Screening in Social Media Marketing

Information asymmetry deals with the study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information than the other. This creates an imbalance of power in transactions which can cause complications in the transaction, known as Adverse Selection.

This concept from economics can also be applied to Social Media Marketing, where buyers and sellers have asymmetric information such that the seller has the relevant information which is being sought by the buyers. This situation may lead to there being untapped value. It is in the best interest of both the brand as well as the consumer to extract this value, which will lead to more sales for the product and also lead to consumers’ needs being fulfilled.

Adverse Selection can then be resolved by sharing or soliciting information via Signaling or Screening. Signaling is nothing but transmitting information to the other party, thereby resolving the asymmetry.

Screening: Screening, on the other hand is the process by which the uninformed party can induce the other to reveal information. This generally goes in multiple steps where the uninformed party asks for more and more information, providing the other with choices. The more powerful party then, needs to decide how far it is willing to go, and grant the information. Buyers here also need to be cognizant to allow only truthful information, and screen out errors and misinformation. This is effectively an attempt to filter helpful information from useless information.

An example of these phenomena can be the Twitter account for a particular company or brand. Here, the presence on Twitter and the tweets could be Signaling employed by the brand to communicate the brand image to the consumers. Whereas, the number of followers could be used by the consumers to screen the product.

When there is asymmetric information in the market, screening can involve incentives that encourage the better informed to self-select or self-reveal. For example, people who are sure they will use insurance find deductibles more of a burden than those who do not expect to make claims. Hence, insurance companies use deductibles to sort policyholders into different risk classes and charge accordingly. 

Withstanding Screening:

There can be a number of ways that a brand can withstand the inclination of buyers for screening. Building a powerful brand image, and high quality products may help in achieving this end. Also, brands could:

Get people to fear: Giving people the feeling that they are losing out on something that everyone else is a part of can limit the need for consumers to take the effort to extensively screen the product. For example, the Gillette NoScruf Campaign video which was put on the website and then removed. The content of the video was not given much importance by the buyers when they got the feeling that this is something everyone else is watching and they need to be a part of it. Eventually this had seven million media impressions!

Don’t let buyers feel cheated: In the Gillette Campaign, people initially did not know that the video is for a razor brand, but even when they found out, they did not feel cheated. Companies need to take care of this as well in order to effectively withstand screening.

 

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

This is 21st century and we assume that almost every boy is on social media or at least 73% of adults do. So the enterprises have also tried to keep its presence on social media. But just because an organization is on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest it doesn’t guarantee success. It does not matter how many like you have or how many fan following you have if you cannot pull customers to directly contribute to the content or generate money out of it means that you have not utilized social media marketing. It simply means you are using social media for promotion and nothing else.

You as an enterprise want something more than just updating information about new product or services or any information about the organization. You want to engage with your customers and make them collaborate to help you grow. It is a common knowledge that to keep the people engaged with the campaign we must provide something interesting to the customer and it needs to have points of differentiation when compared to other campaign but what is more interesting that organizations often forget the most basic things when designing a campaign which ultimately leads to the failure of the campaign. It is as if you have started a brick and mortar store and you have set a target that 1 million people walk into your store in a month and you actually have one million people walking into you store but no sales revenue. What do you think has gone wrong?

We can clearly see that the there was an issue in the definition of target. The target clearly did not map to the critical success factor. In this scenario what we need to understand is that are we selling what the customer needs? What is the value proposition? Does the value that we propose matches the value that consumer perceives/receives? It is very important to figure out answers to these questions because the customers are always screening the contents available on the social media hence and content that provides information contradicts to the values of your business will directly have negative impact. So anything that you do on social media such as sharing your contents, generating buzz about your brand or promoting the need and utilities, It must be in line with the value of your business.

So, if you open a restaurant that serves only organic items, explain your reasons for opening up that business to potential customers. You’re not doing this because it’s a trendy business right now. You’re doing this because people aren’t eating healthy and you want to change that, at least in your neck of the woods. Share content that explains why organic food is healthy for locals and what your menu has to offer your neighbors.

Content of our campaign is very important but it is only half the pie. What’s the point in creating something awesome if no one is going to check it out? A campaign on social media is also about consistency. There must be consistency in the matter produced, consistency in the frequency of sharing information and also the timing of when to share how much of the content. An example to demonstrate above point is when after President Obama mentioned his grandmother during the first presidential debate in October, the kitchen appliance manufacturer responded by posting the following tweet to its 24,000 followers: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president. #nbcpolitics”. To the company’s credit, it quickly removed the tweet and issued an apology, explaining that a member of the KitchenAid team had mistakenly posted it from the company account instead of from a personal handle. It had however reached the mass and would have offended many people. These failures demand the screening of campaigns on social media. Some of them could have been avoided if it were screened at multiple levels in the organization before the implementation.

