How to Leverage Social Media in Pakistan

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Its 2013, and Social Media has firmly established itself globally as an important touch point in a brand’s marketing arsenal. The same trend is trickling down here in Pakistan as well, and brands are jumping on to the Social Media bandwagon in droves. However, there lingers a widespread sense of confusion and doubt about the medium, and a lot of brands are not sure how to actually leverage the medium to their advantage, and what to expect in return.

It’s not all their fault either. Social Media is so different from everything they have done or seen till now, and the formulas for success on other marketing mediums don’t seem to yield similar results over here. This leads to frustration and loss of confidence in the medium’s effectiveness, and eventually, a lot of abandoned profiles.

Understanding Social Media

If you were to ask random 10 brand managers what do they know about Social Media, 4 will tell you it’s the next frontier of Internet Marketing, 3 will tell you it’s another place where you can advertise your products, 2 will say it’s for products & event announcements, and one will say it’s a research & feedback tool.

And all of them will be right.

Only some more than the others. Let’s dive in deeper, and see how to best use Social for maximum impact.

1. Listen

Yes, you can market & sell your products there, advertise to masses on yet another platform, announce new products, features, and share new info about them. But everything has it’s place, and all applications of a tool fall across a continuum. The first and most important application, which also is the least-practiced one here, is this:

It’s a listening tool.

Let me repeat that for better effect: It’s a “listening tool“.

Push vs. Pull

Social Media is inherently different from all other mass communication tools at the basic-most level. Where all other mediums excel at delivering, or pushing your message to masses, Social Media is all about the pull. It enables the brands to get honest, real-time, and quantifiable feedback at scale. Therefore, setting up a profile only to push your ATL/BTL stuff here as well is probably the laziest and most ineffective way to use Social Media.

Ask for Feedback

Brands miss out on a massive opportunity when they don’t ask the right questions, and even when they do, don’t use the learning in any constructive way. What if a brand took a break from praising itself all day long, and asked it’s fans how they felt about their product, and how they wished it could be made better? And once their fans spoke, they took that feedback and made improvements based on that? I simply don’t understand what’s wrong with this picture.

Yes, the actual process might be a bit more elaborate than that, but the rules remain the same. Why the data must be on Nielsen or TNS-branded slide to be considered authentic? What’s wrong with doing your own research, especially when it’s that easy to do so?

2. Lose the Ego

If somebody took out the time to come to your profile, and leave some heated comments about how much your product sucks, it shows that they at least know about your brand and are aware of your product offering. They are not using your product because of the reasons they explained, and it stands to reason that they are probably not the only ones with exactly these complaints. Therefore deleting the harsh-but-true comments off the profile would be the exact equivalent of burying your head in the sand.

Come down from your high throne, and listen to what the little guy is screaming about. It’s his money that floats your boat, after all. Humility, and receptivity from a brand is a rare sight, and could be so refreshing that it just might convert many a customers for life.

Create avenues and opportunities for your consumers to share their honest opinions about your product. Remember: Your brand isn’t what your marketing says; it is what the people say it is. So ask the right questions, obsessively listen to their feedback, and make swift improvements wherever possible. Nothing will boost your sales more than this.

3. Make an Effort: It’s Under-Rated

One of the major problems with Social Media is that effort, is massively under-rated. Brands, particularly the larger ones, should strive to reach every fan on an individual level and provide value beyond their own product experience. If Bodyform CEO can make time to publish a video response to a fan’s joke, or if Taco Bell can give custom-made speedos to a random fan just because they asked for it, what’s holding you back?

Smaller, more local businesses should be even more proactive as they have a limited audience that lives within their area of business. So if a fan tweets out that his car won’t start, it would be absolutely mind-blowing if a brand page (especially a non-locomotive brand) tells them that they’re having a mechanic sent over. If somebody posts pictures of their engagement/wedding, sending a bouquet over would probably make their day. There’s no harm in making lots of Social Media noise about it later on, actually its highly recommended, but for a brand to show such care for their fans beyond just their own offering seals the deal for life.

4. Quality > Quantity: More is Not Always Better

Just because you have a bigger crowd under your flag doesn’t mean you will get more mileage out of it. Fan/follower count is the most crude and inaccurate measure of a brand’s Social Media performance. Fine, you have 100,000 fans on your Facebook page. But how many of them fall precisely in your target group? How much do you know about them beyond the age demographics of your fan base? And most importantly, how many of them actually interact and engage with your content on a regular basis? How many would notice if you don’t make a post for a couple weeks? What do they say about your brand & product?

These are deeper questions that can paint a more realistic image representative of your Social Media marketing. So instead of aiming to double your audience size by the end of the year, try to engage more and more of the existing fans in better ways so that your brand is at least among the top 5 pages they talk to on Social Media. 50,000 highly engaged fans are worth much more than 500,000 who can’t even spell your brand name properly.

5. Be Authentic: Personalized Tone of Voice

Talking like a commercial ad won’t get you any love. It’s Social media, born & bred in a global village. So be social. Mingle and mix up with your fans, and talk like you’re one of them. Be informal. If they talk in Pashto, respond in the same language. Minglish/Roman Urdu comments should get a similarly phrased response.

Maintaining that fake PR-approved tone in your comments, posts and tweets is one of the biggest turn-offs for fans. They don’t want to talk to a marketing-robot. They talk to you like they would talk to someone who is standing in front of them; if your response looks like too much thinking went into it, you will instantly lose that authenticity and turn it into a plastic conversation. So just loosen up, and speak to them like you would to a friend sitting next to you.

These are just some of the suggestions that don’t really cost a lot, but can really fine tune your efforts and start showing tangible results within a short period of time. Social Media is hard, make no mistake about it. But the gains are worth the pain & effort that goes into it.

Do sound off in the comments section, or on our Facebook or Twitter pages. Do you have any tips or suggestions that have worked for you? We’d love to hear what’s your take on this.

Ameer Aftab is a Social Media Strategist who is absolutely obsessed with consumer experience on Digital Media. A firm believer of "Consumer First" philosophy, he is often found locked in deep arguments over how to make his consumers' day through Interactive Marketing. He molds his passion into words at his blog Third World Strategy and tweets opinions at @AmeerAftab.

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