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BW Businessworld

Find Your Formula

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There are over a billion people on Facebook and 15 million brands on the platform that want to grab the eyeballs of users. Social media has emerged very rapidly, and has quickly captured the imagination of businesses. Facebook alone has given rise to so many success stories. Take Chumbak for instance. One of the earliest niche e-commerce players in India, the company has managed to build a thriving business with a strong push on social media. Chumbak gets 30 per cent of its online revenues from Facebook. It claims to get 5x of its advertising spend and 35 per cent of its traffic from the same platform. Yatra, an online travel company, is another venture that has hugely benefitted from Facebook;  it drives more than 1,50,000 users every day to the travel site.

Another popular channel is Twitter. Innovative brands build engagement and drive traffic from it. IndiGo Airlines makes for a good case study on how brands should handle Twitter. IndiGo is responsive and maintains a pleasant tone in its communications.

Although Facebook and Twitter remain popular, brands have capitalised on several other channels such as LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp.

Now, as an upcoming brand, you are convinced about the power of social media, and are all set to create a social presence for your brand. Having read about the wonders of Facebook, you start out with it. But, within a week, boom! There are reports about Facebook changing its algorithms which will drastically reduce the reach of posts. Social media channels do this to lure brands into spending on ads to widen their reach.

The changes in Facebook’s algorithms led to an uproar, with brands contemplating abandoning the platform altogether. The US-based food delivery service, Eat24, went to the extent of deleting its Facebook page, alongside writing an open letter to Facebook. Many other brands followed suit, but Facebook is in too strong a position to let such outbursts affect its revenue model.

Similar is the case with other channels. Be it Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn, the way they work keeps changing. It is important to test the waters before jumping in. “The industry is evolving at a super-fast pace. It is difficult for an entrepreneur to stay updated on these changes. There’s no point in being (present) on all the platforms for the heck of it, and doing zilch about it. Pick your platforms and then focus on them,” says Aditya Gupta, co-founder, Social Samosa, a popular blog that covers social media. Your presence on a social media platform should have a purpose — it can be building a brand, customer acquisition, building an online community or something else. You need to have a plan, and clarity on what it is that you expect from your efforts on social media. 

Zomato, a restaurant discovery site, has millions of users around the world that it engages with across channels. Alok Jain, chief marketing officer, Zomato, says the company uses social media mainly for brand loyalty and building engagement. “A brand should look at social media as part of its integrated marketing strategy. While new social networks keep surfacing, it’s advisable to actively engage with (customers) through those (platforms) that fit into your overall objectives and not carpet bomb all of them,” he says.

The sector you play in is another crucial aspect. Study the plus points of a channel, match it with your strengths, and then, go ahead with an objective in mind. For Rana Atheya, founder of DogSpot, an online store for canine care, it all started as a blog. Atheya, who is a dog lover, had a blog on dogs that saw a lot of engagment from readers. A few years later, he decided to venture into e-commerce; DogSpot is now a thriving venture-funded business. This shows the importance of blogging and building a community.

Apart from this, a keen eye on metrics will also help you arrive at a strategy that works. Vikas Rana, founder of MustSeeIndia, a travel information portal, suggests analysing the behaviour of the target audience towards your posts. Are they just liking them, but not sharing? Or they are sharing, but not commenting? Find out what clicks with your audience. Set up a regular session to discuss and analyse the subtle feedback your audience is giving you, and use it to plan your strategy. “Social is ever changing. You need to keep up pace. Keep the content fresh and current,” he says.

To put things in perspective, social media is not an easy nut to crack. And it is surely not a surefire way to increasing your business overnight. It is a slow, evolving process that requires you to be true to your audience, build a personal connect with them and shoot for organic growth. Keep experimenting, learning, and figure out what works best for you. This will help you sail through the constantly changing dynamics of social media. 

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 30-06-2014) ]]>
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