advertising, campaigns, communication, conversations, digital, how to, measurement, social media

Marketers, Rethink What Your #SocialMedia Should Be Doing


Sound familiar?

For the longest time, marketers have had the wrong expectations from social media.

I’ve spent years, both on the agency side and the client side, hearing about the need to “educate”, “drive engagement”, “sell”, “build awareness”, “drive traffic” and other such goals. All devised with the intention of “moving the needle”.

To be fair, I’ve been part of the problem, pitching these expectations to clients. And at this point, I’m willing to go out a limb and suggest that I’ve been mistaken.

When marketers write an integrated communications brief, we do it with an end goal in mind:

  • Increase usage by x points over the course of the year
  • Sell y units by the end of the quarter
  • Convince z people to sign up for the programme
  • And so on.

The error we make is the assumption that (organic) social media can have an outsized impact on these ROI/revenue-driven goals the way that paid media does.

Why is this assumption an error?

As of 30 June 2016, India’s Internet-going audience was estimated at about 462M users. This is roughly 37% of India’s population.

Here are the reach figures for the top 3 social networks in India.

  1. Facebook: 161M (Source: Facebook Ads Manager)
  2. LinkedIn: 35M (Source:
  3. Twitter: 23.2M (Source:
  4. Instagram: 16M (Source:

It’s fair to assume that everyone with a LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram profile is also on Facebook. So, the size of India’s social media population is 161M. This works out to 35% of India’s Internet population and 13% of India’s overall population.

We also know that, courtesy algorithms, current Facebook organic reach for pages with over 50,000 followers is at a mere 1%. Or even less for pages with high fan following. This article dated June 2016 pegs it at 2% and declining fast, towards zero. Facebook will also cut organic reach for posts that they deem too promotional.

So, here’s best case scenario for a brand with 18M fans on Facebook, assuming no further decline in reach:

The absolute maximum reach a single Facebook post can get is 1% of 18M = 0.18M = 0.000144% of India’s population. Assume that a brand creates 5 organic posts a day, each of which reaches a different audience (which we know is not true), you get to about 0.9M people a day. Or a mere 0.00072% of India’s population.

With figures like this, there is absolutely no way organic social media content can move the needle on ROI/revenue goals at scale for large brands.

So what should the end goal of social media be?

Let’s remind ourselves that social media is not a place people visit to shop. They’re here to kill time. To be distracted. To be entertained. To see what’s going on in the world at large. To share stuff that helps them build the image they want for themselves.

It’s true. People share things that help them appear interesting, knowledgeable, opinionated, concerned, trendy, cool, fashionable, successful, happy, and so on. Things that they subconsciously believe will raise their esteem in the eyes of their networks. Every analysis I’ve ever read points out different things that people share, and different reasons. The common thread uniting them all: the not-so-latent need for everyone to be seen in a very positive light by their peers.

This is where we marketers have a chance. Because, among all the other things people post to boost their image, are the products and services they use; the useful products and services they want to tell their networks about; and the brands they feel suit the image they want to create for themselves.

If we can create content that builds both brands – ours, and the user’s – we have found a recipe for social sharing, a recipe for starting positive conversations about our brand.

A recipe for brand love and advocacy.

Which, of course, has a knock-on effect on sales and revenue.

And that, grasshopper, is what we should orient our social media towards.


digital, industry, measurement, performance

The Measurement Curse

That night, she learnt that size wasn’t everything.

It’s hugely ironic that what was being touted as the USP of the digital medium has now become a noose around our necks.

It all began a few years ago, when fledgling digital agencies and publishers – all eager to attract new business – began to tell clients, “It isn’t just cheaper – it’s more measurable. See?”

The flood of subsequent slides overflowing with page views, unique users, repeat users, average time spent, most popular content, average pages visited, bounce rate, page views by country, referring URLs, number of Twitter followers, number of Facebook fans, average number of comments on a post, average number of likes on a post, retweets, number of conversations, amount of influence, impressions, click-through rates, eCPMs, male/female ratios, et al, were usually more than enough to sell a client on the efficacy of the medium.

There’s no question that measurement tracking works. Good tracking helps us sell (the medium and the product/service) better, optimise our ads to increase performance, modify content on-the-fly to get more page views and much, much more.

It’s no surprise today that an advertiser’s key metric of success is, in a nutshell, more of everything. More visitors, more leads, more clicks, more searches, more page views, more likes, more fans.

I’ve even been in presentations where the numbers we bandy about become the basis for the client’s approval or rejection of the concept. It’s a fairly well-known fact in the Indian digital industry that if you promise better numbers than the next agency, you’ll win the pitch. Just read the part in this article where the client talks about why she hired the agency.

But is measurement all that our medium should be about?

And is ‘performance’ all that measurement should be about?

I believe that we owe it to ourselves to convince clients to examine the performance of digital in a new way – by the quality of interactions rather than the quantity. To focus on (and track) brand salience rather than ROI.

An interesting case in point is the recent Audi A8 3D integrated campaign from Creativeland Asia, where they built a website that showcased the A8 in 3D glory.

At first I didn’t quite get it. How many Indians own 3D glasses? Why would you do a campaign that would be so inaccessible to people?

So I reached out to Creativeland Asia founder and creative head Raj Kurup. On an early morning phone call, Raj told me that there were only a few thousand people in India who could afford the A8 (Audi’s most expensive car in India). And each of them would soon be receiving 3D glasses in the mail, so they could enjoy an exclusive, immersive and highly sophisticated experience.

What Raj and Creativeland Asia have effectively done is build a case that getting fewer hits is often better than getting more hits. Because the quality of those hits will count far higher, as they’re from the right people the brand wants to reach.

What’s more, they’ve created a sheen of exclusivity around the brand through the very nature of the idea. Going against the very nature of the ‘open’ web to do so.

While Audi is an ultra-premium brand with a niche audience, there’s no reason why advertisers who target the digital mass can’t learn from this. And set in place new metrics to judge their campaigns.

Another aspect of this is the lack of sentiment tracking done for online campaigns. Sentiment tracking can tell an advertiser how his brand is perceived online, and is a fair indication of brand salience. 

I’ve been reading through several case studies by Indian agencies. Their claimed performance data is impressive – number of Facebook fans increased from 100 to 1000, number of followers on Twitter grew by 150%, search queries increased by 300%, and so on. 

But nowhere do they say things like: the number of positive responses on Facebook grew by 180%; the number of positive blog comments increased by 105%; more than 70% of Twitter mentions showed that the brand was now younger/cooler/better/worse; comments indicate that 70% of the online audience believe that your detergent washes best.

To show you how easy it is to get an overview, I took 30 seconds just now to get hold of the following statistic:

save image

And there are plenty of other tools out there that will help you get a deeper understanding of the sentiment around your brand. Tools that will track brand mentions and comments on websites, blogs and various social media platforms, analyse them and throw up a comprehensive picture. Which will give an advertiser a real indication of how his campaign is doing.

To sum up – there will always be a place for measuring numbers in our business. The CPL/CPS/CPA/CPC campaigns so popular with the travel and finance industries bear testament to that. As do the brands that take great joy in achieving 100,000 fans on Facebook.

But there’s a bigger role that measurement can play. It can help position digital as a medium that can build brand salience and positive sentiment through high-quality consumer interactions.

And then, finally, we can turn our weakness on reach into a strength.