Key Factors that make Brands succeed on Facebook

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“Your Brand needs to be on Facebook.” It’s the first thing anyone says these days and honestly, it makes me wince. There’s a reason why most brand ‘Fan Pages’ on Facebook are desolate wastelands that do precisely nothing for the brand’s reputation or sales. Starting a Fan Page is easy, getting a few hundred people to join (your friends, their friends, so on and so forth) is also very easy. And then, what? How does that make your brand a Superstar on Facebook? This post is not about being a Facebook party-pooper, it’s about the factors that make certain brands a phenomenal success on Facebook while the majority report no measurable success whatsoever. Social Media Marketing is not very different from conventional marketing, when it comes down to the basics, and it is essential that the fundamentals of the latter are not ignored in an attempt to quickly adopt the former. Let’s go back and take a look at dear old Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy is one of the first theories taught in any marketing course, as a basis of understanding the consumer’s motives behind choosing one brand over another in the market. A brand that fills up any or some of the above-mentioned 5 types of voids (or deficiency needs) in the consumer’s life, better than the competitor, will be the one the consumer chooses. Extending the theory to social media, the first question one needs to ask oneself before creating a Fan Page is what void does the brand fulfill in the target group’s life. The second question, of course, is whether that need is something a consumer would like to have all their Facebook contacts know of. In the context of consumer behaviour, social media is all about the top two deficiency needs– Self actualisation and Esteem. I might love a  cheap value-for-money brand, but I really don’t want that to be displayed on my Facebook profile where everyone can see it! I might prefer a no-fuss, reasonably priced Transcend mp3 player but I’m going to be a ‘fan’ of the iPod because it makes me seem discerning, individualistic (ironically) and well-to-do. I may not care much for Body Shop cosmetics but the company has a reputation for being ‘ethical’ and ‘environment-friendly’: it gives me a chance to display my support for these causes. Am I saying that some Brands just can’t be ‘Big’ on Facebook because of the identity they have built? Yes.

However, if  coolness-by-association and/or the opportunity to be an activist without having to move from one’s seat, is not what your brand can provide consumers online, can you provide them with  information that  is unique and can make life easier for them in some way? You could be a bank, an engineering firm or an Equity firm- not very cool- but the information you can provide can make you valuable on Facebook. Like I said, making a Fan Page on Facebook is very easy but the question that will define your brand’s success on Facebook is, “What’s in it for me?”

 

 

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Lessons every Brand can learn from the Nestle fiasco

5 Days later, the dust is yet to settle on Nestle’s Facebook debacle. A lot has been (and I reckon, will be) written about what Nestle did wrong and as I’ve already mentioned here, this is one for the Reputation Management textbooks. However, there are important lessons to be learnt here if a Brand uses (or is planning to use) social media for engaging with consumers. While anyone can set up a fan page – running one requires considerable understanding of the medium, and the psychology of online users.

Admit mistakes: If there is a problem and you know it, you might as well as  readily admit to it. Honesty goes a long way in mollifying irate people, provided it is done at the very onset of the situation. Apologising after you’ve pissed off a lot of people by acting like the playground bully doesn’t count.

 NEVER be condescending towards a commenter: When tempers are flaring already, you really don’t want to give anyone even the slightest reason to lash out. Because if that happens, you’re going to end up with a virtual lynch-mob on your hands like our friend at the Nestle Facebook page did, within minutes. Giving commenters lessons in grammar and spelling is  not going to help your case. More importantly, if you are snarky with even one person online, soon enough you’ll have a hundred people baying for your blood, and the numbers will just keep rising. That’s how online communities work- it’s all about strength in numbers-and virtual mobs are just as hard to reason with as real mobs.

You don’t make the rules in social media: Accept that by choosing the medium, you choose to talk to the consumer as an equal. Censoring comments is the surest way of upsetting people visiting your page because it indicates that you are averse to providing fans ( a term I’m using very loosely here) with a democratic platform.

Always have a plan: Having a crisis management plan in place that can be deployed online at the first hint of trouble is of utmost importance.  If there is a situation online, who do you call? Who responds to what kind of situation? Are you prepared to respond in multiple formats (videos, blogs, releases, forums etc)? Do you have people who can create content quickly? Apologies, statements or rebuttals may need to go out within minutes, is your Communications team prepared enough?

