Confessions of a brand social media manager

socialI won’t trade my area of work for anything in the world. (OK, may be owning an ice-cream store, or being a travel and fashion reporter! 😉 ) After years of experimenting and trying different stuff in marketing, countless hours spent in the meetings inside conference rooms wondering why the hell I’m there and having the urge to tell everyone in the room that the business strategy they are discussing is BS (at least, in my brain 😀 ), I stumbled upon social media marketing after doing a few social media projects and have really enjoyed it so far.

Working in social media professionally for a brand or a business comes with its shares of pros and cons, moments of ecstatic joy and sheer frustration. Others outside your field form different and ‘interesting’ (read condescending and demeaning 😦 ) opinions about your job. For some, you are this cool person with access to all the social networking sites even at work and they think you must be a really creative and smart chap blossoming with ideas. They come to you when they want to discuss about something intriguing they came across on Twitter, or that video that went viral, and quite often you feel flattered when they come to you to seek your opinion on new and innovative ideas they have about social and mobile apps.

Then there’s another set of friends and acquaintances (painfully, they are in the majority!! sigh!) who think your job description is so lame. Most of them openly criticize and make fun of your job in social gatherings and after a point you give up on explaining to them that your job is a lot more than pretty pictures and 140 characters! Not that conveying a brand message in 140 characters or through a picture is an easy job. A lot of time and effort has gone behind that picturesque Tweet or Facebook post on your timeline.

What you also can’t explain to people is that what is fun, addictive and a relaxing activity ‘away from work’ for most people, is actually work for you! You don’t scroll through your own timeline during free time anymore to see what your best friend Tweeted, or where is your crush holidaying on Instagram, or how many people liked the Facebook profile picture of your frenemy vis-à-vis yours. Since you work on social media round the clock, it sort of kills all the fun elements for you. Yes, it’s your dream job and you like that your work is so creative and instantly gratifying. But you don’t see these social media platforms in the ‘fun’ way like others do to spend time while not working, and constantly feel the need to find other ways to spend free time online or offline.

What’s empowering and really satisfying part about this job is that you (along with your team) are responsible for creating this brand image online that zillions of people across the world would come to perceive and base their opinions on about the brand  – via a single Tweet, picture, or Facebook post. The fact that you have been given this responsibility to create that brand image and perception online, is really a powerful position to be in.  Again, this is something that you can’t explain to the naysayers and the haters. 🙂

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Image Source: http://jeremywaite.tumblr.com/post/73311947985/17-great-social-media-quotes-from-jay-baer

American Airlines.. Engage, React, Respond

This post is about American Airlines and I am attempting to analyze the reasons behind the brand being among the Top 10 in Headstream Social 100 Brands Report 2013.

The report studies three social platforms for every brand – YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I had a look at the American Airlines’ social channels and its online activity.

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What did strike me about American Airlines instantly when I started browsing through its various channels, especially on Facebook and Twitter, was the amazingly and insanely high level of engagement with the online followers. The tone of communication even online is friendly and human and not as expected totally stern, monotonous and professional language.

The level of interaction with followers is kept high by frequent polls, contests and quizzes on their Twitter and Facebook page. Another amazing aspect of American Airlines’ online marketing is the way in which it relates to the customers by making them a part of their branding strategy. There are pictures of real customers and not actors having a good time in their lounge / taking wedding photographs in the lounge and during many memorable moments showcasing how American Airlines has touched the lives of many customers. This one here is really touching.

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https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151709835601078&set=a.357237131077.161299.7003656077&type=1&theater

The one specific that touched me was picture of a small child who lost his soft animal toy an owl on the flight. The attendant found it and the little one’s smiling picture was featured. It is definitely a win-win relationship for both the customer and the brand. Author Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As per the guidelines, I didn’t go through the ranking methodology of the report 🙂 After carefully, studying the social presence of American Airlines – trying to do as much hair splitting analysis as possible – I had a look at the methodology for ranking and the KPIs across each of the social media platforms. Not surprisingly, response time taken by the brand to reply to user comments and response rate i.e. no. of posts / comments replied to by the brand were significant engagement factors for Facebook and Twitter. Other than the standard ones like no. of views, like / dislike ratio, subscriber base, fan / follower growth rate, mentions etc.

And this totally makes sense because a social presence is not about just talking – for that there are traditional forms of marketing. Listening, reaction and response are inevitable aspects of marketing online. Great Learning..
P.S.: What followed after the post when this post was auto shared to my Twitter profile – instant response from American Airlines! 🙂 Amazing online engagement.. see the conversation snapshot below
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The war is still on..

