Podium welcomes Madhuri Sen, Managing Director and Vice President- India at WE Communications. An industry veteran with over two decades of experience in communications, branding, marketing and business management, today, she talks about brand social engagement turning a full circle.
Customers today want to be connected to brands and are happy to support brand advocacy, given the right content for engagement and on the right platforms. Public domains that kicked off the online and social media race a few years ago clearly seem to be losing their edge for now. Only last week, Instagram was reported to have more subscribers than Twitter! Make no mistake, “sharing” is even more critical and remains at the start of the audience engagement cycle but it seems that brand social engagement is indeed turning a full circle.
When I first posted, it was on a Google social networking platform called Orkut – I just couldn’t help but feel weird about “talking” on a platform that was semi-public at the least. Improved privacy level settings since addresses much of this; but doesn’t wholly take away that natural discomfort of putting something out there that you wouldn’t have said or shown at a public place.
In our annual market report, WE Communications “Content Matters 2016”, we’ve seen significant changes in consumer behaviour online. The preference of sharing on private free IMs such as Whatsapp, Snapchat, Skype and Facebook has risen dramatically and no doubt is causing some anguish amongst traditional telcos. In India, according to Vuclip’s Global Video Insights Report, video content consumption and sharing is highest on Whatsapp, followed by Facebook.
The brand professional is now faced with a more challenging data-gathering environment. Previously, consumer insights and behavioural data had been easily accessible and available from public social chatter. This is now turning a full circle, as consumer insights become more difficult to obtain with sharing moving towards more private “invisible” channels. It seems like the natural need for privacy combined with the access to more private, social platforms, the equivalent of your coffee table huddle to Facebook’s public townhall, is driving this trend.
What does this mean for branding and communications professionals?
• It means that to drive effective audience engagement we need a) a strong sense of which kind of content travels into those private platforms, b) for which kind of audiences, c) customise content to be more easily shared and accessed from those platforms (read mobile devices primarily), c) drive conversations with people keeping in mind how they feel and act at various life stages or situations, not campaigns directed at demographics like location, age, gender, education and income, d) live with the knowledge that open access to consumer minds, with not even so much as a by-your-leave is going to be a thing of a short-lived phenomenon. A phenomenon that dies a natural death when the standard person pretty much realises that anything that they say publicly will stay public like it happens in real life. You can’t unsay what you have said or undo what you have done. Even though it may be erased from memories, but not their digital long trails of caches and their like!
Where does it leave us?
• It leaves us finding those stories to tell. Stories that inspire, entertain, humour or inform meaningfully. Tell stories with that authenticity to build tribes to create shared history, shared dreams and aspirations. Stories they can relate to. Stories that they will remember and repeat (share, quote, like) both online and offline like those dinner table stories or even grandma’s tales. Like, want, need and love are all emotions. Buy, consider, recommend or advocate are actions that are a result of those, especially when the emotion is not just “need”.
• It’s an accelerated return to privacy. A return to the good ole days of working with public information for insights. Hoping it lands, travels, creates opinions and consideration. Hoping it drives brand adoption, loyalty and advocacy.
What’s different then?
• What’s different is the seed at which your stories, both good and bad spread – given that you have the right insight to drive the right conversations with the right audiences. What’s different is how far your stories can travel before they perhaps give you the branding and communications pro that high of seeing it resurfacing elsewhere on far of shores. Like that bottle with a note you threw in as a teenager and got a reply to when your child was already in school! You can’t know what happened to the bottle between then and the reply. But what you do know is you threw it into the right place so it didn’t smash and that it gave you the desired tangible, measurable impact of a reply from across space and time.
With the return to privacy, it’s all about bookending. On one end it is knowing the impact you want to make and data driven insight, on the other it is measuring public expressions of opinions created to correlate that with measurable business results.