Marketing ExpertSpeak: Social media is integral part of corporate communication strategy today
Mike Saunders is the Chief Executive Officer of Digit Lab, one of the digital marketing majors of South Africa. He is an international keynote speaker and expert in social media, digital customer experiences and enterprise social business. He was recently in Mauritius for an interactive and thought-provoking workshop entitled ‘Social Media Playbook’ which allows the implementation of custom-made strategies for organizations on various social platforms notably Twitter, Face book, LinkedIn, Instagram, among others.(Image: Chief Executive Officer of Digit Lab, Mike Saunders)
How far has social media as a form of communication strategy evolved in corporate organizations?
It is probably the most single most rapidly evolving factor, influencing the way in which we communicate across organizations and also with our consumers both B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumers). It is probably the most fundamental shift we have seen and experienced in the last decade. Primarily, because of the fact that previously, we would have a single message broadcast to a number of people, and social media has presented us an unparalleled opportunity to have their message broadcast back to the company, back to the brand and back to the organization. This two-way communication has never existed before, and now it does.
How critical is business communication, brand management and planning through social media for a corporate organization, in this challenging economic environment?
I think the easiest way for me to explain this is to say that social media is an opportunity for people to connect from person to person. Now in business, throughout history, it has always been about “who you know”, not really “what you know”, and “what you know” has worked when you know people. But it has been always about one’s personal network, it has been always about who you know, how your network can grow and the number of people we impact. And so, when we talk about brands in the marketing sphere, we can add personality to that, so that people can identify themselves with the brands and vice-versa, and this is how branding works.
Now with social media, brands can have a person-to-person conversation. It changes the whole dynamics and you no longer have to create a personality behind brands and organizations, you already have their personality and you have to deal with the people. Every brand should be connected to a social network, not necessarily just Facebook, because every organization should be looking for ways to connect one to one, one to many or many to one according to their customer needs.
Can you tell us more about what “tailoring content” means for you?
There are a couple of problems with social media and one of the biggest ones is the “copy-cat” mentality. In other words, if an image starts doing very well on Facebook, then organizations replicate the image, with the expectation that it will do well for them too or if a video did well, it will do well for the organization too as it has good content and someone else has shared it. Therefore, brands are losing their identity amid viral content, thinking that their brand will share and find content by others, instead saying that it is about being strong, about who we are as a brand and organization, understanding that strength and then tailoring content that fits with who we are.
So I think brands should be able to understand who they are and clearly present what they are about and should stop tailoring everybody’s content that has already been used. Therefore, you tailor your content as per your brand and what you are trying to achieve for your audience.
Are the brands in Mauritius exploring the full potential of social media platforms?
There are definitely conversations taking place in Mauritius from a social media point of view that are showing maturity and understanding of social network platforms. However, sometimes there is a big gap between those who are having the conversation and those who are not. In other words, there is a small group of people in my understanding who are quite mature in using social media as a platform but the rest are very immature and this is because branding on social media has been for a few. Therefore, it is important that Mauritius benefit from sharing knowledge about what social media is all about, and allowing people to understand how they succeeded inside this realm. It will, at the same time, benefit consumers and the social media industry as well.
Do think that brands that ignore social media risk losing their customers?
Definitely! Any brands who are trying to have a relationship with their customers, should use social media in order to achieve a competitive edge in the market.
What difference has social media made as a communication strategy throughout these couple of years in the corporate sphere and how far has it succeeded in reaching its relevant audience?
I think social media has brought with it some good and some bad. For instance, parents need to be very aware about the dangers of online community for their children, especially when they are ignorant about the social community. However, along the same lines, just the collaboration and innovation social media brings along is about connecting with as many people as we can. Therefore, there is much potential in social media as there a huge opportunity to build on connections with social media as it has itself become a “mini-economy”. There are lots of downsides though, as people used to waste time in front of the television, now they wasting time browsing Facebook instead.
- By Kashish Jadoo.