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Embracing E-influence

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VoicenData Bureau
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Have you ever come across a person who hasn't grumbled about advertisements, though we are all accustomed to it and have no choice? Yet have the ads decreased? Rather they are multiplying despite the huge cost of telecasting/ broadcasting/ printing and production. This ascertains that organizations hardly underestimate marketing and they believe it can make or mar the business. In this quixotic game of marketing, the emergence of social media has has brought in flexibility and ease to create a corporate identity, awareness, attraction and retention of customers and increasing sales alongside other forms of marketing techniques. Social media, which is a two-way communication tool, is a more efficient, cost-effective method to reach out to customers, to capture marketing insights, and to deliver and communicate value. Above all it gives real time feedback. Indeed, it has the potential to change the business model-and the world wouldn't be surprised when it happens.

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In this digital world, telecommunication companies will lag behind if they ignore social media which is becoming more or less a customer collaboration platform. This is a right platform which provides actionable intelligence, conversations monitored can be used to refine and rectify shortcomings.



The E-Influence

Social media provides immediate response unlike other modes of marketing. Netizens readily accept quality content and spread it to others. It is more effective and less expensive and helps influence brand reputation, increase brand awareness, improve search engine rankings, enhance website traffic, improve internal communications, and generate leads and online sales as well.

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One of the foundational concepts in social media is that one cannot completely control messages through social media but rather simply begin to participate in conversations. However this conversation-participation must be cleverly executed because while people are resistant to marketing in general, they are even more resistant to direct or overt marketing through social media platforms. This may seem counter intuitive but is the main reason for building social authority with credibility as a paramount requirement. A marketer can generally not expect people to be receptive to a marketing message in and of itself.

Elaborating on the tangible benefits Ritesh Ghosal, head, brand marketing, Tata Docomo says, “We have exploited the opportunities offered by social media in several different ways to bring alive our 'refreshingly different' identity. Tata Docomo has the attention of the youth for its data products. There is no better way to communicate the benefits of data products than through online social media. From communicating plans and benefits such as 'pay per site' to actually co-marketing (with HTC) a special FB phone, we have done it all.”



Leveraging Social Media

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Social media is certainly a great tool but there is a high risk of failure as well. Telcos will have to devise a strategy in order to leverage customers' personal and professional networks to grow business and enhance revenue. It is imperative to actively engage customers and support brands with less risk. Customer complaint scenarios are frequently faced by telcos and they can win over customers if they proactively handle, monitor, and analyze sentiments, comments, and trends-innovative data analysis tools and technologies also come to the rescue of telcos.

“Tata DoCoMo has been able to fully leverage the interactivity that Facebook offers as a platform. We engage with our fans as a brand that indulges in neither aliases nor any kind of mudslinging. We interact with the fans as one of them-a friend who lives the same life and empathizes with his issues. We have invested in creating a linkage between our customer care team and the facebook engagement team. This allows us to offer real-time or near real-time resolution of any customer grievance. Therefore, we have been delivering actual customer service, closing conversations on the Facebook wall with customers on a positive note,” states Ritesh Ghosal.

Social media is all about conversations, and when telcos are active on this platform they have the advantage to guide the conversation about their brand. When someone is upset with company and chooses to vent, companies can respond quickly and appropriately by which they can prevent a small leak from turning into a waterfall.

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Referring to customer loyalty, return on marketing investments, reduced operating and labor costs, increased IT efficiency in reality, Ritesh Ghosal points out, “Tata DoCoMo has built a strong relationship with the affluent youth and it has been extremely successful in creating a positive mindshare for the brand riding on social media. We at Tata DoCoMo believe in engaging with fans as their friends and 'one of them'. Therefore, we do not directly sell to our fans on social media and thus there is no direct measure of RoI through this medium.

From the time of launch, social media has been our core engagement/activation platform and has played a vital role in our success in winning the telecom business of the youth. However the brand's track shows that the internet accessing audience is significantly more positively disposed to Tata DoCoMo and this is a measurable KPI that we actively monitor to assess the impact of our social media efforts at an aggregate level.” He adds, “Another way of determining the RoI of our social media investment over the past 3+ years would be to look at the savings on internet ad spends. As of November 16, with 10 mn odd fans on FB, that's 10 mn free eyeballs of the affluent youth that I get every time I have a fresh need to communicate. The cost of buying 10 mn eyeballs on the internet once in every month is what I save. Therefore, social media has proved a cost-effective medium to connect to fans and engage with them.”

Telcos are well aware that opinions have an immense effect that positively or negatively influence thousands of customers. They ought to carefully plan social media strategy by considering tangible objectives and return on investment. The outcome of social media is bent upon being consistent, getting involved, and by setting good content strategy.

While in India, it is a different story at present as the internet penetration is low. As per the census, there are 13.42 mn broadband connections in India as on January 2012. And the active user base is close to 30 mn. With the proliferation of smartphones this number is more likely to increase. According to a report by Nielsen Company and AbsolutData, 30 mn Indians are members of social networking sites and they spend more time on social media than on personal email. The report also added that 67% use online reviews to make purchase and 60% are open to being approached by brands in India.

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