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We want 250,000 fans on Facebook. And then? We don’t know.

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As we sit with Amy and Roy from LBi Mena, a global marketing and technology agency, Kipp gets an insightful spoonful of brands in the age of digital...

October 4, 2012 6:06 by

What many brands need to realize is that Social media can often blur the lines between formal and informal communication, says Amy MacFarling, MD of LBi Mena, along with Roy Badawi, Director. LBi MENA is one of the few remaining independent marketing and technology agencies that deal with global brands.

Well, yeah the reason that we describe ourselves like that is because it is the union of marketing and technology, says McFarling. You could have a fantastic marketing approach that works and you would end up with a lot of data, which is useless without the technology to support it. The mixture of marketing and technology really allows a brand to have an actual conversation. It is definitely no longer just about broadcasting brand messages to audiences. Do you know why? Because audiences don’t listen to those messages, nor do they trust brands. They trust each other.

Paying extra attention to social media’s impact is important because there is a humongous difference between what a brand is explicitly saying about itself and what it is implicitly saying. We have all become very savvy now and we don’t buy into these general brand broadcasts. We don’t buy a product because they tell us to, but we absolutely look to other people like ourselves to make sense of all the brand messages that we are constantly bombarded with.

Approaches to marketing campaigns have become extremely personal now. With the acquired techniques that we have and the technology at hand, we can adopt specific campaigns and promote certain messages based on the audience reaction. So literally, in real time, if somebody is really responding to a specific message, campaign or ad then we could dial that up and serve them other messages like that.

Yes but is the strategy applicable to all brands or do you find some limitations?

Look, it can potentially apply to any brand but what it really comes down to is a matter of whether it’s a useful and effective strategy for that brand. For an airline it makes perfect sense. They have a lot of traffic coming through their website on a daily basis and they deal with people on the go so it’s useful giving them information no matter where they are. On the other hand, if it’s a local brand with a very feeble online presence then they may need to rethink how they would use digital landscapes.

No online presence? Do you even see that anymore?

Yes, I mean not every brand needs to have that strong of a presence online. What if it is a local manufacturer? In that case they need to use a strong combination of ‘offline’ and digital presence but sometimes, even in the case of a manufacturer that you would virtually rarely see with a strong interactive digital presence, unexpected social explosions could happen.

We can’t do the same steps and use the same strategy over and over again. We first define what the business goals are for the brand and what their final strategy is. The reason that this is very important to us – well there are many reasons – but one of them is with digital being explosive, virtually everyone wants to be a part of it. So many clients approach us and say ‘I need social networking’ or ‘I want a Twitter page and a Facebook page’. Everyone wants to be in the Digital landscape because they understand that it’s such a measurable platform and measurability is so critical to determine the return on what they’re putting into it. So it is really important to know what their business goals. I mean what is a car manufacturer want with a Facebook page? There are many answers to that but we won’t know that until we examine their goals.

Impatient brands with unrealistic expectations in the Middle East?

Having worked in other parts of the world including Europe and America, out here we do really need to convince the clients to get involved in the initial examination process, which we call discovery. Yes, the digital market is so much more sophisticated in other parts of the world so many clients understand the need for planning first. It’s become common sense behavior but there is definitely a learning and educational curve here. We discovered early on out here that we as an agency have much more of an education process – which I actually enjoy – because it allows us to have a collaborative process with the client. It builds confidence.

Many clients may approach us asking us to build the most amazing website in the world. Our first thought is, what does that even mean? How do you define amazing? Many clients, when referring to ‘amazing’ would be referring to its visual appearance. But if the website doesn’t allow users to have an easy interaction then they won’t come back so what is the point?

Return on Investment in terms of Social Media?

We are in the beginning of being able to create really robust models. Anybody who says there is an exact model for measuring return on social media is lying. What is happening is we are starting to build models that demonstrate how something being seen one place leads to something else. We are able to track a specific social activity that eventually led to that Dirham. It is tricky and as I said, it is no exact science but everyone is looking at it closely because it is an important topic.

Moreover, Return on Investment doesn’t have to be about money especially when it comes to social platforms. In fact, more often it’s about the sentiment of the brand and how people feel about it. We could at times start a social listening platform to understand how people feel about the brand then follow it up with a campaign of interesting content to try to address some of the problems or challenges to switch the brand sentiment from a negative to positive. In turn, that positive sentiment could very well result in financial gain.

Mobile Advertising

A mobile device is very personal, usually attached to the user at all times so it relates at a very private level. On the other end, it can also be very invasive because people don’t want to feel that they are reading an advertisement, they want to feel interested and curious by the content, especially if seeing it on their mobile phone. They want something worth talking about and worth sharing with the people around them. That’s why, now more than ever, brands need to understand the right approach to marketing while providing interesting content at the same time.

Be Prepared

One of the focuses we have at LBi is what we call Social Business Design. At the end of the day, all brands nowadays are fundamentally demanding and in need of some type of social presence. But, quite often their physical business or operation isn’t set up to deal with that. They need to ask themselves, are we ready to handle the enormous load of customer service interactions through a social media platform? Let’s say that a bank decides to use Twitter to answer customer queries. Who is on the back end of that account and how are they ready to handle it? As I keep saying, people are savvy these days so if you are going to be present then you really have to be present. You have to be engaging and responsive because the minute you stop then you’ve lost someone and it just so happens that that someone could have a thousand followers. Now you’ve potentially lost 1,001 followers.

One of the main things I think brands struggle with is maintaining consistency across different platforms. Too often there are no guidelines to digital content or messages. Twitter, Facebook and online sites would all be sending mixed messages so it’s very important to have a consistent guideline to your brand’s voice.

All the time, we get clients that say they want 250,000 fans on Facebook. Why? Well, because my competitor has 200,000. Okay so what do you plan to do with them? Umm, I don’t know.

What it all boils down to is that a brand may want thousands of likes but what they really want is to achieve ‘goal x’ and it’s our job to educate them on the importance of how to achieve that goal, without them thinking that they need followers or fans for the sake of having them.

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