Social media marketing needs both creativity & strategy to attract the right audience. In this article, we deep dive into why social media should be a non-negotiable component of your marketing mix along with a few actionable steps to leverage social media for your brand.

 

Social media platforms have amassed a wide audience base and have gradually become a fundamental part of our daily lives over the last decade. According to Digital 2020, 56% of the APAC (2.42 billion) population uses the internet and 50% (2.14 billion) uses social media.

Image source: We Are Social

Speaking about South East Asia, the six largest economies of SEA constitute over 360 million social media users. 

Amidst, the COVID-19 outbreak, Social media usage has seen a monumental rise in recent times. Stay-at-home people took solace in social media, online gaming, and online streaming platforms. Newer social media platforms such as TikTok saw a massive surge in adoption, crossing 2 billion downloads. Similarly, Houseparty, a friendly, spontaneous chat application, saw a whopping 2 million downloads in the initial stage of the pandemic. And besides these upcoming platforms, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media behemoths continue to soar in popularity across the globe.

Image source: We Are Social

These trends indicate that people now consider social media as an indispensable part of their daily lives. Marketers can leverage this opportunity to maximize the potential of these channels and connect with their audience. 

Why Brands Need to Take Social Media Seriously

Compared to other regions, SEA jumped straight to the Web 2.0 era that promoted social media adoption and user-generated content. 61% of the SEA population uses social media, which is 16% more than the global average. Coupled that with mobile-first social media usage and Gen Z using social media for shopping brands have plenty of opportunities to plant social media across various customer touchpoints. According to research by Facebook and Bain & Company, the increasing number of middle-class communities of 350 million people with a growing income of USD 300 billion by 2022 across SEA promises tremendous potential. The same research also identified these people interacting with each other through communities brought together by shared passions, values, and challenges, which enables brands to connect with specific segments of the audience directly based on shared interests. Despite these opportunities, many brands have had difficulties in integrating social media into their marketing mix.

There’s no doubt that social media is effective to drive brand awareness, generate customer engagement, and provide customer service, but it is far more powerful when used to its fullest potential. 

Here is why brands need to consider social media seriously:

1. Social Media Facilitates the Buyer’s Journey

Social media plays an important role during the buyer’s journey. Right from the awareness & consideration stages to the decision stage and advocacy, social media shapes your prospect’s perception, consciously and unconsciously.

According to the Social Media Trends 2020 report by GlobalWebIndex, users in APAC, on average, spend 2 hours 18 minutes daily on social media with an average of over 9 social media accounts per user. Around 30% of the respondents stated that they use social media to research or find products to buy. Here’s the breakdown:

Image Source: GlobalWebIndex

Millennials and Gen Z being the prominent social media users, social media platforms are becoming increasingly important during the buyer’s journey. A survey by ClickInsights and Magento Commerce reported that 50% of respondents (millennials and Gen Z each) use social media for shopping. Although both generations use social media for almost the same amount of time, how they use it varies quite a lot. For instance, while millennials spend time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, Gen Z prefers mobile-first, video-based platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, etc. Despite these differences, Instagram and YouTube are famous among both groups. Therefore, although there may be differences in the utility of social media for both groups, they play a crucial role when making a purchase.

2. Social Commerce Plays an Important Role in Online Shopping

Social media platforms have been working to keep the entire buyer’s journey on their platforms. Features like Instagram Shoppable and Facebook Shops have enabled brands to sell through these platforms, albeit a little third-party help is necessary during the final purchase step.

This enables brands to compare how the stages of the conversion funnel and the buyer’s journey coincide on social media, which helps them improve the funnel across other marketing avenues.

3. A Rise in Time Spent on Social Media

The shift to work-from-home has blurred the lines between personal and professional lives. Remote work has brought in certain societal and behavioral changes that have primarily impacted face-to-face social interactions. The lack of such interactions has forced people to seek solace in socializing with their friends and peers via social media.

Messenger apps such as WhatsApp saw more than 50% surge in its usage. The millennials and Gen Z audience increased their reliance on platforms like TikTok as these platforms have shown positive effects on mental health during the isolation period. Since social media platforms allow people to connect with each other and showcase their dormant talents or newfound interests, their usage will continue to grow.

Using Social Media to Activate Customers

Brands should tweak their marketing strategy to accommodate the changing consumer behavior on social media. They need to adopt the following social media trends to activate customers in the coming time. 

1. Brands Use Social Media to Offer Exclusivity to Boost Loyalty

Brands started using social media platforms to broadcast their messages and invite customers to communicate with them. With the rise of ephemeral content, messenger apps, and Mark Zuckerberg promoting privacy-focused networking, there’s been a shift in the way brands and users use social media.

This shift gives rise to a question. Is the future of social media going to be entirely private, focusing on one-on-one interactions? The short answer is no. The dominant reason for social media usage still remains entertainment, news, researching products with a more personal consumer experience. 

The precept of social media platforms has been and will be to promote social interactions. But brands will change how they communicate with customers. Brands that want to promote exclusivity and customer loyalty would create private avenues to communicate with customers. These avenues will include messenger apps, closed/secret groups, and ephemeral content. 

Similarly, platforms such as Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram would be used to publish public content. Branded hashtags, viral content, and paid ads will enable brands to achieve this.

2. Brands Diversify Their Content Mix 

Different content formats work for different social media platforms. Therefore, rather than relying on only one type of content format, branch out and experiment with multiple formats.

