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Amitha Amarasingha, Head of Neo Ogilvy

It doesn’t matter even if a user has 100 solid followers, if they can create excitement among those 100 followers about a desired topic with high degree of credibility. Contrary to this, another user with 10,000 followers maybe able to get the message across to a larger audience, but the excitement they create and credibility they bring in to the message might not be the same. Looking beyond numbers is important because a brand has to be mindful of whom they associate the brand with

In the recent times, how people communicate has changed dramatically and drastically with the emergence of social media which has revolutionized the way people connect and share information.  It has become widely popular as the preferred way to get a message across given the many features that enable targeting a specific segment across various platforms within a short span of time. In many ways, social media has arguably taken over conventional media with notable, reputed brands and companies using new media to get their message out.

Brands that have an active online presence and engage effectively undoubtedly have an upper hand when it comes to deciphering customer’s preferences and overall psyche as opposed to brands that have no online presence.

As a result of the emergence of the social media culture, a brand of users called ‘influencers’ too have emerged. Influencers are users with a considerable following, hence their ability to influence fellow social media users with things they say and do.
Amith Amarasinghe, Head of Neo Ogilvy spoke to the Nation of his opinions on how to use the platform effectively, how to avoid or stifle controversy and what brands should do to stay relevant on social media networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc where the features change by the day.

Q: We see whenever a brand does a campaign involving ‘influencers’ in the local social media scene, especially Twitter, it’s like walking on thin ice – the brand is bound to get a lot of visibility; but there’s also a lot of backlash because brands can involve only so many people due to limitations they may have and those who don’t get invited often tend to turn away from the brand or criticize it for being unfair with the process of selecting whom to invite and whom not to. What are your thoughts on this?

How I see it, an influencer is someone in the social media context who has a qualitatively good following and is generally popular among social media users for the right reasons.
We look at qualitative factors like how the person presents him or herself on social media, what sort of a network the person is in, if the person is relevant to the brand and is him or her being followed by users who might be relevant to the brand etc. Going merely by popularity at face value or in other words by looking at how many people are following so and so is not an ideal approach to take when selecting what persons to invite for an event.

It doesn’t matter even if a user has 100 solid followers, if they can create excitement among those 100 followers about a desired topic with high degree of credibility. Contrary to this, another user with 10,000 followers maybe able to get the message across to a larger audience, but the excitement they create and credibility they bring in to the message might not be the same. Looking beyond numbers is important because a brand has to be mindful of whom they associate the brand with. Research is vital.

Then there is a brand of users called social media celebrities like the bloggers, vloggers and actual celebrities who use social media who can also be used to endorse a brand. They are the content creators in new media. You can compare them with the ‘news makers’ concept in traditional journalism. A brand can work with these social media content creators to pass a marketing message, by subtle endorsements or much more direct sponsorship. It’s very much transactional, just like in celebrity deals in traditional marketing and the process is rather transparent.

Q: Can any brand use digital media to approach their customers?

Depends on where their target demographic is. For some brands it is still worthwhile using mainstream channels like television, radio and newspapers because still the mass reach you can get through those channels of communication is very significant.
If your brand is a low priced, frequently purchased, mass market product, still your traditional communication channels will give you a much efficient cost per reach. So, for some brands conventional media is still the way to go. However, digital channels can work in harmony with traditional channels for most of these brands by way of being an engagement channel or a customer feedback channel.

Q: A lot of Small and Medium enterprises have started coming on to social media platforms and some solely operate from them.  A complain that a lot of them have is that the platforms are getting saturated with brands selling similar products employing almost the same tactics to get their messages across. Do you have any tips for emerging businesses as to how they can stand out from the herd and to be noticed?

Doing the same things as other brands or merely putting up a post or two on your Facebook is not marketing on digital. It involves constant engagement which is something you can especially afford to do if your audience is relatively small.

Also brands can use tools like tailoring their audience so that the messages get communicated to a targeted niche instead of just anybody on the internet. Using such tools and targeting options and toying around with them is something that most businesses should do and in the process you will likely figure out what works for you and what does not.

Providing a good product at the end of the day is key because social media can go both ways – customers will talk highly of you if they’re happy and if you fail to deliver, they will fail you too.