Social media marketing: Not just a millennial fad but a business necessity

You may be well aware of the fact that social media is the most effective marketing tool nowadays. After observing the drastic and fruitful results of this phenomenon, small businesses too are hopping on to the social media bandwagon in order to market their wares to their target audiences. Here are some W’s and H’s regarding the usage of social media as a tool, expounded to us by the experts in this field.

Social media marketing-Not just a millennial fad but a business necessity

Let’s start with a simple fact, we can’t live without social media.

For almost everyone, social media is essential, and they use it daily to express themselves, to socialize, for entertainment and to stay updated with the news. And an increasingly large number of people are now using social media as a tool to run their businesses.

Over the past few years, with the evolution of social media, it has become a cardinal rule for the growth of any business to incorporate social media into their business practises and as a primary marketing channel. It doesn’t matter whether your business is a local mom-n-pop store or an enterprise. With over 448 million Indian social media users, it’s imperative that your message reaches your customer by employing an effective media strategy.

That’s what domestic flower and gift retailer Ferns N Petals (FNP) did—adopt a social media marketing strategy.

“A silent father beefing up his social media profile to reach his son is a classic example of how social media has not only taken over just Gen-Z or the millennials but also Gen-X and the baby boomers. That’s the power of social media today and FNP has embraced this,”

says Komal Gupta, Head of Content Marketing, Ferns N Petals (FNP)

The company has been very active on social media lately and they are using various social media campaigns to attract their target audience, especially millennials. Gupta tells us that to reach out to potential consumers, they curate content for the active social media users who are majorly Gen-Z but also Gen-X and Y. “We started doing this in October 2019 and were able to reach out to almost 20 crore users on social media in the last 18 months – that’s the power of social media and that’s the goodness that storytelling brings to our brand today,” she says.

Likewise, an F&B brand Squaremeal Foods, while recently launching their cloud kitchen, Squaremeal BOX, brought in various social media aspects into their marketing strategy by partnering with a strategic marketing agency, Brandniti. Since the day they launched, social media marketing has garnered them a lot of attention. In fact, their sales accelerated by almost 500 per cent within two weeks.

Keeping these case studies in mind, we can simply put two and two together and figure out that social media is helping businesses to accumulate sales and revenue. But is it that simple?

In actuality there is a lot more to understand about why social media is necessary for businesses to adopt. We asked a few market players about this to let our readers know the W’s and H’s of social media marketing (SMM).

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Ever wondered about how it all began?

Social media and social media marketing are not a new phenomenon and have been around for quite some time now.

Just like we assumed that the pandemic induced lockdowns will last for only a few weeks, decades ago, marketers too thought that social media marketing was just a fad that would fade away soon.

But it did last and has become the most prominent tool for marketing and advertising now.

It all started with the dot com bubble that made the internet a thing and eventually businesses started to design their own websites and began marketing their products via Google, Yahoo or MSN. Then came blogs that further accentuated its popularity and marketers started to recognize the potential it holds.

The early 2000’s was the time when the social media boom actually occurred.

With the arrival of social networking platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, e-Bay and My Space, businesses incorporated e-commerce into their business models and picked up on the positive facets of marketing via these platforms.

Today, almost every marketing executive you will meet will tell you to adopt SMM and most customers regularly check out the social media account of any brand before choosing it or even if they just want to complain about it. You know twitter right…?

But here comes the important question, why is it imperative?

Is it because most brands have social media accounts now and SMM is on trend…? These can be the reasons but that does not tell the whole story.

Here is what the experts say.

“With a growing tech-savvy consumer base, each minute spent on the internet by the consumer is an opportunity to convert their likes, preferences and desires into needs. Social media has become the primary medium for consumers to exercise their choices as well as display these behaviours, preferences, etc. And this has become the driver for brands to reach out to their potential consumers,” explains Gupta of FNP.

In three simple words—It is impactful.

India is now a digital nation. Internet users are increasing rapidly—624 million users are there as of January 2021, as are social media users. As per the latest data, the number of social media users in India was equivalent to 32.3 per cent of the total population in January 2021.

As more and more people log in to their social media, they also like to learn more about brands and companies for various reasons. A survey conducted by a foreign marketing firm BostonDigital, highlighted those reasons—product information, information related to their interests or hobbies, for a cause that the consumer supports, interesting or funny content, deals and offers or for a strong online community.

These reasons are compelling enough for any company to use every tool in their social media arsenal to understand and leverage this information. And grab the opportunity to reach out to their target audience. In fact, social media platforms are playing a massive role in giving social validation to the psyche of the consumer and this has become the SOP for consumerism today.

Amol Roy, digital marketer and founder of digital marketing agency Shutter Cast believes that due to social media, brands can get direct access to their customers.

“It doesn’t matter if you run a small local business or a big company. Social media is a crucial piece of your business marketing strategy. In today’s world where people are spending a lot of time on social media apps, it is very important for brands to tap into the market with the use of these tools,” he says.

