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Commercially driven activities may backfire on social media: Digital Marketing Roundtable

by Satrajit Sen

“Social media is editorial in nature and if one tries to initiate a commercially driven activity on this, the ploy might backfire,” according to Gaurav Gupta, director, marketing, General Motors. Gupta was speaking at the tenth digital marketing roundtable, titled ‘Social Media Marketing: An Ace or a Joker in the pack?’ organised by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Interactive Avenues in New Delhi on March 26, 2010.

by Satrajit Sen

“Social media is editorial in nature and if one tries to initiate a commercially driven activity on this, the ploy might backfire,” according to Gaurav Gupta, director, marketing, General Motors. Gupta was speaking at the tenth digital marketing roundtable, titled ‘Social Media Marketing: An Ace or a Joker in the pack?’ organised by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Interactive Avenues in New Delhi on March 26, 2010.

Sanjay Trehan, head, MSN India, felt that social media is huge but people leveraging this medium are a pack of jokers. Speaking about clients, Anjali Hegde, VP and founding partner, Interactive Avenues said that a lot of brand marketers consider social media to be a place where you can generate sales and leads. “Clients expect to sell pieces on social media and we need to change this mindset,” added Hegde.

According to Mohit Hira, president, Training.com, NIIT, social media marketing is actually about generating engagement and not leads. Citing an example, Hira said that no one knows if Aircel’s subscriber number has increased due to the Save Tiger initiative. “Social media campaigns should not be called marketing as this is all about generating engagement,” he opined.

Sharing his thoughts on social media, Vineet Durani, director, CMG (central marketing group), Microsoft India, said that marketers can’t create conversations rather they can just decide the tool that would host the conversation. “Conversations and dialogues should be created by the people. We have an Xbox fan-page on Facebook, which was actually created by a user and it has around 10,000 fans,” added Durani.

Gaurav Gupta of General Motors observed that agencies do pitch a lot of blinkers to the marketers about social media but going beyond the traditional social media vehicles like Twitter and Facebook is what the marketers want. Gupta further said that GM has got a lot of feedback about its brands through social media and now, before launching any traditional advertising campaigns the company generates a buzz about the campaign on social media.

Giving an example of how big user generated content is, Sanjay Trehan of MSN India said that Facebook News Feed is actually bigger than Google News today and the entire content is generated by people. “Everyone has a story to share and hence conversations should be handled by users,” Trehan said.

However, according to Anjali Hegde of Interactive Avenues, a lot of the stories generated by users might go wrong and this hurts the brand. Citing an instance, Hegde said that an NGO named Greenpeace made a video where they protested against Nestle, makers of Kit Kat, which allegedly uses palm oil from companies that are destroying Indonesian rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of local people and pushing orang-utans towards extinction.

Seeing the Kit Kat video, many people came to the Nestle fan-page on Facebook and began becoming ‘unfans’. They also started writing anti-Nestle slogans that often incorporated one or more of the company’s food logos. But the Nestle moderator started deleting the comments and also countered with a mild threat saying, “To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pictures — they will be deleted.” But that didn’t calm things down and fans became more hostile and started calling names. Finally, under fire, the Nestle moderator apologised saying, “This (deleting logos) was one in a series of mistakes for which I would like to apologise. And for being rude. We have stopped deleting posts, and I have stopped being rude.”

Responding to this incident, Shashi Sinha, chief executive officer, Lodestar Universal, said that most of the companies are not good at handling a problem or issue irrespective of whatever medium it is. “Storytelling is an art and not all people can do it correctly. So beyond a line, crowd sourcing should not be entertained,” added Sinha.

Gaurav Gupta of GM said that social media should not be seen as a separate medium and brands should own up to what has happened. Speaking about metrics, Gupta said that CTRs and CPMs have messed up marketers on how much to spend where. “For social media, metrics would have been great if it could measure engagement. Besides, many Indian marketers are grey-haired or non-haired people who hardly understand the medium,” said Gupta.

Shashi Sinha of Lodestar Universal said that the Sach Ka Saamna application on Facebook became very popular but Star TV was not clear how to measure the effectiveness of the campaign. Sinha further said that today digital medium gets around five to seven per cent of a client’s total advertising budget and out of that, very little is spent on social media.

Vineet Durani of Microsoft stated that rules of the game will decide the fate of the medium. “When TV came, people were confused how to monetise it as we are now about social media. As e medium grows, spends on it will also grow,” Durani said. Gaurav Gupta of General Motors revealed that this year (2010) GM will spend around 10 per cent of its media budget on digital and the share of social media would be considerably large.

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