‘Igniting the social graph’ was just one of the catchy take home phrases from the Habari Media ‘tuongee’, or mini-symposium, which was hosted by the digital media house last week, in association with BBC.com, Facebook, Vodacom, BDFM and MTV.
A select group of the country’s digital marketing elite sat down to discuss matters related to digital marketing and how brands can better leverage off the available platforms.
Jonathan Labin, commercial manager for CEEMEA Facebook, started the Social Talk by asking the audience who had a real personal profile on the Internet five years ago. Not one member of the digitally astute audience had. Today we all do. Using real identities online is a key social change we have seen in the last five years and it has enabled social media marketing and untold opportunities for brands, Labin explained.
Labin went on to illustrate the dramatic shifts that have occurred in the web’s short history. In the ‘80s the web was used for browsing; in the ‘90s it was used for searching. Today the web is definitely about sharing information.
Recent statistics from Comscore reveal time spent browsing sites has decreased by 21%, search has increased by 1% and time spent on social media platforms has increased by 52%. Our real friends are making our experiences better online just as they do in the physical world. Social platforms are facilitating these connections and making the world a more open and connected place.
The social graph, a term coined by Mark Zuckerberg to describe the network of connections that exist between users and through which people communicate and share information, continues to grow at an impressive pace.
According to Labin, Facebook user sharing has doubled over the last year alone.
Fifteen million people connect on Facebook every day, but even more impressive is that there are now 50m ‘likes’ daily (searchengineland.com) – friends sharing their preferences with friends. Not only does this demonstrate the importance users place on sharing information, it also illustrates that the web is now being built around people.
This shift is changing businesses; they too are re-organising around people. A good example is a recent campaign by ASB Bank in New Zealand. The bank created a virtual banking experience on Facebook, effectively using the social media platform as a conversation platform knowing that this is where their customers spend their time. ASB has succeeded in bringing the boring, but important discussion of loans and deposits, to the fun environment of Facebook.
Not only are businesses changing, but also shopping is re-organising around people (Groupon, Amazon, Dealify), as is news re-organising itself around people – 43% of news is now shared via social media in the US (study by CNN, October 2010).
Social by design
When people are the central pivot around which your business revolves the importance of word of mouth, or social advocacy, is critical.
Labin says that advertising today needs to be ‘social by design’; it needs to be built around people and be shared. Ask yourself, is this something people want to share. Will this campaign spark a conversation? Will this ignite the social graph?
He advises marketers to not channel their thinking by creating platform specific strategies, rather to consider whether the communication they envisage is social by design. Is it good enough for users to want to share it with their friends?
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube can be used to amplify paid-for media and in so doing, maximise the media landscape.
Belinda Carreira, senior manager: interactive marketing at Standard Bank complemented Labin’s presentation by giving a client perspective on social media.
Carreira is a firm advocate of social media, believing that it provides excellent opportunities, but that the trick is to find how it can drive value for the business.
Converting the engagement on social media platforms into a tangible result is what is now expected from social media campaigns, which means that your measures need to extend beyond collecting followers and fans. To achieve this, Carreira advises that social media requires thought and a well planned strategic approach. “Social media should support a campaign’s overall objectives but the message needs to be tailored specifically for each social media platform, all of which need to have a solid content strategy.”
The action or engagement that you drive on each platform should also be tailored to how the communities prefer to use the platform. For example Facebook users tend to prefer to remain within Facebook but Twitter users are used to clicking out, so tailor your activation appropriately.”
She added that social media should not be used just for campaigns, “social media is for all the time. Your community will not sustain itself in-between activations, you need to invest in your platforms and your communities consistently”.
On the topic of social media and reputation management, Carreira had some interesting insights. “Your reputation is what people say about you when you are not in the room. Your social reputation, however, is what people say about you whether you are in the room, or not!”
Carreira advises businesses to firstly “choose to be in the room, or risk becoming irrelevant”, and secondly, ‘”o use a good social media reputation management company to help you track what is being said about your brand and help you manage your reputation appropriately in this space”.
“Social media has shifted businesses into a more vulnerable state. Businesses are no longer in control of their messages, of their reputation and, even in some cases, their products and processes. Their customers have a more powerful voice and can find each other, they have rights and they are more discerning. This power shift means that businesses’ shortcomings are being exposed every day so this needs to be managed,” she says.
Once a business is tracking they can decide to respond or not. Carreira advises businesses to listen first, and then analyse. “Identify your opinion leaders. Identify your agitators. Measure your response.” And brands shouldn’t get defensive. “Don’t try and win the argument.”