According to GlobalWebIndex, 54 per cent of social media browsers use social media to research various products. Usually, each person spends an average of 2 hours and 25 minutes on social media while using networking and messaging tools.

Roy further elaborates, “Social platforms help you to connect with your customers and boost your visibility amongst them. They also serve to increase awareness about your brand, enabling you to reach a wide audience by expending a large amount of time and effort and this provides a boost to your leads and sales. Billions of people around the world are using social media every month and the users and engagement on major platforms just keep increasing as it’s free to create a business profile on all the major social networks, so you have got nothing to lose, only to gain.”

And brands implicitly understand the importance of profit, especially when the global economy went into a tailspin due to the pandemic.

Brands and businesses are functioning in an extremely competitive space in these times. “The most challenging task for a new/small brand is to stand out of the crowd,” says Archana Gulia, Creative Director at ODN Digital.

“This standing out and being different is synonymous with the marketing principle of finding one’s own voice – and sticking with it always! While devising a strategy at an early stage, maintaining this consistency and yet being engaging is the most important point to stick to!” she adds.

That is why, there has been a significant upsurge in the adoption of social media business strategies by companies.

According to Facebook, more than 70 per cent of small businesses are on the platform to establish their presence. “For small businesses, social media is a hot spot to start promoting gated content that connects with the target audience and generate qualified business leads through advanced targeting,”

says Haresh Motirale, Founder and Director—Brandniti.

He further comments, “With 4 billion worldwide users and increasing, social media has been playing a pivotal role in the brand’s marketing strategy and is fast becoming the preferred platform for small businesses or start-ups.”

For instance, they promoted Squaremeal BOX on social media which was a huge success. Citing it as an example, Motirale asserts that the online presence of the brand augmented their sales, and the brand secured a firm footing amidst their target segment. “The advantage of social media marketing is that it allows for micro-market targeting that yields effective results. Social media platforms, with the right mix and right targeting, can do wonders for a brand just the way they did for Squaremeal Box. It helped to establish them and made them stand out amongst the crowd through an effective social media strategy,” he tells us.

Adding to that Shutter Cast’s Roy tells us that they have also gained a good number of accounts in 2020. “We have helped close to 100+ business in 2020 as we have a different approach towards advertising and we have a relatively young team,” he avers.

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Does content creation impact brand ROI?

Social media marketing is actually all about creating content that works well on various platforms and draws in the crowd while driving engagement with people.

FNP media, when they launched their social media campaign during Valentine’s Day, showcased Gen X while simultaneously focusing on engaging with Gen Y or millennials—the largest influencer generation of today.

“We reached out via short films, reels, memes, video stories, boomerangs, nostalgia marketing, moment marketing and much more. Our latest experiment was attempted during Valentine’s Day of 2021 with the brand film ‘Ek Cup Chai.’ Which is a little love story staged in the 50s, showcasing Gen-X, wherein our focus was to engage with the millennials. Why focus on millennials? Because they stand at the centre point of both Gen-Z and X and have a larger scope for influencing the behaviour of all three generations,” Gupta of FNP tells us. The end result was better than what they were expecting, with over 5 million views and many vouchers redeemed as well.

This signifies that their brand engagement on social media was definitely worth it.

In terms of ROI, social media lets you know how much you are currently spending and how much your social media impact matters to your business right now. The ROI is huge as the business gets new customers, new business and also gets to experiment more with their products/services.

Within two years, more than 50 per cent of small businesses agree that social media has helped them to increase sales; within five years, 70 per cent of small businesses see ROI from having a social media presence.

“As most enterprises have found, social media has become the sine-qua-non for bringing in new business, as social carves out an integral spot for itself within marketing strategies being adopted by many businesses. The apparatus for social media analytics further boosts the endeavours being put in by companies to calculate their ROI and provides helpful insights as to which areas the business is growing in exponentially,” explains Roy.

What kind of SM strategy do businesses want?

With ample ways to taste success on social media, pinpointing a best strategy can be a daunting task for a business. At the same time, when the competition for survival is cut-throat in the market, it’s necessary for a firm to stand out of the crowd to attract customers. This is what a brand expects most out of their SM campaign.

Industry expert Gulia tells us, “Brands and businesses are functioning in an extremely competitive space, which makes it more challenging for new or small brands to stand out of the crowd. This standing out and being different is synonymous with the marketing principle of finding one’s own voice – and sticking with it always! While devising a strategy at an early stage, maintaining this consistency and yet being engaging is the most important point to stick to!”

SM Strategy can also be widely based upon prevailing market circumstances.

For instance, as the second wave of covid takes over, digital transactions will become more pertinent. This has given impetus to digital payment platforms to accelerate their social media campaigns. PhonePe, which saw significant growth last year, launched its latest initiative ‘har phone pe PhonePe’ to drive their digital growth and UPI transactions, by showing users and their stories on social media.

