A couple decades ago, the brand experience was much different than what it is today. It was much more simpler and mainly orchestrated by the brand managers/companies, while consumers had a passive role to play. The stages of brand awareness, perception and involvement were majorly dominated by the brand managers. However today, the world is a very different place. Today’s consumer is evolved, informed and empowered with smart phone devices, ubiquitous internet access and social networks to discuss and hence influence brand experience.
Times are changing faster and the market trends are evolving rapidly. Here, we have listed several relevant trends in the virtual world for merchandisers and marketers to consider as they gear up to plan for the next campaign.
a. The soaring adoption and consumer acceptance at a never-before pace - Today’s consumers are extremely flexible and open to new ideas and technologies. Inventions are latching on and talking off at unprecedented speed, thus thinning the line between change “inventors” and “early followers”.
b. The shift from traditional shopping channels to eCommerce and mCommerce has been really fast - While in the year 2009, worldwide online sales were estimated around $8 trillion, the same is estimated to double the size by 2013. On the similar path, while the mobile commerce market – mCommerce was $42 billion in the previous year (2010), it is projected to touch the whopping figure of $70 billion by the end of coming few years.
c. Increasing cross-channel consumers’ spend - Studies reveal that nearly every internet user in the age of 16-55 has purchased goods on the Internet. Due to the fact that people seems to have less time for shopping nowadays compared to earlier generations, the demand for convenience and information search before making a purchase has increased. The benefits offered with multiple channels are that customers can search for information in one channel and pursue the purchase transaction stage in another channel. Hence, it is in every brand’s best interest to cater to this highly profitable cross-channel consumer segment.
d. Increased consumer interaction with brands - Though the consumer always had the opportunity to decide for the fate of a brand but blog postings, online feedbacks, ratings and other consumer forums empower them further to influence brand perception more visibly. Consumers’ negative reviews are significantly affecting brand status and because of this shift, producers, retailers and marketers are being extra conscious with content and promotions that consumers will find relevant and trustworthy. The best way to do that is engage them, reward them and convert them into loyal brand advocates.
e. Marketing shift from selling to interacting – Historically, marketing initiatives were driven to push products, bring in sales and create brand awareness as a whole. The customer was being targeted on the basis of pre-defined criteria as derived from previous behaviour patterns and historical purchase behaviours. However, these strategies are not applicable today. Today’s consumer demands real time, experience based marketing. Strategies like loyal consumer cards coupled with location based services make it possible to offer consumers different sort of offers on a real-time as they walk down a store’s aisle or enter a mall premises. Consumers can respond to these direct messages through store walk-ins or by availing special packages.
The recent changes brought about by Facebook on its Fanpages is surely a welcome relief because one thing that the string of changes have brought to the Fanpage administrator is the level of personal touch and personality, which was missing in the earlier version of the same. The new fanpage, which currently is available on a optional basis would become a permanent or default feature from March 2011 onwards. On first glance the fanpage has the complete look and feel of a regular Facebook profile page. But as announced by Facebook earlier, the tabs have been done away with, and have been repositioned on the left panel, beneath the display picture.
Along with this, one striking addition to the new fanpage is the “Photos on the Top” feature. As is the case with the Facebook profile, the new fanpage displays 5 pictures alongside the display picture and what is even more exciting is what happens when you click on any of these pictures. A popup window opens up with the full picture along with the details about the picture as well as the options to share it. This should certainly excite the 600+ million users out there. One thing to note here is this area would not include any of the pictures posted by people who have “Liked” your page.
Another important alteration is the “Use Facebook as your Page” option. This feature allows you to receive notifications for your Page, view a News Feed for your Page, and like and post on other Pages as your Page and you have the option of switching between your profile and your fanpage as and when you need it. This also allows you to post on other pages with the name of your fanpage, a feature which was restricted to only the Facebook profiles.
Addition number 3 is the “Wall Filters” feature. Pages now have two publicly visible Wall filters-”Posts by Page” and “Everyone.” This function allows page administrators to view additional filters-”Most Recent” and “Hidden Posts.” This was something which was highly desired in the previous version of the fanpages.
For us, the most important addition has been the “E-mail notifications” feature. Through this, you can opt to receive notification when people comment or post on your page. This feature eases the work of the page admin to a certain extent as one doesn’t have to check the page over and over again to look for comments or posts by fans.
If you really want to, then you can even feature other pages which you like and even display your own picture of the picture of the other page admins through the “Featured Pages and admins” option. But how many page admins would actually take up this feature and displace their identity, remains to be seen.
Another important feature which has been added to the new Facebook fanpage is the “Mutual Connections”. When people visit your Page, they will be able to view friends who also like your Page, as well as other Pages that both they and your Page like. Not is that cool or what?
To adjust with the tabs being introduced on the left side panel, the profile picture size too has been reduced from 200×600 earlier to 180×540.
