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‘Likes’ Through Incentives

Pushkar Sane Thursday, 27th October, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , , , Marketing No comments

Most of us desire fame and fan following. We want people to ‘Like’ us. We obviously make efforts (knowingly or unknowingly) to please people or at least not displease them. Celebrities go a step further. They hire publicists and image managers to help them maintain and increase their fan following. They do undertake initiatives that can please people. Brands are no exceptions. Brands want consumers to like them. Brands want consumers to follow them. Brands want to get recommended. Brands want to be famous. For decades marketers have been spending time, effort, and money so that they can persuade consumers to ‘like’, ‘follow’, and ‘recommend’ brands.

Given the hype around social in general and Facebook in particular, it is natural for marketers to put extra emphasis on proving that their brands are ‘liked’, followed, and recommended by consumers. CMOs now preside over meetings to set fan acquisition goals and track progress on a weekly basis. Since we operate in a fast moving world, it is assumed that consumers also need to move fast to ‘like’, follow, and recommend brands. As a result, entire marketing machinery is busy crafting strategies to rapidly increase the fan numbers. In recent months I have seen several brands offering incentives to rapidly increase ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ on social platforms. I personally think that such strategies can probably get short-term results that look good rather than getting good results that can help the brand in the long run.
One recent initiative caught my attention. I was a bit disappointed as I have great respect for both the brand and the marketers behind them. I have used this example to demonstrate a wider industry issue.
Surf Excel India is incentivising people to ‘like’ the Surf Excel brand page on Facebook. For every person who clicks the ‘like’ button, Surf Excel India promises to donate goods worth Rs. 11 (US$0.23) to NGOs. It is a charitable cause and there will be people who will hit the ‘like’ button so that the underprivileged can be helped. This initiative is called ‘Make a Difference with Surf Excel’.

I fail to understand whether this is a marketing initiative or part of some corporate social responsibility program or a marriage of both. I wonder what is the profile of fans acquired through an initiative like this. Do they really like Surf Excel and buy the brand? Do they really care about Surf Excel to recommend it to friends? Will they continue to follow Surf Excel after that one click to donate Rs. 11 to charity? And finally what will happen to them after this fan acquisition initiative is over? Above all, why does Surf Excel need people to ‘like’ its page for donating money to charity? Why can’t it do it anyways?

I also ‘liked’ the page so that Surf Excel can donate Rs. 11 to one of the NGOs. It immediately placed a Make a Difference App in front of me with a request to access my wall and other details. I declined it. I then wanted to go back to the Make a Difference Page but it wouldn’t let me open the page unless I allow access to the app. Why does Surf Excel need access to my basic info, get permission to send me emails, right to post on my behalf, and even my birthday? Needless to say it irritated me and I was very disappointed.

I will probably never go back to the page or have any relationship with the brand but I will be counted as one of the fans of Surf Excel India page on Facebook. And like me there will be thousands of people. The brand manager will certainly get a pat on the back for taking this initiative viral through an app. The agency will submit the case for creative, media, and even effectiveness awards. And unfortunately, life will move on.

AFR (Acquire Fans Randomly) virus is lethal and difficult to remove once you contract it. I’m not against putting focus on increasing fans for brand but I’m very much against acquiring them through random incentives and methods. If your brand genuinely adds value to people then you will actually have no problem in consistently growing your fan base and getting ‘likes’, followers, and recommendations.

(Originally published in ClickZ.Asia on 14 September 2011)

Are you in Love or Just doing a Trade?

Pushkar Sane Thursday, 21st July, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Marketing No comments

I keep hearing that brands want to build strong relationships with their consumers through social platforms. They love their consumers and want consumers to love them back. Some brands do believe that consumers love them more than anything else in life. The target audience descriptions sound mushy and brand promises sound like wedding vows.

Today, ‘social media’ is the most discussed topic in advertising and marketing circles. Marketers and admen are desperate to rub shoulders or share a panel with Mark Zuckerberg. Every second person in the industry claims to be a social media expert – Facebook expert, Twitter expert, listening expert, fans acquisition expert, social campaign expert, etc.

Every agency of its worth now has proprietary tools to tackle social, and marketers are trying to find quick solutions to win in social. Over a short period of time, the industry has managed to develop processes and methodologies for social marketing. Smart people have also invented tools to listen, engage, measure, and predict.

It is highly impressive given the transient nature of social media. All this makes it look like marketers (and admen) have really understood social and now we just need to scale it to new heights. So there enters a new character called ROI (return on investment).

In the last six months, I have seen increased focus on calculating ROI for social media. I have seen presentations, heard panel discussions, and read point of views that highlight how to calculate ROI. Some of them actually go in specifics – ROI on Facebook or Twitter or any such platform. Broadly speaking, they all follow a standard formula.

ROI = [Gains from investments – cost of investment/cost of investment

I have spent considerable time studying and understanding the issue of ROI and as it relates to social. I personally find the concept of ROI for social completely out of place and irrelevant. Most people who claim to calculate ROI for social don’t really understand the domain because social is not really about releasing display ads on Facebook or doing Promoted Tweets.

In my humble opinion, initiatives on social platforms are to engage people through conversations, gain respect, win trust, show care, and finally build a long-lasting relationship. I wonder where does ROI fit into conversations, respect, trust, and relationships. Would you calculate ROI on your personal relationship and time spent with your parents, spouse, children, siblings, and friends? Your parents gave you birth, brought you up, put up with your stupidities, pampered you, paid for your education, participated in your joyous moments, and were there for you in your tough times. Your spouse loves you, makes you happy, cares for you, stands up for you, and partners you in joys and sorrows. Your true friends accept you as who you are and not what title you carry. They hang out with you, try to pull you out of problems, and entertain you.

If you invest your time and money to nurture and strengthen your relationships, would you calculate ROI? And how? Will you spend more or less time with your parents, spouse, and friends because you don’t get enough returns from them? What returns are they getting on you? And how would you feel if your mother starts calculating ROI before she cooks your favorite food or your wife starts calculating ROI before she gives you a kiss or your son calculates ROI before giving you a sweet smile?

I’m not against measuring strength of relationships and bonds. I’m not against working on your relationships to make them stronger and more meaningful. I’m not against evaluating whether the love is real or superficial. But I’m against putting monetary value and expecting monetary returns from initiatives that are meant for relationships, love, trust, and care. In my opinion, brands need to really decide what they stand for and what they seek from their consumers.

So my humble request to brand managers is to take relationships seriously and answer the following questions truthfully:

Are you in love with your consumers?
Do you want them to love you back?
Do you want a long-term relationship?
Do you want their trust?
Do you enjoy the conversations?
Do you care for your consumers?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then please stop calculating ROI on social! But if you insist on calculating ROI on social, then don’t claim you’re in love – just accept that you’re doing a trade.

(Originally published in ClickZ.Asia on 13 July 2011)