Moreover, brands are also choosing ways to personally connect with consumers, and it can be done in numerous ways. Gupta of FNP says that storytelling is one of the strategies—an old school marketing technique. “Storytelling has influenced the modus-operandi of human beings right from the Vedic period, when Valmiki wrote about the character of Ram during Treta Yuga. This later came to be known as The Ramayan. Stories have the potential to bring change and influence and remind human beings about what’s right, what’s good and what’s perfection. Hence, FNP too focuses on storytelling, “she says.

Commenting on the subject Gulia says, “More than creating a personalised experience, at ODN, we believe what’s more important is that we create a niche consumer set – mapping their tastes and preferences and then addressing these people as your core audience. This creates the perception of making marketing personalised for this core set of consumers.”

The medium does not matter

Marketers also emphasize that whatever medium you choose to tell your stories—video, images, pop-up ads etc., is worth it as long as it can draw the attention of the target audience.

“All media is good media as long as it is aesthetic and is designed keeping the end consumer in mind,” states Gulia.

Videos have of late become the hottest trend in communication and according to reports, consumers are making about 30 per cent buying decisions that are influenced by a video. “They are crisp, visual and offer the best visual format. So, choose videos if your budget and resource bandwidth allow that; or even better, opt for a good mix of static stories and videos. Try to stick to a single thread of communication for maximum impact,” Gulia advises.

What mistakes do businesses make?

There is no doubt that social media platforms can be the wellspring of engagement, but they can also become a minefield of goofs, bloopers and blunders and if not used attentively, can bring anyone down.

It’s hard to disagree with that.

Just to give you an overview, let’s talk about the infamous ruckus about D&G’s Instagram. The brand’s aggressive and insensitive marketing campaign for their 2017 fall sneakers failed when instagrammers took offense to the statement ‘I am thin & gorgeous,’ complaining that the brand was shaming people for not having an ideal body type.

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Dolce & Gabbana ‘Thin and Gorgeous’ Shoes Caused Outrage Online

The tension further escalated when D&G’s co-founder, Gabbana, insulted followers for criticizing their shoes and campaign. The feud resulted in more negative backlash for them, and their image was tarnished.

Then the brand repeated the same mistake in 2018 and made headlines for an offensive Instagram ad for a runway show to be held in China. Their racist marketing campaign received major blowback and criticism, and the outrage was further exacerbated when Gabbana’s DMs were leaked.

The brand image suffered again when #BoycottDolce started trending. In fact, they lost millions of dollars when the group was forced to cancel a marquee show in Shanghai amid a spiralling backlash against their advertising campaign and this led to Chinese e-commerce sites boycotting D&G products.

Other brands such as Heinz, Pepsi, Gillete, Zomato, PharmEasy, Red label and others have all been in a soup for their marketing blunders. Small companies, when trying to be creative, need to be really careful because this kind of backlash can be intensely damaging to their brand image.

Roy of Shutter Cast says, “Some of the glaring mistakes that small companies and start-ups usually make when posting on their social media accounts are- being sloppy with the way they post, having no strategy in place before posting, adopting an inconsistent tone in their posts and not giving their posts and hashtags a once-over before posting.”

He then suggests how to avoid such gaffes, “To avoid these blunders, companies should have a well-planned strategy in place that lists out all the content, ad copies, memes, creatives and hashtags to go along with the post. Having one tool in place for sending out posts timely, such as Buffer or Hootsuite, will go a long way in bringing in more engagement, consistency and results. Also, brands need to decide beforehand what tone they want to adopt when communicating with their audience on social media. It cannot be professional one day and quirky the next. Compartmentalize your product or service and decide accordingly what tone will sit well with your target audience,” he advises.

Whereas Gulia believes that if the SM strategy functions independently without basing itself in the brand or product, then it is not a good strategy and it will sabotage the brand’s growth. “Broadly speaking, if the marketing function of an SME brand is not central and if there are no clear communication rules about the do’s and don’ts, any marketing strategy will go wrong. One might realise what the impact was later, but it is bound to have a negative impact!” she tells us.

Also, SME’s usually think that by increasing their spend on advertising, they can increase their sales. It is not true. Social media is more about real stories and connecting with real people directly to build long-lasting relationships with them and that goes a long way in driving growth for the business.

Is social media the new business card?

Just think—what do you usually do when you need someone’s details?

The answer can be that you fish out their social media accounts.

So yes, even if it’s a very millennial thing, visiting cards are being replaced by social media.

Although, exchanging visiting or business cards is still a ritual in the corporate landscape, you will notice that now they also include the social media account information among the contact details of most people. Social media influencers as well as businesses are of the opinion that social media affords them more opportunities than those obtained by simply networking via business cards.

In addition to that, the fluidity of social media provides everyone with immense opportunities in various ways; for example, by providing a launchpad, for storytelling, as a business platform, for initiating social programmes and much more. In this era of e-commerce as well as the pandemic plaguing us all, social media marketing is not just an option but a critical business requirement that one cannot afford to ignore.

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