According to Jay Vikram Bakshi, CEO, Digiqom, Social Media Marketing is the ultimate objective ofsecuring qualitative expressions and quantitative impressions.
Brands and consumers perceive social media differently. How would you want to define social media in business?
When I talk about Social Media in business, I like to define it as ‘conversations on social platforms which help in building brand-centric communities and real world business intelligence that can map participation and engagement to business goals’. Social media is not just about brand messaging, but also about engaging audiences with the ultimate objective of securing qualitative expressions and quantitative impressions.
Are Indian brands convinced about using social media?
I will not debate on what has triggered the need – popularity, curiosity, necessity, but yes, marketers are not just ready but equipped to embrace social media as a crucial ingredient in their marketing mix. The fact that marketing departments are increasing spends in social media initiatives, whether on blogs, social networking sites, or user-generated content, clearly shows that marketers are aware of the merit and are looking to integrate social media and its best practices into their marketing mix and allocating significant budget to it.
As we talk about increase in social media spends, how do you think the current state of economy will affect investments in social media?
That’s a very relevant question. The current economic environment is worrying. It is going to be painful for marketers. Marketing spends are getting slashed and all eyes are focused on effective vehicles to maximizereturn on investment. But I am sure there is opportunity here, and all intelligent marketers will be able to navigate well in the social media space. We have seen this during the global economic crisis in 2008, where social media emerged as a ‘new experimental’ tool for brand messaging, and GroupOn, Facebook, and a number of others benefitted from marketers preferring the deeper prospect targeting available on these opt-in platforms as opposed to burning dollars on display. As traditional budgets earmarked for publicity and promotion get rationalised, the general sentiment will recognize social media as a cost efficient medium for maintaining visibility without falling completely off the radar screens of potential customers, stakeholders, and influencers. For those who will be looking at maximizing their RoI from the allocated budgets, and considering alternatives to reduce costs, social media will be an intelligent choice for agility and expanding channels of conversation to reach the right audience.
So do you actually see opportunity in adversity?
Oh yes, that’s my very strong belief in life. Every adversity comes with opportunity. I can give you some very practical examples here. While marketing departments are cutting on research budgets, social media can be used to gather customer insights. Blogs can be used for new product announcements, LinkedIn & Facebook for employee recruitment purposes. There are many such scenarios where social media can replace the cost-intensive marketing practices. So yes, the efforts can change depending on budgets and brand requirements, but the strategic thinking must start with the target user in mind and need to be consistent, and permanent.
When you say permanent, do you actually believe social media is permanent and not a fad as some conservative marketers want to believe?
Today, technology has just firmed up the definition of social media. If you closely observe how human beings have communicated all these years, or exchanged messages within or via the social community, you will marvel if that was social media. When my grandparents travelled, they would come back and share stories through observations, and often post cards of the places they visited. Today, we click pictures and share on social platforms, instantly. Storytelling and social sharing are now instantaneous. Do you remember how patrons in restaurants had tags which entitled them to the best services? Today there are FourSquarebadges to recognize and reward that behavior and distinguish patrons. So what’s changed with mobile and digital technology is the medium and the magnitude. Social media has always been here.
Agreed, social media is here to stay, but what according to you can be a game changer – Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest?
I come from the times when these tools were in the making. How many remember Orkut which was overshadowed by Facebook, or even Ryze which came before LinkedIn? Digiqom ventured into the social media space when Facebook had not even stepped in India. We created online communities and leveraged these communities to connect with user audiences around their interests, spread brand messages and engage audiences. So when we talk about social media, we realize Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are meretools. These tools are ever-changing and their adoption is dependent on a lot of factors – age, demographics, purpose etc. What is critical and common on all these platforms is community, and technology enablesthis community to expand on a global scale and shift the power of communication to the connected masses. This is where the game is, and will always be.