 

Why is the thesis of screening important for social media?

A huge conversation has built up around the potential of social media. Much of this debate has centered on the potential for PR and marketing. However, not much attention has been paid to the idea of social media as a customer feedback mechanism. Web and social media is going to take an increasing share of your overall feedback footprint. However, don’t forget that taking positive offline feedback and using it to fuel online feedback channels can have big benefits. 

Smarter Consumer
Consumers these days rarely consider making a purchase of any kind of product or service without some ‘due diligence’ online. Not only will people use online research to help make a purchase decision, they will use it to post–rationalize a decision they have already taken. The feedback footprint of a business will help set an expectation of the product or service a customer will experience. Failure to live up to that experience will potentially lead to disappointed customers going somewhere else in the future — and sharing their poor experience with others.

Consumers have changed, and they have changed the shopping process, too. Instead of browsing through several stores, finding something and buying it in a continuous sequence, they use technology to weave in and out of the shopping process wherever and whenever they want. So what was once an uninterrupted flow is turning into a series of “moments”: the moment of first becoming aware of a product, the moment of researching it, the moment of purchasing it and the moment of taking possession.

These moments may be separated by days or even weeks. Many consumers in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States wait at least seven days between learning about a new item and purchasing it, for example. Consumers in the growth markets, by contrast, are more likely to purchase a product immediately or within a couple of days. The shopping process has not only become more fragmented, it has also become more compressed. Time-starved smarter consumers can now go online to get the information they want in a matter of minutes, whereas once they might have spent an hour wandering through the store. Moreover, some of the biggest influences on smarter consumers during the moments when they first become aware of a product and research it are in their own hands. They are not simply responding to advertising and promotions; they are consulting their families and friends, using search engines and looking at mobile applications like ‘ShopSavvy’ – media that are completely outside a retailer’s control

Serve me, don’t sell to me
It used to be relatively easy for retailers to identify their target customers, reach them and sell to them. These days, it’s very hard. Smarter consumers are departing from their demographic and socioeconomic roots. They are also using technology to commandeer the driving seat and control their own shopping experiences. When they enter a retailer’s store or view its Web site, they usually know what they want because they have already talked to their families and friends and read the product reviews. They are the experts.

So how can retailers respond? Our survey shows that what smarter consumers really want is to be served, not sold to. They are telling retailers: listen to me, know me and empower me.

This new type of integrated insight allows them to: identify and deliver targeted offers, dramatically improve campaign performance, recommend content in real-time, and develop content to satisfy and delight audiences. To get there, data-driven M&E companies are taking full advantage of next-generation audience insights platforms that enable a specific set of use cases to drive new capabilities and business value.

To ensure they pass the users’ screening test, marketers should remember some key points:

  1. Set accurate and realistic expectations
    The high expectations for social didn’t happen by accident. It’s a direct result of social media gurus and software providers promising too much. The reality is a lot less sexy: building a relationship with customers takes time, and there’s simply a lot of noise in the space. Building relationships with customers takes time. Set realistic social media expectations.
  1. Reduce noise and provide real value
    We’re simply putting too much junk out there. For example, all the buzz about real-time marketing last year came about as a result of brands wanting to join the conversation. But the ROI for real-time marketing is still very much unknown, and brands’ efforts to tweet during live and major events usually fall flat or flat out fail. The better—but less sexy—solution is to provide real value with our content. Think value instead of interruption. McDonald’s is doing it, and so is American Express. These established brands show that people care about content that’s useful, informative and provocative.
  1. Know when to pay
    The idea that social media as primarily an earned media channel is outdated. We’re now in the era of converged media—a time when paid efforts are used to amplify owned and earned story assets. Yes, Facebook reach is down, and there’s too much noise on Twitter. Tough. But if we’re confident that our content provides value, then we shouldn’t hesitate to make the financial investment to get more people to see it. Just make sure you’re not paying to advertise junk content.

