Some examples of failed social media campaigns in India.

Social media campaigns can easily backfire if they cannot sustain screening from users. The marketers and online engagement teams within firms must be very careful in what they write or post while engaging with users online and also how they intend to engage the users. If there’s even a very small chance of the user feeling cheated or offended with the content of a post, it is better to not go ahead with it since you never know how strongly it may backfire on you. Below are some examples of Social media campaigns from India that have failed:

  1. Microsoft India XBOX: Although, the ad shown below could appeal to some users, saying you will have no interest in the Xbox 360 isn’t the smartest message they could put out. Need to be more careful with the content                                                                                                                                       .xbox-360-india-fail microsoft
  1. Flipkart Big Billion Day: Flipkart’s credibility was murdered on Social media forums when it’s Big Billion day execution could not live up to the expectations it had set through its online as well as offline campaign. The company was criticized heavily across various social media platforms for broken website, discounts on inflated prices and poor delivery. In run-up to the sale day, Flipkart had run aggressive social media campaign and the consumers felt cheated when it could not live-upto the hype it had created. The campaign was also dubbed as a publicity stunt at the cost of the consumer.
  2. Ford Figo India: Ford came under heavy criticism and issued a subsequent apology over an advertising campaign which depicts celebrities bound, gagged and stuffed into the boot of an Indian-made Ford Figo. The drawings attempt to exploit the Figo’s spacious cargo area with the punch line: ‘Leave your worries behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot’. One drawing features Paris Hilton with reality television counterparts Khloe, Kourtney and Kim Kardashian, who are tied up and bound while they squeeze into the back of the car. In a second drawing, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi poses with three scantily clad women who are similarly bound and tied.                                                                                    offensive-ford-ad-1_1024-620x349 offensive-ford-ad-2_729-620x349
  1. Politician Lal Krishna Advani: Senior politician Lal Krishna Advani’s social media campaign irritated the users to say the least. As one blogger put it:

“We saw Advani becoming Ad -Vani with his aggressive adwords campaign targeting every Indian site. At one point there were only his ads on every site we browsed.  The first and foremost reason it failed – We hate Ads.”

The campaign was an attempt to bring in the conventional in-your-face advertising on social media.

  1. MTV India: Putting-up erroneous content in your customer-engagement posts can be embarrassing for you – the users will make sure you feel embarrassed. MTV India wished John Lennon a happy birthday and a joyous year ahead!!!                                                                                                                            MTV-india-john-lennon
  1. Star Sports India: Using the official engagement accounts – twitter, facebook etc and ensuring that only responsible folks have access to it is of utmost importance as Start Sports India found out when an offensive tweet (a hindi abusive word) in Nov 2013 was retweeted 104 times in a very short period of time before it was deleted. Even after deleting such posts/tweets, they continue to remain on the internet for ever and keep denting your brand image.
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How should one calculate the ROI of social media campaigns?

So, Social media is about Customer Engagement and not about the company’s performance goals such as ROI, Market share, Revenues – correct? Well, Yes and No. Although, it has been proven that Social media is most effective as a medium of customer engagement than as a medium of generating sales for the company, ROI is something that marketers cannot wish away. Even if they do, the CFOs will not let them. So is it really important to calculate the ROI of Social media campaigns and if yes, how do you calculate the ROI?

From a marketer’s point of view, the answer to the first part is analogous to answering whether it is important to calculate the ROI of keeping a restroom functional in the company!!! We know that it is useful and necessary and don’t need to or cannot be quantified absolutely accurately. Despite that, the marketers have to provide some quantified estimate of what return the social media campaign will bring to the company. ROI for Social media campaign is calculated is absolutely the same way it is calculated for any other project or investment. The difference though is that every social media campaign would have its own set of cost and value parameters. The question to answer then would be how to measure each of these parameters accurately and ascertain that our assumptions about quantifying them are correct. You need to calculate the overall costs including aspects such as salary of social media team, cost of shipping a product for customer trials as part of social media channel, depreciation costs if any in the overall process, cost incurred by any other department in facilitating the social media campaigns etc. Similarly, on the revenue front, you need to be able to prove that a particular sale is the result of the social media campaign. For example, a customer’s choice of buying your product may not be the result of the very first interaction he has with you on a social media platform. At the same time it could be heavily influenced by his circle of friends interacting with you on social media platforms. Another example could be about measuring repeat customers who first purchased your product due to your social media campaign. Such customers should still be part of your ROI calculations when they make subsequent purchases. So, the challenge is about tracking and measuring the sales that are resulting from your social media campaigns.

