by Deola Kayode
“There is no doubt that the ongoing and fast-developing social media revolution is having an enormous impact…”
‘A Negative brand equity is a death sentence’; the Goodluck Jonathan Government should have been listening to Mark Ritson. More rightly put, it can lead to suicide. The #OccupyNigeria train hit Nigeria like a thunderstorm bringing to bear what Nigeria’s foremost humanright’s lawyer, Femi Falana calls Nigeria’s most powerfully mobilized protest. The #OccupyNigeria protests, which is the simultaneous response of the Nigerian people against arbitrary increase in fuel pump price and #Governmentwaste, is a similitude of the Egyptian and Tunisian protests but named after ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest. It has been a “deregulated protest” spanning Nigeria’s major Cities, Embassies and High Commissions around the world.
What trend is the #OccupyNigeria depicting for brands?
1. The other edge of Social Media Marketing has been officially activated
With so much talk about social media marketing and its impact to reaching out to social customers, little attention has been given to social media advocacy. If your business/boss has not been taking social media serious, the impact of social media advocacy will jolt you into action. There is no doubt that the ongoing social media revolution will have an enormous impact not only on the way consumers and brands communicate with each other but also the impact of consumer-consumer communication.
Marketing via social media channels is not as simple as it is through other channels because of its two-edged effects:
a. Consumers can publicise negative experiences and ideas very widely in a matter of minutes;
b. They can also publicize positive experiences and ideas very widely in a matter of minutes.
The impact of social media as a rallying platform for #OccupyNigeria cannot be over emphasised. The announcement of the venue of the Lagos rally which gathered over a million people in its third day was announced though social media platforms (Blackberry, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other instant messaging platforms).
The ‘unlike President Jonathan day’ (featured on CNN) and ‘the most cursed president’ (ranked on Google) campaign was widely impressive with CNN and Google helping to hype its veracity. With the tools to quickly rally people around a cause readily available, its time to watch it!
The days of poor customer service and treating clients/customers like thrash are counting.
2. Never Violate Trust – It’s the Currency of Brands not Prices
Brand Equity (the strength of a brand) is derived from the goodwill and recognition a brand has garnered over time as a result of fulfilling its brand promise. This translates into higher sales volume and profit margins against competing brands. This is the reason why some brands command high patronage even if they charge premium for their products – it is the intangible asset of all promotional efforts.
In an unprecedented manner, the docile and unconcerned Nigerian populace have been jolted alive – thanks to access to information and other forms of media content. The total breakdown of trust between the Nigerian people who ‘massively’ voted for the Jonathan Government can be attributed to the widely spread information available on Government’s spending habits, budgetary allocation money and politicking among its high-ranking officials.
It is an important lesson to learn that you cannot gain equity by increasing product cost before improving its functional attributes.
Now it is becoming clear that your target audience can no longer be taken for granted when it comes to implementing Government/business policies
3. Be Ready to Cope with Impersonation
Especially if your business has no officially identified presence in the digital and social media space, or your boss is one who thinks Blackberry is a popular fruit; you now need to prepare for uncertainties, impersonations, rumors and ‘company leaks’.
Some organisations had spent considerable time and energy refuting claims that they ”ordered people to resume or face sack” during the Nationwide strike declared during the #OccupyNigeria protests. Brands with extensive and original Twitter and Facebook pages quickly responded while traditional businesses looked for avenues to calm misconceptions. The official Twitter handle and Facebook page of the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala came alive in response to claims that she had threatened to resign from office if Nigerians eventually win the battle of the reversal.
Brands now have to think of ways to guide employees’ social relationships, have a policy and chief responsibility officer in preparation for crisis, and consistently stamp their voice online to crowd out impersonating pages and conflicting handles.
4. Social Media can no longer be left to that junior staff
Brands now know they need more than the ability to read and write to assign social media engagement to just anyone. Whether to outsource to a social media agency or assign an employee to handle the platforms the Social Media Manager is not necessarily for the Senior Manager; the appointment into this position requires a new way of thought. It is important to appoint someone with a natural flair for meandering and communicating through different platforms; someone with tact and intelligent enough to engage a wide and varied number of issues and temperaments.
Improper handling of these platforms can backfire and the ripple effects cannot be directly measured until it impacts on the bottom line. The story of how Nestles’ Fan Page moderator became intolerant when people began to complain on its page about the use of non-renewable palm oil in their production is already a global case study on how not to manage a Facebook page- and it won’t go away anytime soon.
5. Listening to these Social Media ‘rants’ is now critical
Citizen’s blog posts , comments, social media and Blackberry discussion trends . . it is no more enough to hear about them, it’s time to listen. The emotional and connectedness between brands and their teeming customers can quickly translate into hate and social media mass action if you are not listening early enough and responding appropriately.
Sustaining Brand equity is a valuable asset which companies invest huge amounts of money to develop; social media listening is now an avenue to maintain and sustain that social reputation.
The web is awash with various tools to help brands listen and respond appropriately. Brand equity refers to the intangible value that accrues to a company as a result of its successful efforts to establish a strong brand
6. Despite its uncertainties; there lies the power to raise a tribe
Apart from an avenue to execute a highly targeted online marketing campaign; social media is established as a veritable tool for building brand loyalty.
The best way is to think of it as setting up your shop in a market. Anyone following your brand has potential influence; with family members, friends and colleagues. If your brand fits in with a customer’s personal social network, there is great potential for that person to build an emotional attachment and loyalty for your brand the same way they would for a friend. And when a customer thinks of you as a friend, you have a loyal social customer. They are more likely to get your brand in conversations, share your stories and recommend you to others.
There is no doubt that the ongoing and fast-developing social media revolution is having an enormous impact not only on the way consumers can communicate with other consumers, but also on the ways in which consumers and brands communicate with each other. For this reason, digital media engagement and relationship management strategies are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘should have’ for marketers.
Deola kayode is a brand communications consultant.