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Key ideas from the Social Media World Forum Africa (#SMWF)

From the outset, the Social Media World Forum Africa (SMWF) conference was humming with iPads, laptops and smartphones – a frenzy of tweeting, networking and live blogging.  Except for me; rebelliously, I was one of a meagre few armed with pen and pad. The result: 24 pages of barely legible notes.

The agenda was geared towards social media in the South African context and its impact on marketing, PR, reputation management and customer service, as well as its value to local companies and marketing practioners. As advertised, the agenda was as follows:

Day 1: Social media as part of an integrated approach to communication

Day 2: Social media tools, strategies and innovations

The speakers were almost entirely local. So, at very least I expected to walk away with an apparent framework for developing social strategies for the South Africa market in 2011, backed up by some inspiring success stories. On the whole, I think this was lacking on a strategic level. But the speakers provided substance in the form of experiences, stats and recommended tactics – all providing plenty of food for thought.

I’ll roundup some of the key themes:

The Social Consumer & Generation C

Early on, the point was raised that social consumers are different from classic consumers. However, it’s important to note that consumer needs haven’t changed, but rather their demands. In the social sphere, consumers expect immediacy, accessibility and the ability to share, among other things.

Marketers need to shift their mindsets and adapt their approaches to cater for the social consumer’s demands. Although, according to Habari Media’s Sufiso Mazibuko, “social media marketing isn’t about re-inventing the wheel. It’s doing what you have always done, just on a new platform”.

Standard Bank’s Bellinda Carreira introduced the concept of Generation C, which is defined as the connected, collective consumer. Generation C – whose mantra is “I share, therefore I am” – is characterised by a proclivity towards all things social media, favouring peer recommendations over traditional advertising and a freedom to express and share their opinions and attitudes.

In this space brands are no longer in control of their reputation. Walter Pike aptly raised the point: “My Brand is not what I say it is it’s what you say it is and your experiences of it.”

The simple truth is that the average user does not use social media to interact with brands, but when they do, it’s on their terms.

Brand Advocacy

Word-of-mouth referrals, especially from peers, are marketing gold. Having loyal customers that believe in and are passionate about your brand is the essence of brand advocacy.

In his slot on brand management, Nike’s Kemi Benjamin emphasised brand advocacy as the key ingredient in maximising a brand’s impact in social media and beyond. According to Benjamin, brand advocacy:

– Drives peer recommendation.

– Cultivates influencers.

– Delivers a loyal (sustainable) base.

– Increases marketplace capacity.

– Reduces costs and increases margins.

And for Nike, the formula for developing brand advocates is compelling experiences + social.  This ties into integrating social into your big ideas, which I believe Nike has mastered.

In her presentation on Social CRM, Suzanne Stokes emphasised the importance of fostering customer trust and loyalty as a means of developing brand advocacy, which is seemingly achieved through ongoing collaborative engagement with customers.

Benjamin’s approach utilises the physical world and advertising and Stokes uses social customer engagement. Both result in a common goal of brand advocacy.

Listen, Analyse & Engage

As part of a session on Social Reputation & PR, Bellinda Carreira provided an insightful talk on the topic of Listening – the first step to managing your social reputation. Below I have summarised her key recommendations:

The first step is becoming equipped with suitable listening tools. These crawl the social web, identifying mentions of your brand. A range of listening tools exist, differing in price, interface and metrics. These can help you track and derive valuable data relating to your brand and your competitors, as well as help you identify key influencers.

Although tools provide the benefits of sophistication and automation, not all tools are consistent and relevant data is sometimes omitted. Human analysis is required.

In terms of what to analyse, Carreira suggests the following:

  • Brand / Product Awareness – Mentions & Sentiment
  • Competitors – Competitive Advantage & Comparison
  • Marketing Impact – Campaigns, Social & PR Activity
  • Relationship Management – Service Issues & Key Themes

In addition to these, a strategy, metrics and targets need to be defined for each social platform. Ensure that you have your own platform and that you have considered your account name, as well as the resources, time and content available to you.

When engaging:

  • Listen with your feet (put yourself in the customers shoes).
  • Respond, don’t react.
  • Understand your desired outcome (marketing / PR / CRM).
  • Decide who can engage.
  • Maintain authenticity (in style and tone).

Meltwater’s Mike Anderson did a presentation on social media monitoring and strategy (with specific reference to the company’s tool, Meltwater Buzz). His five key steps included:

  1. Start listening in – where are my customers and what are their needs?
  2. Define why – establish your reasons for going social.
  3. Choose your channel – identify influencers and platforms with the best return.
  4. Engage – base actions on customer insights and invite them to participate.
  5. Measure your return on investment – relate stats to your objectives.

