Social Smarts6 min read . Updated: 12 Oct 2010, 09:27 PM IST
You’ve heard of giant brands using social media to leverage, well — honestly — you. They want to “engage" you so that you will show some remorse and translate that into brand loyalty; they hope you will cozy up to them on Facebook and buy their insurance policies, printers and cappuccinos; and the Lord be praised, recommend them to your friends in some “viral" manner.
Many of these giants have entire social media departments armed with brand strategists, assorted MBAs and IT experts who know exactly what is meant by “engage the customer", “knowledge champions", “24x7 CRM (customer relationship management)" and “RoI (return on investment)".
But what if you are a small business and can’t afford all the la-di-da that comes with social media? What if you couldn’t send your CXO or brand strategist to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) Emerge Forum last month where start-ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were taught how to get started on the social media platform and “increase the audience bandwidth and get traction"? What if you don’t even have a CXO or a brand strategist?
The truth is that large businesses and social media consultants quickly want to template their strategies. But that’s a serious mistake. Social media templates cannot be relied upon.
So what does it take to successfully use Facebook as a business tool?
We’ll begin at the very top: If you think Facebook is a place for you to bare your soul, you are right. It’s the location of choice to share those annoying office party pictures, spew vitriol on Dabangg, debate if you should wax or thread and announce your new-found fascination for the Grateful Dead. So why is your company saying things like, “We just announced an expansion of our partnership with the world’s No. 1 mobile chip set company aimed at enhancing development and implementation of best-in-class solutions for customers" on Facebook? Doesn’t sound like a bare-your-soul “Just slipped into a tie-and-dye tee. Want to be a hippie when I grow up" kind of status message, does it?
Connecting with your audience on Facebook is an art, not a science. It’s not about process, metrics and Kaizen. This is about emotional connect.
PR 2.0 announcements and corporate edicts don’t make for great conversations. There are simpler ways than “pitching strategies", “integrated communication" and “advanced monitoring tools" to make Facebook work for you. Gaurav Dublish, director of Wildcraft, an outdoor and adventure gear company that has used Facebook to increase its following from a mere 3,000 some months ago to over a staggering 300,000, says: “We didn’t want to use spam to grow our community of outdoor enthusiasts. So we picked Facebook as a non-intrusive, opt-in method for our target group." Wildcraft’s total spending on Facebook advertising? The grand sum of Rs20,000 earlier in April.
Here are four case studies, including Wildcraft, from different sectors that demonstrate how Facebook can be used to successfully create an impact, run a business and deliver CRM.
Gunpowder, a Delhi-based restaurant
Run by Satish Warier and Kiran Bhushi, the 30-seater Gunpowder does coastal food, mutton ‘ularthiyathu’, ‘kallu shaapu meen’ curry, ‘appams’, that kind of thing. The restaurant’s website has nothing but the restaurant’s logo. Instead, today, messages on the restaurant’s Facebook page are for reservations. “Hi. I would like to book a table for 4 for lunch today at 12.30 PM. ?Preferably outside," says one guest. “Sure. Done," responds the restaurant. Business done.
Gunpowder never puts out fake PR 2.0-style messages on its Facebook page. Diners praise or criticize the restaurant and Gunpowder rarely tries to defend its kitchen. It’s the kind of interaction businesses would kill for.
While 2,751 followers may not seem like much, it is an overwhelming number for a restaurant that can seat barely 30.
Log on to Gunpowder on Facebook
Wildcraft, an outdoor and adventure gear company
Wildcraft does rucksacks, carabiners, helmets, knives, torches and other stuff that keeps you safe outdoors. It has a website that has a complete catalogue of products with an online store. But the real hang-out for the outdoor community is on its Facebook page.
Wildcraft publishes dependable details of outdoor adventure opportunities — from parasailing to scuba-diving— on its Facebook wall. Rarely does it flog its own product line. Instead, it has an intelligent “Buy Now" tab on its Facebook page that displays a shopping widget created by Pune-based specialists Widget Factory. Without leaving the Facebook page, visitors can browse through the entire product catalogue and make a purchase decision.
357,598 followers (and growing) is an enviable number to get without using complex social media strategy.
Sunshine Garden Boutique, Bangalore-based garden essentials
The Sunshine Garden Boutique has the planters, garden accessories and plants. It’s a very local business, relying on customers in the neighbourhood. Sunshine provides daily tips on how to look after your plants—each one of the tips relates to native plants and is, therefore, relevant to customers. Typically, a customer will ask Sunshine, “Is it right that the lucky bamboo should be gifted and not bought for oneself?" and Sunshine will reply: “Well Ava, for me these are all just superstitions. Since this has always been a great gifting idea, I think it is more a matter of convenience to believe so!" Sunshine publishes pictures of new arrivals so that its customers know what the plants look like and the conditions in which they thrive. Besides, there are over a thousand committed plant lovers available to offer their insights on the questions you may have. It’s customer- relationship management heaven for plant lovers.
1,682 followers is an enviable number for a business that is seriously local in nature.
Stripey the Cub, a social movement
Remember the NDTV-Aircel ‘Save our Tigers’ campaign? How there were only 1,411 tigers left in the country? And how they were headed for extinction? But, as we all know, a TV campaign can’t save the animal, people can. The campaign is alive and kicking online. While www.saveourtigers.com continues to provide a reason to take part in the campaign, the actual participation is on Facebook.
The wonderful thing about the Facebook page of the ‘Save our Tigers’ campaign—called Stripey the Cub—is that it is completely devoid of NDTV and Aircel hard sell. Their absence is almost spooky—maybe some marketing dude is about to get fired for having missed out on profusely naming the two companies? Which is not to say that the only reason for the success of Stripey the Cub is the obvious lack of NDTV and Aircel promotion. Instead, it succeeds because it allows a dialogue and action. Stripey the Cub has figured out that public debate is key to understanding the importance of conservation. And that debate should be captured—unedited, unembellished—for everyone to mull over.
Stripey the Cub has 339,011 followers. It’s the kind of following that has the power to be heard and make a difference. And who knows, even produce an idea or two that can actually save the tiger.
*Data as of 12 October.
Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies. He is a published author with HarperCollins and has extensive media experience spanning music, print, radio, Internet and mobiles.
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