Brands using social media marketing in Asia have yet to go mainstream, although it is one of the world's fastest growing regions for personal social media usage, as a few high-profile articles published recently remind us.
While there are many reasons explaining Asia's cautious adoption of social media marketing, helping prepare companies to adopt the medium is an equally important discussion that will drive the region's marketing habits to change.
Below are 10 points, in no particular order, Asian firms should consider to beat the competition and take advantage of social media marketing.
1. Be different
As the most recently established marketing discipline, social media involves an entirely new set of influences and standards to traditional marketing techniques. Message and focus will need revision for the medium to ensure it is compelling and valuable to the audience. For example, reposting TV commercials online provides no value when it can be seen on TV already. Instead, why not post an exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary illustrating how your big budget commercial was filmed? 2. Get high-level buy-in
Does your CEO know the difference between a tweet and a tweep, can he name five bloggers in the industry, and is he ready to 'like' your brand on Facebook?
These questions may be playful, but high-level buy-in and understanding of social media marketing is crucial to the future success of your social media strategy, and possibly your own job, as it is the only way to ensure your marketing has support in the long term. After all, if your own company doesn't take it seriously what hope is there for those outside of it to?
3. Prepare a set of social media operating processes and guidelines
Digital media has smashed the barriers that separate a company from the outside world. Even those that do not actively engage in social media can find themselves the focus of conversations in and around social networks as BP could testify this year. With the Internet a source for instantaneous news and information, your company crisis communications plan must reflect this shift, particularly if you are to embrace social media marketing. Procedures and channels must be set up to ensure your blog, social networks, and other properties online become the official company mouthpiece in the event a crisis situation arises. 4. Be patient
Like all other communications channels, social media marketing requires patience and time for genuine results and progress to be made. While specific activities and campaigns can raise the visibility and reputation of the company, long-term, sustainable returns require a patient approach. Social media is an ideal fit for campaigns, particularly those targeting consumers, but in reality they represent the peak points of social media marketing activity rather than the sum of all efforts.
5. Promote quality over quantity
Online communications is easily measured given the unprecedented access and levels of data on the Internet. This ease of measurement could lead to an obsession with quantitative figures. A qualitative approach represents a better basis for analysis that will present takeaway points with greater resonance and use for your ongoing communications or campaign. Social media marketing is about developing lasting relationships, not hitting numbers. With that in mind, a focus on longer-term quality content, relationships, and initiatives will serve your company better than short bursts of activity, which will be forgotten over time. 6. Have something to say – stand for something
Many companies are keen to steal a march on their rivals and get into social media early. Although this enthusiasm is positive, it needs to be backed up with substance. Content is the currency of social media marketing, so your firm must be ready to have something meaningful to say if it is to resonate and stand out amongst your competition online. Starting a Facebook page or Twitter account means nothing if you provide no value to your audience. Ensuring your company has valuable content is essential.
7. Be local Asia is a hugely diverse region comprising differing cultures and languages. As HSBC frequently points out, what may work one way in one culture, may be the total opposite in another. Culture and language also explain why more citizens in Thailand use Facebook than the population of Japan, Korea, and China combined. Equally, while it is true many social networking sites have a strong presence across a number of markets, they have different uses or value in different countries. Ultimately, just like traditional marketing, the only way to ensure your social media marketing presence is relevant to each market is to be local. 8. Invest, don't think cheap
Many companies confuse social media marketing's potential to provide excellent value for money with being cheap. Done well, social media marketing is not cheap. Though social networks themselves may be inexpensive or free to join, a dedicated, specialist team, implementation, planning, measurement, analysis, and other essential, dedicated functions are not. Put it another way, you wouldn't initiate a PR campaign without an experienced and knowledgeable PR, therefore, your digital marketing team should be the best, which will not be cheap.
9. Remember, your audience is out there
Popular TV series The X-Files used to mysteriously claim that the truth is 'out there' but we can be far more certain your key audiences are on social media. Social networking penetration in the modern world means regardless of the nature of your business, employees, customers, partners, key media, and others are likely be found on one social network or more. This is even the case for B2B firms. With the Internet a key resource for news and information gathering, business conversations and opinion gathering is increasingly taking place online with social networks as a key platform for seeking opinion and providing it. Staying relevant and amongst the discussion is important. In this case, the mystery factor is locating your audience rather than wondering if they exist at all. 10. Don't plan 'viral'
No list of digital do's-and-don'ts would be complete without reference to 'going viral', perhaps the most clichéd marketing term today. While many companies are right to plug in to social networking users to spread content and campaigns, they must accept that 'viral' is an effect not an objective. There are a huge amount of arbitrary and subjective factors that determine whether a message or content goes viral, being in the right place at the right time with the right message may not be enough without a little bit of luck. That's not to say campaigns and messages should not be planned and optimised to seize the moment and maximise their potential, but please no more use of the v-word!
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Ian is CEO and chief strategist for Vocanic, Asia's social media and word of mouth marketing agency, with offices in Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Vocanic helps brands develop and execute strategies for them to participate in social media and harness the power of personal recommendation. Vocanic had worked for brands such as StarHub, Symantec (Norton), Nokia (CWM), BlackBerry (Bold), Motorola (Milestone), Microsoft (Xbox), Pfizer (Wyeth), DiGi, and others. Ian has called Singapore home for 13 years.