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Asia Business Development – Asia Business Consulting » Social media marketing strategies – Time for a reboot?

SpirE-Journal 2013 Q4

Social media marketing strategies – Time for a reboot?

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Social media marketing strategies – Time for a reboot?

In the past decade, the marketing landscape has been drastically transformed by consumers’ burgeoning engagement with social media. But the writing is on the wall – there are signs of consumer fatigue with the torrent of social media marketing initiatives. Rising levels of online vitriol are also creating risks for social media marketers. Weaving a social media marketing strategy with a traditional one will become a critical success factor.

Is social media losing its sheen?

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr are all driven by humanity’s primal need to stay connected and feel relevant. Social networking is simply the embracing of an online platform, and making connections with other individuals and businesses.

However, during the last five years, the place of social networking in our lives has changed from recreational to integral, and at times, mandatory. To many consumers nowadays, time spent on social media almost seems like a chore. As a result, users appear to be losing deep engagement with what is going on in the social media world. Due to saturation levels of advertisements and information being relayed through social media, consumers are starting to pay only selective, intermittent and ever-decreasing attention.

To many consumers nowadays, time spent on social media almost seems like a chore.
Signs of social media aversion

The writing is on the wall – a social media backlash is building up. And that backlash can translate into indifference at best and negative attacks at worst.

Rising consumer skepticism

According to a study where 58,000 online consumers were asked how brands can create impactful digital content, “push” marketing tactics like banner advertisements were found to be acutely ineffective. Due to the proliferation of online advertisements, even the least discerning web users are only paying selective attention to the information presented to them on their computer screens.

Facebook popularity wanes

In a study conducted in the U.S., it was discovered that 61% of current Facebook users had voluntarily taken a break from using Facebook for a period of several weeks or more. 20% of the adults who used to have a Facebook account no longer have one currently. Data also reveals that Facebook’s desktop usage is declining in its most mature market, the U.S. The declines are primarily attributed to the age groups of 12 to 17 and 18 to 24, which declined 42% and 25%, respectively. Since youths are usually a leading indicator of the behavior of mass market consumers, Facebook investors and businesses should take heed.

More awareness of the downsides of social media

A study conducted in United Kingdom discovered that:

34% of 16 – 25 year olds in the U.K. experienced depression as a direct result of viewing something via a social networking website.
39% of women aged between 16 and 25 have felt miserable as a direct result of posts they viewed on social networks, while 30% of young men feel the same way.
16 – 18 year olds are most likely to be victims of cyberbullying.
14% of youths in the UK admit that they have been bullied online, with 20% saying that they have witnessed more bullying online than in reality.

Perhaps a reason why youths have amplified their negative online experiences is because there is no way to derive context, as they could neither see the other party’s facial expressions nor read their body language.

The copious amounts of negativity online can quickly create a backlash against social media marketing mis-steps.

What’s the right way to run social media marketing?

None of this suggests that companies should abandon social media marketing. Advertising dollars will continue to move online and social media will remain a big part of this.

It does suggest that it is time for a relook at strategies – to ensure that expectations placed on social media marketing are brought back down to earth, and execution takes into account today’s creeping social media fatigue, which can all too often trigger a backlash of negativity.

Delegate the right person for the job

Managing a web of social networking sites requires not only much time and effort, but also good judgment and lightning reflexes. The executive-in-charge needs to be meticulous in tending to the company’s social media pages, or else the business could suffer irreparable consequences. There have been many instances of inappropriate posts and tweets being sent from companies’ social media accounts by negligent employees.

Social media fail - Kitchen Aid

Figure 1

For instance, after President Obama mentioned his grandmother during the first presidential debate in October, Kitchen Aid USA, a kitchen appliance manufacturer posted a tweet to its 24,000 followers: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president. #nbcpolitics”. The company quickly removed the tweet and issued an apology, explaining that a member of the KitchenAid team had mistakenly posted it from the company’s account instead of a personal account (Figure 1).

Be sensible

The reputation of businesses can be jeopardized when insensitive comments on social media websites are made. The social media marketing executive needs good judgment to ensure that nothing offensive slips through.

Social media fail - American Apparel

Figure 2

For instance, tying sales promotions to a natural disaster is definitely distasteful. In the example above, American Apparel offered 20% off for shoppers in the states affected by Hurricane Sandy, in case they were “bored” by the storm. Customers quickly took to Twitter and other social networks to criticize the ad (Figure 2).

Social media fail - Fish & Co

Figure 3

In another example, Singaporean restaurant company Fish & Co. drew flak for a distasteful ad (Figure 3) that referred to a riot that had just taken place in Singapore. Almost immediately, the company withdrew the ad and issued an apology: “We want to apologize to everyone whom we have offended. We did not intend to nor did we deliberately attempt to trivialize the situation. We had taken immediate measures to remove the post once we received negative feedback from our fans – to whom we are very appreciative of.”

Manage the social media mechanics

While some mistakes can easily be resolved with few consequences, others can have long-term detrimental effects.

Social media fail - CVS Cares

Figure 4

For instance, CVS Pharmacy has asked its customers to follow it on Twitter so that it could better engage them in real-time. However, it restricted its Twitter account with “Protected Tweets”, meaning one would not be able to view the tweets without first being followers of CVS Pharmacy (Figure 4).

Manage customer expectations

Managing customer expectations is the first step to delivering customer satisfaction.

McDonald’s in Singapore, for instance, launched a Hello Kitty Fairy Tales Collectibles promotion that gave away a Hello Kitty plush toy with every order of an Extra Value Meal. However, when the stocks of the collectibles were running low, McDonald’s was not able to provide a solution to anxious customers. This triggered a barrage of negative online comments and media coverage.

As stated by Jen Evans, social media strategist and founder of Sequentia Environics, “The key is to be as open with the communications around the issue as possible and the best advice that we’ve seen is that if there’s a particularly angry group, take the issue to a private sphere and deal with [it], and report back to the larger community about what’s happening.”

When a business responds to their harshest critics, a door for improvement opens. Engaging critics in a credible way during a social media crisis takes a lot of humility, and may help to rebuild customers’ trust in businesses. Sometimes the most vocal critics may become the business’ most vocal defenders.

A successful social media marketing strategy

Other than being product-and-price centric, a successful and balanced marketing strategy ensures that a business can sustain product life and customer trust. Being able to think like the customer is crucial.

The proper place of social media within such a strategy should be for gaining market intelligence, engaging with customers who seek engagement and managing crises in real-time. Businesses should first consider every other aspect of the marketing mix before embarking on a social media campaign. It is crucial for the social media campaign to complement the existing marketing plan seamlessly.

marketers may see this as too limited a role for social media marketing. But every marketing fad needs to face up to reality at some point.

The proper place of social media within such a strategy should be for gaining market intelligence, engaging with customers who seek engagement and managing crises in real-time.
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