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In this age where Social Media has taken everyone over by storm, your consumer, who could also be an opinion leader is sharing your brand experiences on the move without wasting a minute online all the time on the go and this, without even waiting to meet their peers in person. The truth of the matter is, these consumers spend more time on social media, than they do at your stores, outlets and at malls. Gone are the days from the Marketing Class when ‘Where are you consumers found?’ had a more conventional answer. It is high time that the brands admit to the fact that these consumers spend more time on social media, than they do at your stores, outlets and at malls. They are tweeting their experiences, asking friends for recommendations, saving what they like for future use and showing off what they bought. Yep, the consumer is now connected all through the buying process. The new age shopper has reduced the sales person to an insignificant medium in the buying process.

The heartening fact is that there are a few brands in India have gone successful socially. Vodafone, Shoppers Stop, Inorbit malls, Basic Life, MTV india are stellar examples of brands taking up social media with gusto. From engaging conversations to interactive contests, to viral videos and some really cool apps. These brands are pulling all the stops to engage with their audiences. But there are thousands of others who are floundering in coming to terms with this media and some who are yet to take the first baby steps.

The real question now is, How does going Social really help my business?

There is little doubt that social media adds a totally new dimension to marketing, the true potential, however, lies in changing your entire business eventually.

The world of social media is littered with brand mentions and recommendations from friends and perfect strangers or ‘influencers’ as they are known. Experiences are shared, information sought and consumers are going online now more than ever for product research before purchase.

Sample these figures.

  • 76 percent of consumers recommend companies they trust to a friend or colleague (Source: Edelman)
  • Millennials are highly-skeptical of brand content and marketing in social media, instead 86 percent of consumers in that group say that user-generated content has more influence on what they buy (Source: Bazaarvoice Study)
  • 62 percent of all online shoppers read product-related comments from friends on Facebook, with 75% of these shopper clicking through to the retailers site (Source: Sociable Labs Social Impact Consumer Study)

A study by Democracy, UK shows what 20 minutes is like on Facebook:

Every 20 minutes:

  • More than 1 million web links are shared
  • 13 million pictures are tagged
  • 1.6 million wall posts are published
  • 2.7 million  images are uploaded
  • 10.2 million comments are shared
  • 4.6 million messages are sent.
  • What this translates to is more than 30 billion pieces of content ( web links, stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums) are shared each month

With increased social recommendations being at the forefront of information gathering and product/brand discovery, it’s incredibly important for brands to  take advantage of these touch points by creating opportunities for consumers to create, share and interact with influencers via social networks, forums, blogs and brand-owned websites and storefronts. But the key word is evolution: from engagement to conversations to enlightenment. Every brand needs to take this route. The first 2 are for the consumers the last pertains to the brand about its customers. With so much data, imagine the information every brand can garner about its consumers.

What NEXT from here on?

Facebook and Twitter are just baby steps in the brand socialisation process. One needs to migrate to other channels- Pinterest, Instagram and blogs for instance, especially for fashion destinations and gourmet brands.

 Retail and mall brands should see huge benefits from “Location based Loyalty ideas” as well asAugmented Reality” and “Customer Service” innovations.

While there is truth to the fact that there are some brands which are using all of these, or at least, some of these already on their social media platforms, most have a long way to go before they can create a significant impact. Remember the adage, ‘being at the right place, at the right time’- nothing rings truer when implemented in the social media world. Recent stats show that FourSquare & Facebook Check-in’s data are at an all time high and are screaming to be taken advantage of. Ultrasound based Geo location Apps have made their way into the market & brands can now incentivise a customer for not just entering his premise but to enter individual sections in his store! 10 points for checking the home decor section. How’s that for an incentive.

Augmented Reality is another technology waiting to be tapped. Magic Mirrors are now available off the shelf.. The traction shopping centers can generate for their brands before the consumer even enters any store can be immense. AR apps through mobile devices can have consumers plucking incentives from your store out of thin air… quite literally. Imagine holding up your mobile device up in a store to see discounts floating in the air. Straight out of a science fiction movie.

Who has the time and patience to pick up the phone on a Customer Service helpline number and then wait till you are attending to, not to mention the several other times the call is dropped or disconnected. The twitter force at Best Buy is what folklore case studies are made of. Vodafone in India does a spectacular job in conversing with clients on Twitter. Numerous online forums, Twitter and Facebook are the hotbed of brand- client conflict resolution conversations. There is no better time to dive into these.

What’s in it for the Brand?

Everything. Engagement. Conversation. Ideation. Incentivization and the opportunity to change the entire business. Not only does the brand get to know what their followers want or where they come from, Word Clouds and Image Graphs tell you all that you want to know about your consumers. Their likes, dislikes, influencers, buying patterns. These help not only in designing and customising your online and offline messaging but also in changing your retail environments and products to suit their needs. It’s like having a window to their mind. What more can a brand want?

Final Word

Social Media is here to stay. Consumers are sharing experiences like never before. They are making their purchase decisions online and real time. Brands now have the opportunity to help them make their decisions. They have an opportunity to know their emotions, likes and preferences. However, this is a long term process. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and not will your community. It is a long journey from garnering likes and followers to engage via conversations to actually learning what your consumers want. There are a 1000 ways to get to them, and none is free or cheap. But the time to Engage is now.. Or perish.