All in all a job well done, but it remains to be seen how the users react to such changes and does it take the excitement out of the previous version of the Fanpages and the social media marketing as a result , with the tabs on top and in-line visibility.
Small brands often looked upto the bigger players for cues on marketing and ideas on branding. Haven’t the tables turned? Social media is the platform to be, no matter how big or small you are. It’s a haven for marketers who dream of reaching a vast number of people, and convincing them to become a loyal part of their brand. Believe it or not, on the fertile grounds of social media, size doesn’t really matter! This is itself is a big statement to make and would certainly raise many eyebrows. But think about it. Social media has provided the smaller brands a platform where they can carve a niche for themselves; something that wasn’t possible a few years from now in a cut-throat marketing environment which the conventional media provided. Money ruled the roost and the bigger the pockets, the bigger the bang.
News stories about small brands bringing in their innovation to create waves in the social media circles has become common and will continue to do so. But even in such scenarios, companies in countries like India still need convincing about the innumerable possibilities which exist for them in the field of Social media optimization. The cost involved – A fraction of their traditional media budget!
Social media is like a virus we, as marketers would like seeing spread far and wide. Know why? Because it means that one good word through word-of-mouth would be enough to carry our names across the globe. This is the power of social media. Our advice – Realize it before your competitors do. Alright, let us sight an example to support this claim:-
According to a new report by the social media consulting group Trendstream, which conducted the Welcome to Social Entertainment – Annual Report 2011, which surveyed 51,000 consumers globally between July 2009 and September 2010, stated that during this time period consumer participation in real-time social networks and microblogs grew 20 percent.
We’ve being saying it all along and now there are facts to prove the same.
Real-time Social interactions are rapidly changing the impact of social media by “creating an ongoing shared agenda and conversation that steers consumer involvement towards reacting and interacting with live events and discourse, rather than creating their own agenda or content,” the study said. This shift to “social entertainment” means more people will utilize social networking sites to filter the content they consume.
Another case in point:-
Platforms like Twitter and Quora too continue to evolve and bring in tons of new marketing ideas for brands. People love to share content, some for professional reasons, some for mutually beneficial ones and some just want to look cool in their peer group. Give them what they need. Not because you should, but because you have to!
Business Use of Social Networking
Fact for thought – Consumer trust levels of companies with a social network presence rose by nearly 50 percent, compared with the 2.5 percent rise in trust associated with televised content.
This should be enough to convince to begin the social media journey for your brand.
The possibilities of what could have been if any of us had something/anything to do with the beginning of Facebook! A couple of thousand shares in the social media giant, and I could be among the lucky few who have already started selling their Facebook shares, at a mind-boggling Facebook value estimation of $50 billion. This is one of the most insane number ever to have thrown around in the tech market. (Valuation of Google is a completely different thing!).
It was just a few weeks ago that Accel Partners sold off around half a billion dollars of Facebook shares at a company valuation of $35 billion. Well, that’s just peanuts when it comes to what happened last week. Approximately $40 million changed hands last week in a Facebook share auction held by SecondMarket. The end price per share was $20.76, and about 1.9 million shares were bought and sold. Based on this, orovided that there are already around 2.5 billion shares outstanding after a 5-1 stock split earlier this year, that values Facebook at around $50 billion.
I could think of thousands of things big, small, valuable, insane – which I could buy with that kind of dough! Alright lets get cracking with comparisons. At a $50 billion valuation Facebook is :-
*more than 1/4th the market capitalization of Google
*nearly 1/4th the value of Microsoft
*Worth more than eBay and Yahoo as well
*Closing on Amazon’s $80 billion valuation
And as far as we know it, Facebook is only getting bigger and with the much anticipated Facebook IPO due in an year or two, who knows what exact valuation would be made of this online phenomenon which has taken the social networking world by storm.
Say hello to the brand new Friendship Pages on Facebook. They are exactly as they sound like. Social media is taking a new turn with Facebook coming up with its Friendship pages. A little more elaboration on the same would tell you that these Facebook Friendship pages integrate the absolutely everything commonly related to two friends on facebook. This can be in the form of:-
This is certainly a great way to showcase (show off) the bond between two friends which has been shared on Facebook. This show of common activity is another step forward for Facebook after the Groups feature rolled out recently on the social networking website. Facebook in a way is trying to bring out the more sentimental side of social networking as the Friendship Pages do bring out the humane side of things and helping friends feel nostalgic everytime they peep into these pages after years.
How wonderful would be to look back on all the crazy conversations that these friends had at one point in time. Truly amazing.
So where can you find these friend pages on Facebook?
There is the option of providing access/permission to others to view these pages, therefore further giving the required security to these pages. Although the announced date of launch of the Facebook Friendship Pages is today, but as always,. they would be rolled out gradually.