The ROI calculations for Social media campaigns are still grounded in concepts of finance and economics and therefore there is no special way to calculate the ROI in social media any differently from that of conventional investments. The increased revenues from Social media campaigns are a result of customer engagements. Firms must understand that Social media campaigns release the bottlenecks in the sales funnel leading to more revenues. The concept of “Source credibility” plays a big part in it where the customer is more likely to buy your products if they hear good things about it on social media platforms from their own friends, rather than hearing it from your salesperson’s or marketer’s mouth. They are less skeptical about your product when they are recommended by their own friends. Another point to understand is that to have a better ROI on social media, you need to focus on increasing the Revenue (numerator) than worrying about the investment (denominator). Social media campaigns provide a good ROI because a social media campaign triggers much more customer-interactions than conventional campaigns would do for example a television advertisement. To estimate, if the number of customer interaction for an ad on TV would be 5, it could easily be 50 on a social media platform. The customer-interactions lead to sales and this huge difference between customer interactions on conventional mediums and social media is what brings in a lot of revenues leading to better ROI of a Social media campaign.

Does a campaign’s success in social media guarantee the brand’s success in overall marketing terms?

The big question mark over Social media marketing has always been about its effectiveness in creating value for the firm in terms of factors such as ROI, increased sales, profits or market-share. It has been observed that companies have spent spend huge amounts of money and resources on social media campaigns but have seen no real improvement when they assessed the company’s performance over traditional metrics discussed above. This has led to doubts over the usefulness of social media campaigns in the past. However, in recent times the usefulness of social media has been established beyond doubt through the success stories of a large number of brands ranging from various industries. So what has changed to bring about this transformation?

The real change has been the realization with marketers that Social media is not just another marketing channel to increase sales. It is a channel that works very differently from the conventional marketing channels. The whole point of social media is about engaging your customers with your brand by creating a buzz around your product or brand, but not necessarily by talking about your product or brand. The customer is at the center of all things in social media marketing. It is about a two-way communication with the customer on topics that may or may not be just related about your product. This kind of engagement with your customer builds trust and relationship which results into a positive brand-recognition and loyalty on the part of customer. It may also increase your visibility through network effects that take place on social media through the efforts of your existing user-base. So, naturally all these positives should result into a better company performance in marketing terms, right? Well, not necessarily!

Although successful Social media campaigns should impact your market share in a positive way, research has shown that this has not necessarily been true. For example, Kellogg’s with a market share rank of 2 for its breakfast cereal only had a social media share rank of 7, far below many others. It tells us two things – firstly, market share is not really a factor of just social media campaign successfullness. And secondly, those other brands which would have had better social media share rank couldn’t convert that into better market-share rank. Although they must have benefitted from their better social media share ranks in many other terms some of which could be intangibles. Such intangible gains could convert into more tangible gains possibly over long-term. Thus, the mindset required for marketing campaigns at the top is very different from the mindset required at the bottom. It is not necessary that a successful social media campaign will guarantee a brand’s success in overall marketing terms. The companies must therefore realize that metrics like ROI, Revenues and market-share is about the product and the company which could still be fulfilled by conventional marketing but since social media campaign is about customer engagement and their association with your brand, a successful social media campaign may not exactly give you the kind of marketing returns you had been hoping for and that is not bad!

How is social media marketing different from conventional marketing communications?

