The strength of social media in the context of a business lies in the ability of that medium to interact with the customers directly. With 97 percent of Internet users on Facebook*, one can imagine the “virality” it brings to a piece of communication on it – be it personal, commercial or others.
With social interaction, you can get insight on what your customers think about your brand and services. The “likes” they give to your brand do not merely indicate they are your fans, but also suggest they are watching you closely. In this context, social media can be termed as the most powerful driver of today’s businesses.
Speaking at the ASSOCHAM IT World Forum on “SMAC: for Business Transformation,” Vivek Nayer, chief marketing officer, Auto Division, Mahindra & Mahindra, said customers are the real “broadcasters” of your brand. They talk about you and share information to their friends. At times, they also provide you with valuable information that can be used to drive business value.
Mahindra & Mahindra is leveraging all popular social media platforms to improve business, Nayer said. The company has created dedicated pages on Facebook, Twitter and other popular platforms. The company’s YouTube channel is driving user interest in to the company’s promotions. The best example is the recently launched “Live Young, Live Free” promotion.
Platforms like YouTube have several advantages over traditional broadcasting media. Nayer says advertising in YouTube is much cheaper and rewarding because of several reasons: (1) there is no limit on the length of the video (2) YouTube allows you to pay only for the time a user watched the promotion and only if the user watches it over a minimum period of time, say 30 seconds, when he/she gets a glimpse of what the actual video is about.
Social Media and Analytics
Despite the immense possibilities social media bring for a business to succeed, many are not fully prepared to leverage them due to lack of awareness or resources. Social media strategy should go hand in hand with analytics, experts say. The bulk of user generated content (UGC) is sufficient to drive the business forward, but only if it is analyzed in the right manner.
Sameer Dhanrajani, business leader, Cognizant Analytics, is of the view that analytics can help drive every process in a business. Social media analytics can address three important aspects of a business, and all three components integrate to drive the entire business lifecycle, says Dhanrajani.
1. Consumer Analysis: Analysis of UGC can help drive every stage of consumer lifecycle in a business — from acquisition to retention. Social media feeds give clear insight on the likes/dislikes of customers, latest demands, shortcomings, and et al.
2. Risk Analysis: Social media data gives insight into various scenarios where a business can be at risk. A comprehensive social media analytics can help identify various security concerns and compliance issues that could hamper the normal functioning of a business. By analyzing consumer concerns and competitor-driven contents shared across multiple social media platforms, a business can drive the process to an astonishing level.
3. Operational Analysis: Social media platforms can also be leveraged to facilitate interaction among the people involved in the operational process of a business. Analytics of such user data can help improve operational processes such as supply chain management, marketing and sales.
Challenges for SMEs
Big names like Mahindra & Mahindra are not the only ones who can set trends on social media. Small businesses also find the platform beneficial because it provides them with a highly cost effective marketing platform. SMEs and micro SMES (MSMEs) can move farther in the value chain with social media.
However, recent statistics reveal that only 50 percent of SMEs in India are using the social and mobile platforms for their business advantage. Lack of knowledge and awareness is the main impediment while infrastructure challenges, especially lack of broadband connectivity, are the concerns for those SMEs who are aware of these technologies and want to implement them, says Dr. Pralay Dey, general manager, National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC).
In the old era, computers were used mainly for office or academic activities. With the advent of Internet, we saw a massive uptake of computers because people started using computers as a means to gather and share information. Now with social media, communications technologies like Internet are picking up. Many youngsters today opt for smartphones because they want to get connected through Facebook and WhatsApp. According to Dey, “Internet popularized computers then, and now social media is popularizing Internet.” The growing adoption of smartphones and 3G/4G services is a clear indication of the trend that new generation needs just not voice but loads of data.
The changing mobility trends—from voice to data, multimedia, TV and what next – is attaining a new level with innovations in social media apps. Businesses with an intelligent social media strategy can do wonders in this world of connectivity. The success of YouTube, WhatsApp and Sponsored Tweets shows that businesses are flourishing through these media.
SMEs in India, unlike in many countries like China, face huge challenges. In China, for example, government offers enormous support in the form of funds, infrastructure and business-friendly policies. In India, however, the scenario does not look bright, said Dey.
Government should work toward building confidence among SMEs in India. While many NRI entrepreneurs build big business empires in a short span of time, Indian entrepreneurs with similar or better capability are pushed underground due to lack of support. Providing robust communications infrastructure and devising business-friendly digital policies are imperative for the widespread adoption of SMAC – Social Media, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud- among Indian businesses.
* Survey by IAMAI and IMRB in early 2013