 Hire a Pro for your social media ops: It’s best not to hand over your social media ops to a person just because you think they’re young enough to “get it”. PR online is not very different from PR offline when it comes to the fundamentals, and Brands need people who understand the psyche of the online user more than people who merely know their way around social media.

Respond to the online community: Case in point- Nestle’s deafening silence on their Facebook page. Keeping quiet will not help your case during a PR crisis. Responding honestly might, as it puts a human face to the corporation and shows critics that you’re listening.

Anything I’ve missed here?

Interview with Brian Nugent- President of Lunchwalla.com

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Oh okay, so it was more of a get-quotes-via-email kind of interview but I’m nevertheless very pleased with it. A few days back I wrote a blog post on lunchwalla.com, a social networking site that enables users to plan everyday social events centred on food (read: lunch/dinner/drinks) online with a few mouse-clicks. I wanted to find out more about the people behind this new venture and so shot off a few questions that Brian Nugent, President and Co-founder of Lunchwalla, very kindly responded to.

 

lunchwalla.com

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Lunchwalla- Putting the Social back into Social Networking

Social Networking has since its inception, raised concerns about how, by limiting face-to-face interactions, it actually makes users anti-social and prevents them from forming ‘real’ friendships. And while there may be some merit to these concerns, things stand to change with the launch of Social Networking sites that facilitate real life interaction between friends, thereby encouraging people to maintain a more-than-virtual connection with people in their social circle. Lunchwalla, launched this March, enables users to plan everyday social events (food being a necessary prerequisite) with friends and connections on your Social Networking sites. It also allows you to integrate your Lunchwalla profile with your Facebook profile, thereby making the good old question, “Say, do you want to meet over lunch/dinner/drinks?” all the more easier to handle.

 

I thought that being based in the US, Lunchwalla probably wouldn’t be able to provide me with options in my part of the world (a city in India), but was pleasantly surprised when it turned up a fairly acceptable (if not very comprehensive) list of eateries in my city. And while the ‘coupon system’ that gives users discounts on their meals was understandably not available to me, directions to said eateries were. What appealed to me was that the site includes a ‘vote’ option wherein friends you have invited for a planned event (say, lunch) could vote for the restaurant they wanted to eat in, from a list of options that you provide. Having spent many hours trying to zero in on a place to meet while everyone yells “Unfair!” when you pick a place they don’t like, I love this feature.

I understand the site is still in the Beta stage so I hope it also provides a version for mobile phones. Seeing that most of us these days don’t really have the luxury of having a computer around while we’re running around all over the place trying to meet deadlines, having a mobile version seems quite necessary if the site really wants to live up to its promise of a  no-fuss get-together.

Note: The name is a turn on the Hindi word ‘Dabbawalla‘ that literally translates to ‘Lunch-box Man’. I sensed an India Connection.  I was right- one of the founders has Indian origins.

8 simple rules for Social Media Marketers

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Conversations about yor Brand are already happening on lineI’m going to keep it short and simple because that was how I liked it when I was scouting for information on SMM not very long ago. Here’s 8 simple rules every Social Media Marketer must keep in mind while considering to launch a Social Media campaign.

  1. Your Brand must be Social:There’s no if, there’s only a when. Conversations about your Brand are happening even as you read this and you need to join in. There will always be rough patches and the companies that go Social sooner have a better chance of weathering them.
  2. Marketing campaign Vs. SMM campaign:The two have objectives that are quite different. While the point of a Marketing campaign would be to simply generate or increase demand, a Social Media campaign would aim to engage with the Brand’s consumers; to generate WoM ,consumer goodwill and hopefully a loyal consumer base. A Marketing campaign would have a certain ‘life’, after which it would be killed or replaced,while a Social Media campaign is an ongoing process.However, it is possible to combine the two. The catch is to determine the ‘life’ of the campaign and bring it to a close such that the consumers you’ve engaged with have a sense of closure.
  3. One size does NOT fit all: What works for one Brand might not work for another Brand, even within the same category. A campaign built for a Cola might not work for a milk-based beverage. Continue reading