Social media marketing is very different from conventional marketing communications. Conventional marketing has essentially been of two types – “in your face” or “the creative ones” which have largely had to do with the products and brands. On the other hand social media marketing is all about “Engagement” with the customer. The mindset required for social media marketing is very different from that required for conventional marketing. Like the conventional marketing theories and principles, the social media marketing has its own set of best-practices. It is important to understand the difference to be able to run a successful social media campaign. Some of the key differences are listed below:

  1. Customer Engagement and not selling products: Social media marketing is not about “You”. It’s about the “Customer”. Social media marketing is not about your product or brand or sales or profits or market-share. It is only about the customers and their association with your brand.
  2. It’s about “Screening” and not “Signaling”: Conventional marketing has always been about “Signaling” – providing selective information to customer to make him feel reassured in your product or service. This has always favored the advantaged party – the marketer and created inequality. No longer though! Today, the customer is prepared to ask questions and challenge you on what you say. Screening is the new thing! In Conventional marketing the marketer had to be good at signaling. In Social media marketing the marketer has to be good at being able to withstand screening from the customer.
  3. “Enlightening” the consumer and not “Confusing” them: Conventional marketing has relied on the assumption of information asymmetry where the firms would have more information than the customers. Confusing, misguiding or withholding complete information from users might have worked for marketers in conventional forms of marketing but it doesn’t work with social media marketing. Users on social media can easily call your bluff through collaborative information-gathering and if it so happens, the consequences can be damaging.
  4. “Collaborative content” and not one-way flow of information: The content of the Social media marketing campaign is developed by both the marketer as well as the customer. It’s all about collaborative content! In contrast conventional marketing has been one-way flow of information from the marketer to the consumer.
  5. Relationship Goals and not Brand-related goals: Social media marketing should be used for achieving relationship goals with the customer rather than just the brand related goals as is the case in conventional marketing.
  6. The Topic and not the Product: In Social media marketing, the product takes a back-seat; the topic drives the customer interest and engagement. Conventional marketing has always been about the value-creation for the product.
  7. Equality and not Segmentation: Everyone on social media must be treated with equality. You cannot segment a class of people and run different campaigns for different classes. Everyone views everything.
  8. “AND” and not “OR”: While Social media marketing is different from conventional marketing, it is still an “AND” and not an “OR” to the conventional marketing campaigns. Social media marketing campaigns should help the conventional marketing mechanisms to succeed.

Why is the thesis of screening important for social media marketing?

Social media in today’s age is not an option but a necessity. Marketers have obviously realized this and have worked hard on running social media campaigns on various platforms to get their products the social media advantage. However, very few campaigns have been successful as against the many that have been failures or even disasters. So what distinguishes the successful campaigns from the ones that have failed? Well, like conventional marketing, social media marketing has its own sciences and often it has been the inability to identify these concepts on part of the marketers that have led to their failures. The concept of “Screening” is one such concept and a very powerful one at that.

Screening is about the consumers asking more questions instead of just taking the information as provided to them. For example if a marketer runs a campaign on social media that attempts to be doing a favor to the society while at the same time being all about the hidden interests of the company, the users will question the campaign and shun it. This is very different from conventional marketing. Conventional marketing has always been about “Signaling” – providing selective information to customer to make him/her feel reassured in your product or service. It was based on traditional assumptions that information is asymmetric in market place and that the firms would have more information than the user. This always favored the advantaged party – the marketer and thus created inequality between the marketer and the consumer. No longer though! Today, the customer is armed with multiple sources of information and prepared to ask questions and challenge you on what you say. Thus, Social media marketing is about screening and not signaling. Having understood that, marketers also have to understand that Screening will take place no matter what their marketing strategy is. They cannot make the mistake of assuming that it does not apply to their specific brand or product. The answer to the question – “Does your marketing campaign withstand screening?” must always be a “YES”.

