Social media a boon for brand marketing, but is a bane too

Since people are talking on social media, it is no surprise that brands want to hack into this platform to push their goods and services. But relying too much on social media and consumer feedback can have a negative impact on brands.
Brands are taking many different approaches on social media, including Twitter, to promote themselves. Nicole Hill / The National
Brands are taking many different approaches on social media, including Twitter, to promote themselves. Nicole Hill / The National

Social media. Online marketing. Brand engagement. Customer loyalty. There are no limits on the usage of these words among marketing and advertising “gurus” and for a little while now “mobile” has become the buzzword among these [colourful] circles.

Almost everybody in the region has a mobile phone, more than half have internet access on their phones and almost all of them have a social media account. Word of mouth is still one of the most effective methods of advertising, the one that is most trusted among normal folk. Since people are talking on social media, it is no surprise that brands want to hack into this platform to push their goods and services.

From prompt feedback to customer queries and shameless plugs on Twitter to marketing messages sent via SMS, brands are taking many different approaches where “mobile” is concerned. Customer engagement is high on the agenda and many companies understand that a “like” on Facebook is not enough. An increasingly popular option is to appoint brand ambassadors, either famous people to push a product or service via their social media accounts or avid fans who help spread the message among their peers.

Brndstr, a Dubai-based company is taking this approach. Its software helps connect brands with their fans who are rewarded for their retweets and brand hashtags. In a recent funding round, Brndstr raised $1.6m.

“Finding the true ambassadors among a brand’s existing fan base and incentivising them to market the brand on its behalf has a greater impact than traditional marketing,” said Simon Hudson, chief executive of Brndstr and a speaker at ArabNet. “A person hearing of a new offer through traditional magazine and online ads as opposed to via a friend has a larger impact. In addition social networks are allowing people to now ‘mute’ brands and ads so this route definitely has its advantages. Crowd Marketing is what I believe brands and companies will move towards over the next few years.”

The promise of a reward is likely to entice fans to help peddle a product or brand. But relying too much on social media and consumer feedback can have a negative impact on brands. Facebook and Twitter have become the go-to destinations for public negative feedback, something that brands can only react to. Recently, it emerged that some customers have been threatening hotels and restaurants with bad reviews on TripAdvisor to secure freebies. Social media can be a troubling platform.

“This has always and I believe will always happen by a certain type of consumer. Brndstr is more about offering their existing fan base the opportunity to tell their friends and followers about a brand in return for a reward,” said Mr Hudson. “The message is decided by the brand and passed down through its ambassador network. Our hope is that the army of ambassadors will one day help the brand with unhappy customers by rectifying any issues and converting them to an ambassador themselves.”

Some however, prefer the more traditional, direct marketing option. Display ads, messages, clicks per view — that world, which is still lucrative — just ask Google.

While digital advertising spend is still low in the region, it is picking up.

“It’s special in the GCC, as we are starting here from a much mature level as in Europe. The UAE for example is the leading nation globally when it comes to smartphone penetration. Mobile commerce is growing rapidly in the region,” said Dirk Henke, managing director of Eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa at Criteo, an online advertising company. “… So far, the preconditions for mobile marketing seem to be great.”

Published: June 5, 2014 04:00 AM

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