Although I was pleased to see Anderson advancing the traditional listen / analyse / engage model to incorporate ROI (to define which approaches make business sense) I don’t feel this was effectively elaborated upon.

In fact, the question of ROI was hardly touched upon throughout much of the conference. Now, I get that engagement, the key tenet of social, doesn’t directly translate into ROI, and as social becomes integrated into other marketing and communication activities the lines become blurry. But the decision to use social media should (hopefully) be based on foundational marketing, communications and CRM objectives, such as increasing sales, reducing costs and customer issues and so forth.

“The key takeaway, regardless of how your company chooses to measure engagement, is that you have a success metric in mind before you begin. Without some sort of benchmark, it’s impossible to determine your ROI,” says Aaron Uhrmacher of Disruptology.

Crisis Management

Yoav Tchelet, Head of Digital Channels at Avis, talked us through the concept of crisis management (a function of Online Reputation Management) for social media, citing crisis examples for BP and United Airlines.

Tchelet emphasised the immediate viral effect of one voice with multiple amplifications. As an example, he used Motrin, an American pharmaceutical brand that underwent an onslaught of negative PR across all popular social networks in response to an ad campaign targeting moms that carry babies. USA Today termed it: “Offended moms get tweet revenge over Motrin ads.” Here is there ad:

When faced with a crisis, Tchelet advised that brands should adopt a multi-channel approach, incorporating PR, social, and internal communications. When responding they should:

  • Just be human
  • Acknowledge the issue
  • Apologise
  • Communicate internally & externally

In the Motrin case, this was what they come up with:

“With regard to the recent Motrin advertisement, we have heard you.

On behalf of McNeil Consumer Healthcare and all of us who work on the Motrin Brand, please accept our sincere apology.

We have heard your complaints about the ad that was featured on our website. We are parents ourselves and take feedback from moms very seriously.

We are in the process of removing this ad from all media. It will, unfortunately, take a bit of time to remove it from our magazine advertising, as it is on newsstands and in distribution.

Thank you for your feedback. It’s very important to us.”

Kathy Widmer
Vice President of Marketing
McNeil Consumer Healthcare

(Source: Crunchy Domestic Goddess)

Seth Godin has criticised the above response as being insincere, stating, “This isn’t an honest note from a real person. It’s the carefully crafted non-statement of a committee.” But, it seems to have worked. According to TruthyPR, “You barely heard anything in the news three days later, except from web pundits like me.”

Other analysts believe Motrin reacted too quickly. Converse Digital’s Tom Martin felt “Johnson & Johnson (owner of Motrin) and its ad agency, Taxi, simply reacted instead of responding. And in doing so, they missed a huge opportunity to exploit the real power of social media — dialogue.”

It seems Motrin are still having a rough time of it – although on unrelated issues. This is from two days ago:

Social CRM & Customer Service

Maintaining customer loyalty is a key function of CRM and an effective method of developing brand advocates. Mweb’s Suzanne Stokes provided us with a talk on using social media as a valuable CRM (customer relationship management) channel.

Stokes differentiated traditional CRM from social CRM. Traditional CRM, she said, is business centric and works on one-way communication. Social CRM, on the other hand, is a two-way communication channel, customer centric and facilitates collaboration.

Stokes highlighted the following as being important for Social CRM:

  • Consistent presence
  • Listen / Learn
  • Foster trust & loyalty
  • Transparency
  • Prompt resolutions
  • Accountability
  • Marketing relevance and value

Undoubtedly, social media enables (and potentially magnifies) customer complaints. Should companies adopt a cautious stance, responding apologetically to each and every rant for fear of a viral onslaught or rather choose their battles more wisely? Walter Pike made the point that one should consider the credibility of the complainant. “If they have no credibility and they are wincing, let them go for it, “says Pike.

The downside is social media can lead to customer service abuse

When I was at school a friend of mine used to write to companies complaining about products to get free stuff. She was lying but she really wanted free chocolate.

Social media opens companies up to that kind of exploitation on a grand scale.

Almost every social media guru will tell you that you need to respond to every single complaint on Twitter, Facebook and your blog; what’s more, you need to respond immediately. But take Walter Pike’s advice into consideration: how much time do you want to spend on people who get a kick out of badmouthing companies, who may have a personal grudge against a particular employee, or who simply want free stuff?