Screening and Social Media

The process of discovering relevant information about a product or service in order to determine its  fair  value  and  relevant features  is called Screening and its one  of the most important feature of ever growing social media campaigns  used by marketers for Product Promotion.    This process is very relevant in campaigns where marketers are trying to leverage the power of social Media   to promote their Product and Service .Traditional Marketing  was more about Signalling  where stress is more about  conveying  about the offering   to the customers  credibly .But the same technique  is not useful  on Social Media like Twitter  and Face book  .Reason   being Traditional Marketing  is based on  basic assumption of  information Asymmetry  where  the customers  don’t have access to  the complete set of information  on  basis of which  he/she can make its purchase Decision  and Hence forth Marketers   share information  to influence Customer ‘s Decision .But with Advent  of internet and social Media   Networks   , the situation has changed   radically and hence the marketing approach  has  also to be changed 360 degrees to  address this change in  approach . Now there are Glut of information is available about various Products available to the customer to make their decision. Apart from that  on Social Media ,  customers can get Feedback , reviews  instantly from their  Friends  and Social Network  to  more information about the  products .Social Media has vastly reduced this Information Asymmetry  barrier  and  the    basic Assumption  has changed .Hence forth Marketers need  to  adapt  the Screening Method to survive and execute successfully  the  marketing  campaigns  on Social Media.

Based on “the view of innocence” this process allows checking from the marketing process to the development of the product. It’s a continuous process of  getting feedback  from the customers and being truthful about  your product and services to withstand the scrutiny  of the customers  on social Media The first task is to listen, to ask, to listen and to ask again, understanding the process in the way it is currently done. Then naturally doubts and important questions will appearcomparing your process and the way you promote your product with other markets, other countries and other competitors using social Media . Sometimes as we are doing always the same activities and claiming the same benefits, the market goes slowly moving and we cannot perceive. Also same innovations that are not done yet in our market could be introduced and make the difference. So to check why we claim what claim or why we do what we do is the very first step in keep our competiveness as sharp as possible.

Talking of Social Media , I remember a popular line from a old urdu Poet : Ye hamaam-e-siyasat hai,yahan sab k sab  nange haine”.It stands true  for  social Media  .Nothing is hidden from the customers there and hence marketers have to be careful  about their strategy otherwise they won’t  be expected benefits from their campaigns on contrary the whole process can back fire and affect their brands adversely if they stick to old methods.

 

 

Importance of screening in Social Media Marketing

Some basics before we jump into specifics of Screening and its importance. What is Information Asymmetry? When two parties in discussions have different set of details it is called information asymmetry.  If one of the parties has more or better information this could be misused or could bring about a sense of doubt in the other party. The next term to understand is signalling. Proposed by Michael Spence, it is a method by which we communicate our preference to opposite party by our actions that provide an indication of our choice thus negating the Information Asymmetry. Screening, originally pioneered by Joseph Stiglitz, is about less informed party having the capability to reveal information about the opposite party that the original party may not have revealed.

Applying this to Social Media Marketing, what screening means to a marketer is that how much ever he / she tries to limit the advertisement / promotion to a specific topic the individual on the other side will look to increase their understanding through additional reading, Internet or knowledge sharing between other similar individuals. What this translates to possibly is a mass critic of the Campaign being advertised. If at all the marketer has not thought through the campaign or is trying to restrict the knowledge around it which could be detrimental, it is bound to be revealed. While the purpose of the Social Media Campaign may have intended a particular outcome the actual outcome may be completely opposite. And hence it becomes important for a marketer to be ready with various responses or factor in the issues that could crop up into the Social Media Campaign.

A positive example of such a campaign would be by GAP where they used models of various ethnicity. GAP wanted to show its opposition to racism and support for every community. It did expect some backlash and was ready for such a response. What happened was that some posters, which it had a India Sikh with a turban, were painted black. These pictures showed up on Social Media immediately. GAP immediately noticed it and responded by replacing these pictures and opposed such activity. There was a lot of positive comments and impression generated by GAP by not just the ad but also its response to racism.

When advertising on social media it is very important for an organization to come through successfully without any blemish in the screening by Social media users. What this does is create a brand value for the organization. Organizations will be recognized for their  value system. Customers / Fans will relate to the product and will try to associate themselves with it. Which has further opportunity to be capitalized on through network effect. However, no organization can take this for granted and will need to ensure and treat every campaign as a new one. Where it would take a great amount of work to build a successful brand it only takes matter of seconds to destroy the brand too. Be it an individual or an organization ‘Reputation’ plays a critical role. Not only does the screening process act as a deterrent but it also acts as a form of policing to ensure symmetry of information!

Importance of thesis of screening

The social media marketing age has brought in a new dimension to all the marketing campaigns. It is ‘engagement’. Conventional marketing campaigns were thought of keeping ‘customer centricity’ in mind. But social media takes this phrase literally.

