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India 2015: Brand Building: Social Media

Brands need to adjust traditional marketing to reach rising number of social media users

Social media is a massive conversation, not simply another channel

Vartika Hali
Firefly Millward Brown, South Asia
Firefly Millward Brown is one of the largest global qualitative research practices. We use our in-depth understanding of marketing and consumer behavior to identify true brand opportunities that inspire strategic recommendations to drive brand success. Brands benefit from Firefly’s cultural understanding of the 40 local markets we serve and the regional and global context we provide.

Indians are the second largest population on Facebook and Twitter and the second largest mobile app downloaders in the world. We leapfrogged into digital in a non-traditional way through affordable phones and apps. Indians are now social media users playing with visuals, videos, status updates, selfies, likes, friends, shopping and everything digital in multiple languages. Brands need to acknowledge this new reality and modify their classic marketing functions.

They need to adopt new marketing rules for a game that’s changed in many ways. For example, consumer experience
no longer means experience with the product alone. It means experience with the brand, which includes a lot of touch points offline and online. The 30-second TV spot has become the short digital film ad. Customer service is no longer a department or desk. Customers are complaining and engaging directly with the brands on social media. Segmenting and targeting happens in real time. Branded content is mainstream.

In addition, with limited control over self-published consumer content, media management is a whole new domain. Marketing strategy needs a 360-degree perspective with elements that include a brand strategy, media strategy, communication strategy and a social media strategy.

Social media strategy

Social media strategy isn’t about replicating traditional strategy online. To begin with, brands perhaps need to look at social media as one massive conversation, not just another channel or medium in the media mix. They can capitalize on these conversations and engage with their audiences for several purposes, from simply creating brand awareness, to recruiting, conducting research, generating leads, providing customer service, managing reputation, building community engagement, and driving direct consumer connections.

Many brands have begun to realize this social media potential and are investing in social media and dialing up their social media savviness. They are consciously allocating more of their marketing investment to digital advertising and adding in-house social media experts.

But it is difficult to say what maturity levels Indian categories and brands have reached in their digital media journey. Having a Facebook page and acquiring likes and fans is not equal to having a social media strategy. Engagement needs to move from simple brand communication to brand-consumer interaction. There are easily replicated, one-way communication models like contests, tutorials, promotions, viral videos. But engagement requires a different level of interaction.

Building brand-consumer interaction

Very much like traditional marketing, brands need to find where their consumers are and how to target them. Monitoring tools can identify social mentions in multiple languages. Facebook Insights can identify what regions the brand’s fans are in. Twitter sites like Tweep Search and Twitter Grader can look for relevant mentions. Google Trends can also find relevance by geography, and very much in real time. Here are other action points for brand success in social media.


The success of two-to-three minute ads, branded content and brand placements in short movies going viral, proves that consumers are open to different consumption formats, and in fact expect different content online.


Content needs to be customized to the channel. While Facebook is clearly still the dominant platform, brands also need to introduce themselves on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Each medium requires different content and different strategies. Brand custodians need to move up this learning curve fast.


Refreshing content can sustain increased engagement. This requires creating and curating device agnostic content for integrated campaigns and across channels. Content creation and curation is becoming a whole new science and brands need to employ specialized scientists in this field.


While there are many advantages of social media, there’s also a downside. Bad news travels as fast as good news. This factor can work against all brands. Consumer complaints and harsh judgments happen. Mistakes are immediately transparent. Rapid response to negative posts is critical. Brands need to refine their customer service and crisis management abilities.


As social media budgets increase, brands will need sophisticated understanding of the effectiveness of their social media activities in order to optimize their social media investment. Brands need to devise systems that track in real time and are adaptable, flexible and device and channel agnostic.