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SMEs must adapt to the age of social media marketing

The social media revolution gad changed the way brands and companies communicate with consumers and SMEs have to get used to the digital age

March 19, 2022 / 07:22 AM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image

Social media is the place to be and these days every marketing expert talks about digital media. Just look around, there are several webinars and promos to help you to succeed in social media.

Even the so-called experts admit in private that they also don’t know what will work—true to the saying “only half of the advertising really works but I don’t know which half!”

Google changes its search engine options every now and then and many other tech advancements are rapid, leading to confusion on what will work well. Many leading brands are finding that interactions with customers and prospects are getting increasingly complex.

It is less about advertising and more about the basic marketing for the current times. Your customers want help with their problems and lives. The question becomes what you can do to deliver the jobs to be done for your customers.

When we integrate our activities with our customers or prospects, advertising will cease to be seen as such, and the perception will be adding value to their desired experiences.


As a business, you need to be willing to peel away layers one after another and getting comfortable with the loss of control in the conversation or interaction with the target customers.

Playing the digital field

Most brand heads agree they are fully in control of their brand in terms of its perception among the target audience. But what has changed today? Isn’t marketing fairly simple?

The hardest part is about getting the real insights. Once we find the one key insight that we can act on, plans will begin to fall in place fairly well. The idea is that you should chat with—and not at—your audience. That’s possible only when you have an insight and can create content that can make them discuss their issues or opinion on related issues. Involving them emotionally is important too.

The social revolution is certainly changing the way brands and companies communicate their message to consumers. Recent studies indicate that 60 percent of Twitter usage is on mobile devices, while 26 percent of search results for the world’s Top 20 largest brands are linked to user-generated content. About 32 percent of bloggers post opinions on products and brands.

Multiple channels

In this scenario, SMEs must understand that the conversation is absolutely happening in a number of areas and settings. It is important to observe and learn about such conversations and make sure you are participating well in those conversations. You need to stop going after audiences and pursue highly targeted groups of individuals. Make Twitter one more channel for customers to connect with you for their problems, or jobs to be done.

Many companies have successfully used these principles to achieve super brand status: Starbucks, for instance, is using its brand as the interface for content distribution by putting communities out there for activism, entrepreneurialism, influencers of good music and so on.

The number one brand for long on Facebook, Starbucks uses it as a distribution of information to add value to conversations they are having with their customers.

Virgin is another global super brand in the digital space. It transformed itself into a distribution-facing brand. It is now a space to build and incubate ideas.

Richard Branson launched a programme with the intent of inspiring others to make contributions that benefit the world.  Individuals can pitch their entrepreneurial ideas on video and become part of the Pitch TV show on Virgin Airlines, for instance.

If we do not learn from our customers, we cannot expect to be relevant to them in the social media space. The new age of digital is fundamentally different in ways that are not always advantageous to large brands and herein lies the advantage for SMEs.

The open nature of digital platforms increases the availability of information but erodes the advantages of big brand power.  Here, for a change, you don’t “own” the shelf spaces anymore.

The social revolution also requires the coordination of marketing, sales and consumer research functions, which traditionally have not always cooperated with one another.

It is important to test and learn is what most experts agree on. Achieving objectives is more important than delivering perfect but irrelevant metrics. The metrics will come but the opportunities may not have been leveraged well. SMEs must think about product— and people—stories.

Here are some winning guidelines for you to make fans and advocates for your brands:

1 Specify the rules of engagement. What types of comments require a response?  Which types should be ignored? What are the good manners when posting a response?

2 Who should we engage with?  Which target consumers or topics are of interest to our brands?

3 Decide on the chain of command. Who shall be in charge? Who is responsible for implementation and monitoring? Create a flowchart that lists front-line responders along with back-ups. If a firestorm occurs, how to manage it for the benefit of the brand?

4 The response tone must be guided by the structure. Corporate blogs are often criticised for being bland and one-sided. Often this stems from too much bureaucracy. By the time a response is posted, it would have been sanitised multiple times and too late to make the impact. A best practice is to have just two layers of approval and a turnaround time of less than six hours.

5 Ensure transparency. The more successful social media engagements are those that operated at the highest levels of transparency in informing consumers about new product launches or publicly admitting problems with products.
M Muneer is the managing director of CustomerLab Solutions, a consulting firm.
first published: Mar 19, 2022 07:22 am
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