Wow.. just when Facebook thought that no matter how many products, its rival, Google comes up with – Google Wave, Google Buzz – no one can challenge the dominance of the organization, set up by Mark Zuckerburg merely in his 20s, Google came up with a product which created a never before like stir in the market – Google Plus.

With Google plus, the search engine genius has been lucky finally in its third attempt creating visibility in the Social Media scene. Earlier two attempts – Google wave could not create any ripples, let alone gigantic waves and as they say Google buzz didn’t quite buzz. But Google plus is different. Somehow it feels right!!

Especially seeing the circles and how easy it is to create them, gave me a huge sense of relief, “organized-ness” and protection. On FB, I would rather not post some updates or some thoughts that I just wanted to blurt out fearing that an unintended person would read it. And.. here comes Google plus.

The wall looks nice and clear. Another, great thing about Google+, it connects with my other Google applications instantly like GTalk, Picasa, etc. It gives me the feeling of completeness because I need not go or rather login to any other site for my personal stuff. I guess this was the prime idea behind Google wave, to integrate all Google apps at one place.. but that didn’t quite work for some reason.

A very interesting case is that FB is deleting/blocking accounts of people putting ads of their Google plus profiles on FB. (which reminds me that my own WordPress account is linked to FB 😛 ). Clearly, the street smart Zuckerburg isn’t taking the Google Plus threat lying down. And why not, in its first month (not even 30 days precisely), Google+ surpasses 10 million users and the +1 button has already been added to more sites than the “tweet this” button.

So far, the social media market has just one major player and some tiny ones (Orkut, MySpace, etc.), which led to FB bending the rules of the industry. In a recent interview Mark Zuckerberg had said that the age of privacy is over in social media. That is quite an arrogant and condescending remark from the owner of the firm which creates trends in social media. However, just when FB thought that privacy is no longer important, Google plus showed them that it might be too soon to tell.

This is the beauty of competition, even the no. 1 has something to learn from the rival. In a competitive market, you have to learn and innovate everyday even if you are the leader. May be Zuckerberg is taking notes already.. after all why else does he have an account on Google plus, or wonder if that’s a fake!!

The drawbacks of Google Plus.. I think the one that I found most irritating that friends are not updated in the profiles, in my circles and vice-versa when I add them or they add me. I do get a mail intimating me that they have added me but I can’t see them on my profile.That is a huge one if you would ask me! Rest looks neat so far, just waiting for all my friends to join Google plus.

Its too soon to tell who’s gonna win but Google plus definitely had a stunning start and Facebook can’t help but stand up and notice. In terms of number, FB does have the advantage which can be used as a strength in future strategies.

Another interesting observation after the launch of Google Plus, since October 2009 Google had an agreement with Twitter to include their updates in search results through a special feed – Google Real Time. But after that agreement expired on July 2 2011, Google is no longer interested to renew it, to promote its own Google Plus updates. Interesting case of forward integration in social media.

The war just got bigger and better..would be an interesting watch!

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Delightful Bliss

Don’t you feel delighted when people would go just out of the way to do something for you. Its a grateful and joyous feeling, ain’t it? Making you feel special. Be it in personal relationships or commercial ones, its always good to know that people care for you and would walk that extra mile to make you smile.

A colleague offering to take your work load off so that you can meet a personal commitment, a friend staying awake whole night to help in finishing your project in time (during the good old MBA days 🙂 ) or a complete stranger coming to your rescue while offering change in a bus or cab when the driver isn’t budging. Its always a genuine humane feeling when incidents like these take place and you feel touched.

Likewise, it gives the same feeling when you are on the receiving end of such gestures as a customer or a client and your service provider is trying to engage in these goodwill initiatives, popularly known in marketing management as “Customer Delight”.

That complementary plate of dessert, one extra scoop of ice-cream, an exciting offer in your regular departmental store offered for being a loyal customer or just some additional discount, things like these kind of make your day and bring on that smile, after a long day’s work.

Who doesn’t like surprises and pleasant surprises like these are most welcome by anyone. Alas, like  marketing we don’t have such terminology for making people delighted in day-to-day lives. You know, something like “Person Delight”!!

Anyways, that doesn’t stop us from practicing and even experiencing such incidents. Howsoever, busy  we become in our daily lives, I think we must always remember and make it a point to give back such delightful moments to others around us and not just take them for granted. It is indeed a heavenly feeling when you make a quite serious or sad person smile. After all, happiness is a cyclical process and a smile is always contagious!!

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