All that Google did in its nascence was ranking the web pages & re-ranking them every time based on how users responded to search result Google threw at them. Yahoo on other end focused on quality of search results based on what few hundred experts thought were best for any term keyed in by any user.

A funny analogy for above scenario can be capitalism vs. socialism. Users were deciding their own preferences & Google only facilitated that. It was not like a rationed distribution of data / knowledge resources that Yahoo did.

The whole pyramid of social media is founded on extent of it being open for everybody to contribute to, share from, refer to & use from. Response of users through all these activities is ‘screening’ of any content that users are provided.

Benefits of Screening:

The content aggregation is achieved through so many users posting on a social media thread. These may be likes, comments & sharing of experience. Engagement of consumers is achieved in Merimaggi campaign (http://goo.gl/zxLOqA) by asking them to share experiences they had while eating, sharing or distributing maggi in various backdrops.

The more users join in to discuss & share their experiences, the more is the chance that the content reaches the masses. This type of screening decides the success of a campaign. Value of a product for a consumer is hence decided by screening responses.

Risks to a campaign from screening:

Any campaign on social media is open for posts from critics as well. Merimaggi facebook campaign on its first page has some comments about the type of preservatives in Maggi. Such posts are inevitable but the marketer can still recoup the lost ground by giving a genuine sincere response to such posts. Such response can be a fact backed by data or research or a technical detail.

The genuineness of a campaign is also based on how open & accessible the marketer is to the criticism. If the campaign comes out without scathes from all such truth tests then the marketers have gained what they were looking for – the trust of consumer.

Finally the campaigns that withstand such screening don’t guarantee the ROI. The marketer may be left with having to go back to conventional marketing schemes such as coupons & promotional discounts if the product is still on shelves after the social media campaign as happened in the case of Old Spice twitter campaign.

But the bottom line remains that the online chatter cannot be bought & only users decide how much to talk. The engagement of consumers happens laterally & may or may not convert into actual sales. But again, this true in case of conventional marketing also. What really matters in this new age of social media campaigning is whether you can withstand the screening.

Why is thesis of screening important for social media marketing?

In traditional scenarios, when the concepts of internet, Web 2.0, social media etc. did not exist, a firm could study customer requirements and build a product accordingly. Bringing the product to market involved a marketing scheme in which customer was educated about the product by the firm only. The uniqueness of the product, the benefits one could derive, and the performance parameter were all communicated directly by the firm to the potential customers. With this the firms had an advantage of cleverly and silently hiding the unwanted attributes or at least the features which will make it less relevant. The firms could divide the market into different segments and smartly design the 4Ps – Pricing, Promotion, Place and Product – specifically for these different segments. For example, two cars built on the same platform but branded differently could be sold to different customers with different pricing and different value propositions. As long as there was no information spillage between the two segments they could be educated differently about the product satisfying the key requirements of segments respectively. In return a monetary or other premium such as brand loyalty could be extracted. Typically the firm informed or signalled the consumer about the attributes of the product.

With the coming of Internet and especially collaboration and networking it brought along with it, information flow became unrestricted. Social media – blogs, networking websites, discussion boards, content sharing systems etc. – has created an ecosystem where information can be created, distributed, recieved and analyzed in a matter of minutes. One can as easily plug into this ecosystem as easily “Google” (search) for it. There is constant information spillage between conventional consumer segments. As a matter of fact, the segments are becoming fluid as people have easy exposure to other people’s personas and they get influenced and shape their personas easily. Today before assimilating any marketing information (signalling) by the firm, consumers validate and evaluate it from every angle. For example, reviews of a product online are looked for and believed more than the advertisements by the firm. People easily get the information about competing products from the discussion board. Only after verifying from different sources, a customer decides to purchase the product. In such a scenario the whole idea of understanding a product changes from signalling by the firm to screening by the customers. Effectively customers are becoming more informed, vigilant and wielding of their requirements.

With such a phenomenal transformation of marketing priorities, it is imperative that social media marketing strategies are built to leverage on this transformation or at least safeguard against failures arising from it.

Some of the example ways in which screening can be utilized by a company includes –
1) Understanding trends and values important to customers from the data collected from discussion boards, reviews.
2) Building credibility around brand by withstanding strong screening.
3) Forcing comparison with the rival products and proving yours to be superior.
4) Crowdsourcing of ideas for product itself.

All in all, a company should use social media as a marketing space only when it is absolutely comfortable and prepared for the screening by consumers. It is an inevitable phenomenon of a platform which brings together millions of potential customers but open seamless and countless means of transparent information exchange.