is and how attached your fans are with your brand.

3. Conversion - Sales, footfall, downloads - this will give you the actual sales data or the conversion data that out of all the people who are actually responding to you, how many of them are actually buying. If they are not buying, you could possibly adopt a sales promotion strategy like prizes, coupons, discounts, etc. as customers like to feel special.

To conclude I would say, Social Media Marketing(SMM) is similar to Relationship Marketing in that it is not just a new medium or a mechanism to reach out and engage and promote word-of-mouth, it is a new way of thinking about your clients and business in general.

SMM is about reaching out, understanding, caring and engaging with customers in a meaningful and human way. It is about creating truly important and interesting content that cuts away all the "advertising" and "marketing" language and speaks directly to the needs of the consumer without the need to create complicated marketing copy writing. It is about treating the consumer as an equal and providing information that is important and valuable.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the development of SMM has reshaped our understanding of marketing in general and hence deserves a place outside of "media". The approach and the lessons learned from SMM can and should be applied in every marketing effort in order to drive coordinated branding that is meaningful to the end user.

SMM is an "Engagement culture of a company used to reach out to consumers (using interactive new media) in a meaningful, relevant and non-intrusive way to both, communicate and gather relevant information about the brand." Only then will you get word-of-mouth and all the real benefits (ROI) of SMM.

Today is the FIRST DAY of the rest of your SOCIAL LIFE, spend it wisely.

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