Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Flush of Social Media

Humans by our very nature are addicted to storytelling. The trait is so much in our system that from a village chaupal, a beer tavern in US, a local train in Mumbai to the water cooler on Madison Avenue, everyone is involved in it. Take a topic in a group and by all means we shall have five people contributing 20 anecdotes in no time   complete with elaborate background settings, reasons and analysis.

These stories running along the grapevines used to run along the social hear-say at the speed of sound. In many occasions, it led to complete misinterpretations with disastrous consequences. For instance, a bank once ran out of ready cash under fear that it was going down and all the savings from its customers were going to be wiped out. The Ruskin Bond story named, ‘The boy who broke the bank’, has actually happened in reality; just a real world reminder what a powerful source is this giant web of a social network.

In today’s digital age, the influencing power of social media is unchallenged. These days an incident from an event can go online and even before the event is over, there might be public reactions and outcry already on its way. Things now spread at the speed of your internet connection and the web of social networks is vast and invisible in most cases. There is no need these days for a BBC to announce news; in most cases, the news is already out and a news channel is now merely reiterating what one might already know.

Apart from chain mails, RSS feeds and threads were once considered the hubs of social chains. Today, the ability for anyone to publish a blog, tweet, post on Facebook or YouTube and just share on a messenger app has created the viral effect to multiply and propagate This has become the very reason why brands have become more aware and careful while handling social media; one slip and the things can go haywire.

While most will agree there are both advantages and pitfalls for a brand to be present in the social domain, there is a new avenue coming up for brands with the advent of social media hubs. Websites like ScoopWhoop, Bayside Journal etc. are creating content which on any other day might have passed off as petty articles fit for a tabloid paper. But the fact that these people have gathered teams to generate the much liked content, it is now turning out to be rage on social media as the articles most people love so share within the circles.

This growing popularity has now created a new trend of branded content which can be termed as created for social media but in reality, a very strong brand oriented content. Say for instance; the site comes up with an article named “12 reasons I love online shopping”, it does have the desired stickiness for the audience to just go on and see if the so called reasons do apply for them. What most people spot at the bottom, is a link to an e-commerce portal with a special discount sale running on the day. Another example on the same lines, “10 things to do which you won’t regret in life”, and amidst the most enchanted desires to visit some places, having a hobby and spending time your way is a plug for a small monthly investment or an insurance which a bank is trying to push.

This is an art of contextual content which has its ends towards commercial use. I can say that far long ago, we had tried our hands at such content for aphrodisiac and contraceptives- both categories where a direct approach was not the most palatable. So what we got in was a funky blog named, “Pillow talk’ and “12 most intensely intimate scenes from Hindi movies”. The numbers in 2009 were just a few thousands, but in hind sight it was a first in our books. Yes, the commercial success might have been low and hence it was discontinued. A mistake on our parts- we did not use Facebook as a channel where the content was shared or reposted.

Today I see that content led marketing efforts have come of age and if there is anything to credit the success, it will be the strong penetration and proliferation of social media. People want to share links and information more than how they are feeling on a day- that’s a change on the user end. At the same time, if they do find attractive content which can resound with their life and ideas, they are more than happy to share. Brands have realized this and with RoI and tactical marketing reaching a new high; this new flush of social media users and well-crafted content for social media can define the next big thing.