So how exactly can a marketer withstand screening? There are two simple guidelines – Firstly, make people realize that if they do not participate in your campaign, they are being left-out. And secondly, after screening you out, people must not feel cheated. Let us look at the example of how Amazon withstood screening. Amazon had strategic partnership with UPS about the way it shipped its product where it would be in a position to provide free shipping to consumers for any purchase of $25. However, none of its products were listed at $25 on its website. They would generally be $24.99. So consumers would have to buy an extra product which would generally make the cart worth $27 or $28. Consumers were able to screen out this flaw and questioned Amazon. Amazon withstood this screening from the consumers by simply allowing them access to the cheapest product they could find on their website to ensure they could reach the $25 shipping at minimum extra cost. Amazon made its entire product catalogue available on filleritem.com where users could find out the cheapest product that they could add to their cart in order to get free shipping. This simple move prevented Amazon from failing the screening challenges from the consumers. At the end of the day it could still keep all the consumers engaged with none of them feeling cheated.

To conclude, the concept of Screening is a very important and powerful one and every marketer must ensure their social media campaign would withstand screening – if not, the campaign may very well work against the firm itself and they would have to face disastrous consequences!

What pitfalls should marketers watch out for in embracing social media for marketing?

Social media marketing is very different from conventional ways of marketing. Conventional marketing have essentially been of two types – “in your face” or “the creative ones”. These have largely to do with the products and brands. On the other hand social media marketing is all about “Engagement” with the customer. Differences like these unfortunately are not understood by everyone, which often leads to failed campaigns. Some of the pitfalls that marketers can avoid in embracing social media marketing are:

  1. It‘s all about Customer Engagement!

Social media marketing is not about your product or brand or sales or profits or market-share. It is only about the customers and their association with your brand. The mindset required for marketing campaigns at the top is very different from the mindset required at the bottom. It means that your market share rank has nothing to do with social share rank. Although it is true that your social share rank will definitely impact your market share rank. In essence you cannot assume that social media marketing is about you. It is about the customer and only the customer!

  1. It’s more than just being able to type fast!

Success in Social media marketing is not just about being able to type fast! In other words, you cannot just put anything or everything out there on social media platforms and expect it to work for you. Social media marketing requires carefully thought-out, systematic and methodical approaches and strategies for it to work. Like the various principles and theories in conventional marketing, social media marketing has its own set of best practices and guidelines.

  1. Confusing people does not work anymore!

Confusing, misguiding or withholding complete information from users might have worked for marketers in conventional forms of marketing but it would be foolish to assume it would work with social media marketing too. Users on social media can easily call your bluff through collaborative information-gathering and if it so happens, they can be unforgiving to you. Today it’s all about providing information upfront to the users.

  1. You can’t mess with social media and its users!

Social media users are mostly well-informed and have the ability to speak-out and let millions of other users know of any wrong-doings on part of any organization. Any attempt by an organization to dictate terms to the users on social media platforms can bounce-back terribly. The minute a user feels cheated or that you are being unethical in your conduct or trying to dictate terms by flexing your muscle, you are in trouble!

  1. You can’t try to herald people in any particular direction!

Marketers have tried to leverage social media platforms to run campaigns with an objective of driving people towards a particular agenda or ideologue. Such attempts have often backfired as the true motives behind such campaigns have been revealed on the very same platforms through fellow users aware of the real situation.

  1. It’s not about Signaling anymore!

Conventional marketing has always been about “Signaling” – providing selective information to customer to make him feel reassured in your product or service. This has always favored the advantaged party – the marketer. No longer though! Today, the customer is prepared to ask questions and challenge you on what you say. Screening is the new thing!

  1. Screening will take place no matter what the strategy is!

As discussed above, social media marketing is about screening and not signaling. Having understand that, you also have to understand that Screening will take place no matter what your marketing strategy is. You cannot make the mistake of assuming that it does not apply to your brand or product. And more importantly, the customer must not feel cheated after the screening. The answer to the question – “Does your marketing campaign withstand screening?” must always be an emphatic “YES”.