Consider the complaint, the medium and the tone. An email of complaint is probably (but not necessarily) more legitimate than a random tweet. On the other hand, someone could be tweeting out of frustration after all other avenues have been shut down.

Companies need a strategy that will help them gauge the credibility of complaints and determine appropriate responses. It’s a time consuming process but well worth it in the long-run.

Mobile first market

The general consensus was that South Africa is a mobile first market. Samantha Fleming interviewed Tim Bishop, CTO of Prezence Digital, on the topic. Tim succinctly describes the landscape and opportunity for marketers (the post; the podcast). I pulled out some key quotes:

  • 12 million people are currently using the mobile web.
  • 6 million people are on the traditional web.
  • Even the most basic of phones have mobile internet access.
  • Apps clearly have their place but only in the high demographics.
  • We have a very small smartphone market here in South Africa.
  • It will grow; people are talking about a massive influx of Android, but it will be a trickle over the next 5-6 years.
  • The projections for mobile web specifically in Africa – people are talking about it doubling year on year.

In the discussion on Mobile social media as a marketing tool, the following key points were raised:

  • Stats show that 91% of people keep mobile phones within a metre’s reach 24 hours a day.
  • Mobile users engage with content for longer, as they have spent money to access content and it is more difficult to multitask on phones (Nic Harry).
  • Mobile sites are cheaper for companies that want to get their feet wet in the mobile environment (Wesley Lynch).
  • Mobile web is the way to go; however, there is definitely a place for apps amongst the higher LSMs.
  • Apps can make sense for higher LSM groups, such as the high-end travel market (Wesley Lynch).
  • Only 5% of cell phones in South Africa are smartphones.
  • “Fuck the iPhone” as this is not the way of emerging markets (Nic Harry).
  • Marketers need to get into the mindset of users as they are typically behind computers when building mobile sites.
  • Keep mobile light and fast (Kemi Benjamin).

I found the discussion interesting. However, I don’t feel it adequately addressed the topic of mobile social media as a marketing tool, but rather explored the context of the mobile market.

Other highlights:

  • Jade McDade, Group Digital Manager of Associated Magazines, shared some of Cosmopolitan’s social secrets, including the role of social advertising to grow your base (likes, fans, etc) and for market research purposes.
  • Mweb Connect’s Suzanne Stokes summarised the concept of Edgerank, Facebook’s algorithm for ranking top news. According to Stokes, the Edgerank algorithm is influenced weight (likes and comments), affinity / relevance, time and recency. Read more about Edgerank at Techcrunch.
  • Janalyn Froese, in her talk of social media and the travel industry, noted that 3 in 4 high-income travel bookings are conducted online, 54% of high-income travellers engage in social media and consumers are twice as likely to book after reading a review.

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  1. LightSpeed at the Social Media World Forum Says :
    Posted on June 17, 2011 at 8:15 am

    […] Strategy (Part 5) blog post, and for insight provided by others I suggest these blogs written by Anthony Coe and Darren Gilbert.Social Media VS Traditional MediaOne  of the most interesting insights gained […]

  2. Ant
    Posted on June 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Thank you Mike. Taking a look at the slideshow, I must admit you covered quite a bit in your slot. Nice work.

    How does one demo Melt buzz?

    All the best with your future talks and hope to see you next year again.

    • Mike Anderson Says :
      Posted on June 9, 2011 at 10:29 pm

      Hi Ant,

      Thanks! Everybody knows the 1.listen 2. analyse 3. engage – I was trying to put it into a more practical context of how you could use monitoring to actually shape your SM strategy.

      I’m based in London, but you could reach out to Emmerentia.Slabbert@meltwater.com

      Emm runs our Cape Town office, and would be more than happy to give you a run through of the software in person or over phone

      Other wise you can schedule sometime through me

      All the best

  3. Mike Anderson Says :
    Posted on June 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm


    What a great write up of the SMWF!

    Thanks for posting in regard to my presentation on Using Social Media Monitoring to formulate an SM Strategy. You can access the ppt at Slideshare


    I agree, I would have loved to elaborate on each each point…. next year I will push for more than a 10 minute slot!

    Hopefully Kelvin from Cell C gave some strong, specific business uses for social media monitoring

    If you want to discuss some further case uses of Meltwater Buzz clients, please feel free to get in touch

    All in all, I really enjoyed the event, and found a lot of value… we will return next year to SMWF for sure!

    UK & Africa Director, Meltwater Buzz

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