5 Thought-Provoking Debates at the Happiest Minds CMO Roundtable

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Happiest Minds held its first CMO Roundtable in Delhi on January 23, 2013 themed Social 2.0: Beyond Likes & Clicks – Delivering Tangible Business Value With Social Technologies. In this era of more complex social interactions, increasing choice and technology-driven peer-to-peer exchange, brands need to do more than just communicate with consumers they need to engage.

This all means upending the traditional ad-centric model to create engagement that people seek out rather than avoid, to create experiences they can participate in and to measure the business value of social engagement rather than just likes, fans or clicks. Following are snapshots of 5 top thought-provoking debates that took place at the event:

Social Media: In house vs. Outsource?

In the discussion, Breaking the Digital Frontier, panelists Ekalavya Bhattacharya, Head of Digital, MTV India, Nitin Shakdher, VP Marketing at Talwalkars Better Value Fitness, Max Hegerman, Head of Digital, JWT India and Jessie Paul, CEO of Paul Writer debated about the benefits of keeping Social media activities in-house vs. outsource to a digital agency. Ekalavya and Nitin both had in-house teams that supported their companies social media and marketing outreach initiatives. They argued about the timeliness of being able to respond quickly to customers with the in-house team. Max talked about his past experience at Wieden& Kennedy and narrated this interesting story of one of the worlds biggest brand Nike and whatDan Wieden told Phil Knight, I know your brand better than you, Phil which lead to one of the most creative, innovative and award-winning brand-agency partnerships.

My take: There are positives and negatives to both approaches so I will resort to the cliché it depends. In-house social media teams demonstrate that the organization is committed and cares enough about customer engagement in social channels and wants to achieve the immediacy of response. However, there are times when brand owners can approach the process of communication from a muchsiloed, one-directional point of view. Bringing in an external partner could lead to fresh insights, new perspectives and the possibility of scaling to various national and international geographies, not possible by having a single in-house team based inside the company.

Insights from Social Media: Fake vs. real?

In the discussion, Customer Insights for Agile Commerce, panelists GauravChapparwal, Head Analytics from Snapdeal.com, Manoj Chandra from All School Stuff.comand Rupa Shankar from Happiest Minds talked about the merits and demerits of relying on Social data for gaining insights about customers. While everyone agreed that social media is a great source for ideas, insights and trends, brand owners need to fish out the real fans from the fake brand fans. This will take time and effort to identify those people who really care about the brand and who are willing to provide meaningful and honest feedback with no agenda.

My take: The metrics of engagement need to be clearly defined. If brand owners only chase numbers in the form of total number of fans, clicks, likes then they need to be prepared to accept that there will be many fans who are there only for the benefits in the form of deals, discounts, promos, freebies. True fans also need incentives to engage and continue to participate however, their experience with the brand is the prime reason for their involvement with the brands social channel. However, if organizations can focus on metrics related to engagement such as time spent, frequency of engagement, depth of conversations and the quantum of sharing activity e.g. retweeting, downloading, forwarding, reviewing, commenting, these would help the brand filter out the passionate fans. When you have the right fans, the real ones that is, then brands can develop programs to gather insights, capture meaningful reviews that lead to true innovation.

Can Pinterest be the next Facebook for online retail industry?

In the presentation by K. Ramakrishnan, President & CMO of Café Coffee Day, stated that Facebook being the social network with the largest reach will continue to dominate marketers minds in 2013 and near future.

My take: While Facebook has the largest reach now, marketers need to be aware of all the rapid development in social channels and new emerging ones such as Pinterest which is slowly capturing the fascination of consumers world-wide. From a recent research report, weknow that while Pinterest has not reached Facebooks or Twitters level of penetration, its users are valuable. When Pinterest users buy, they tend to spend more per session and purchase more items. They also like to share, which is at the crux of social commerce. Hence, achannel-agnosticsocial approach will be a more prudent strategy in the long-term.

3 Step Blueprint: Understand, Engage, Influence

In the presentation, Customer Lifetime Value in the Social Era, Shahnawaz Khan from Happiest Minds presented a 3-Step Blueprint to demystify the process of incorporating and embracing social media in every part of your business. Social media traditionally relegated to only the marketing department will need to go beyond marketing to capture true ROI. Shahnawaz highlighted many instances where insights coming through social did not permeate to the teams in an organization where any substantial action could take place. For e.g. Customer dissatisfaction should be captured and shared with customer service/customer experience teams; product raves and rants should reach the product development & research scientists. As social becomes more mainstream, we are seeing interest and adoption by various departments in organizations.

My take: For any customer insights initiative to be truly successful, brand owners should find ways to share and dissipate that information to other stakeholders in an organization which will allow more meaningful response to customers. Whether this is done through dashboards or through early warning alerts or role-based views of social insights for example, you can look at creating a mobile app that provides social sentiment and top 3 raves and rants of the day to the CEO; A dashboard can capture share of voice across geographies available to the sales executive in the field; an insights panel can be specifically created for the product development and research scientists to understand trends and top raves and rants of competition brands as well. Only if organizations can understand who customers really are (beyond transactions what do customers really care for social preferences, likes, interests, hobbies, passions) and what they are saying (customer sentiment, conversations, feelings) could they create engagement that is meaningful and relevant. When brands have mastered the art of engagement, they will be in a nirvana position to create an unpaid army of influencers and brand advocates.

The future lies in the gamification of brand experiences

In several presentations as well as in off-stage discussions, we heard the word Gamification being mentioned many times. People enthusiastically shared examples of Nike+ fuel, Pepsi Soundoff as well as other popular examples. Gamification, is the art and science of using game dynamics such as points, badges, social status and rewards to encourage and incentivize participation and engagement in business scenarios such as customer interfaces, website, training programs, communities, etc. More and more brands are using gamification to reward users for engagement and for completing tasks such as learning in essence, it melds competition, rewards, easy-to-track progress and an enjoyable user experience.

My take:Gamficaiton is here to stay and will continue to dominate conversations among business owners and marketers. The true power of gamification lies in helping you build customer lifetime value beyond transactions. In the past, brands only attributed loyalty for more frequent purchases (i.e. transactions). However, in this new social era we are seeing that some customers are more powerful for their social currency, clout and reach in their networks. These customers are influencers, educators, fashionistas, technology stars, editors, authors and eco-loverswho have the power to influence vast numbers of people to try your brand. Gamification can help activate, not only the regular users to engage with your brand more but also incent the influencers and give them the fuel to spread your brand story in their peer networks.

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