The human brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than text, and perhaps that’s why a picture is worth a thousand words. In the age of infinite scrolling, people don’t pay attention to a post unless it catches their eyes.

Diversifying the content mix keeps your existing user base engaged and attracts new audience members. To broaden your content mix:

  1. Pay attention to which content formats are performing well on individual platforms. Review the platform’s native analytics feature periodically
  2. Double down your efforts on video marketing. Videos garner good engagement, and almost every social media platform supports them. The length of any video is entirely dependent on the channel, industry, and marketing objective, but the ideal video lengths should be in the range of 6-30 seconds. 
  3. Repurpose your existing content. If you have made an informative video, convert it into an infographic, slide deck, image, or a podcast episode. One content property can help you 10x your output
  4. Livestreams are effective in generating real-time engagement. Schedule live video sessions to interact with your audience
  5. Ephemeral content gets an immediate response and helps you identify your loyal customers
  6. The growing usage of smartphones, ephemeral content, and IGTV indicate the importance of vertical videos
  7. Customers feel valued when their favorite brand recognizes them. Get them involved to create user-generated content

3. Niche Social Media Platforms Become Brand Favorites

Mainstream social media platforms are saturated. Their organic reach is dwindling, and the cost of paid ads is going up.

Niche social media platforms are great alternatives to the mainstream platforms as they allow brands to connect with the right audience rather than being noise in a swarm of people. With better organic reach and cheaper paid ads, brands need to experiment on emerging platforms to see what sticks as it’s unlikely that they’ll hit gold right away.

A great example of brands finding success on a niche platform is TikTok. TikTok’s claim to fame is its feature of letting users upload short videos. The app saw staggeringly 104.7 million installs in January 2020 alone. In SEA, it is among the top five downloaded apps and has over 190 million users. B2C brands are banking on TikTok through ads and influencer marketing. Also, TikTok’s partnership with the OTT platform – iFlix indicates a great sign for brands. 

Now, TikTok may not work for everyone, especially for B2B brands. Find a platform that works in your niche. For instance, LinkedIn is popular among B2B organizations, whereas Twitch is influential in the gaming community. Similarly, Mastodon is a decentralized social networking service that can work as a Twitter alternative. 

4. Social Media Communities Become a Norm

Social media communities are useful in providing one-on-one support to your customers, gather product feedback, understand customer needs, learn new ideas, and boost engagement among the community members.

If you are a B2B brand, you can build an invite-only private group on Facebook for your customers, whereas B2C brands can go with a public group. You can use polls when working on a new feature or use events to invite them to exclusive webinars. The possibilities are endless.

Branded hashtags can help you start a conversation on Twitter, run tweet chats, or allow users to share photos or videos on Instagram.

Another aspect of this is employee advocacy, where you encourage your employees to talk about your brand. This is not a forced activity, but a byproduct of your product and employee experience. Employee advocacy is useful to build trust and credibility among customers.

5. Influencer Marketing Remains a Core Part of the Strategy

SEA’s influencer marketing industry was worth $368 million in 2019, and it is expected to quadruple by 2024, reaching $2.59 billion. The reason for this is that out of 360 million, 90% of SEA’s internet users connect via mobile phones. Also, with 40% of the global TikTok users being from SEA, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, and Line allow brands and influencers to connect with a wider audience base.

Influencer marketing works because people trust people more than brands. When well-known people or celebrities talk about your brand, it establishes a vote of trust. Although influencer marketing had gotten all muddy because of unscrupulous activities a few years back, social media platforms promptly introduced tools to create transparency to resolve this issue.

People’s growing trust towards local brands and the entry of micro-influencers has allowed brands to connect with users through trustworthy and expert people in their respective niches. 

6. Brands Adopt Performance Marketing to Prove Social Media ROI

Social media hasn’t been an ROI-focused marketing channel. But with the introduction of conversion-focused social ads such as lead ads and app install ads, this is changing.

While conversion-driven ads bring success, sustaining this success is a challenge. Therefore, brands need to marry performance marketing and traditional brand building. Remember, people hate being sold to.  It’s unlikely that they’ll see your ad and become your customer right away. Therefore, rather than focusing on short-term, sales-y ads, create a framework that guides your prospects through the funnel.

The framework should consist of both – brand activation and conversion-focused activities aligned with the buyer’s journey. So, when a user comes across your brand during the discovery or research phase, guide them through their journey with the relevant organic content and ads.

7. Organic Content Will Garner More Engagement

A direct impact of users spending more time on social media channels means there’s a huge opportunity for brands to capitalize on their organic content. As paid content will continue attracting eyeballs, keeping them glued to your content has to be achieved through the organic content.

Creating interactive content will encourage two-way communication and genuine engagement. As brands will experiment to diversify their content mix, it is necessary to incite audience participation. While polls, quizzes, or surveys are surefire ways to engage the audience, you can always ask your followers to perform an action (subscribe to your channel, share or leave comments on your content) through your content.

Closing Thoughts

With social commerce becoming a mainstay and brand building and sales activation working in tandem, social media has encompassed the entire funnel. Social media can no longer operate in a silo. Since omnichannel marketing enables marketers to deliver a consistent customer experience across multiple platforms, social media needs to become a core part of a cohesive marketing machinery along with email marketing, paid ads, and content marketing.

 

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