AdAsia 2011: If you're not online, you're irrelevant

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | November 02, 2011
In an evening session of Day One of AdAsia 2011, a panel of four discussed where netizens stand to move from the current Twitter-Facebook era.

Having come a long way from chat rooms to today's social media sites Facebook and Twitter, where does today's netizen go from here? This, amongst other topics, was discussed in one of the evening sessions on Day One of AdAsia 2011. The session was moderated by Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer, Vivaki. The panellists accompanying him included Kate Day, communities editor, Daily Telegraph Online, Arvind Rajan, managing director and vice-president, Asia-Pacific and Japan, LinkedIn, and Earl Wilkinson, executive director and chief executive officer, INMA.

Tobaccowala began by stating how this session was about 'Certainty: The New Uncertainty' -- a reality that is the exact converse of the overall AdAsia theme this year, that is, 'Uncertainty: The New Certainty'.

"That media and communication will be driven by social media in the days ahead is the part we're certain about - but, what remains uncertain is what this means for media professionals, brand marketers and companies," he said.

In an effort to rid some of the uncertainty, Day then put forth three points: she said that it is wise to delay worrying about the next big technological platform and focus rather on people.

"This is all about people, not platforms. The underlying shift is in the patterns of behaviour and the relationship between brands and customers," explained Day. She further suggested that a company must focus on getting its in-house team in order so that it is clear how each department will interact with the consumer on the digital space.

Lastly, she advised professionals to listen to the 'clues' that social media was giving them -- for example, perhaps the likelihood of reading a site is higher if the link to that site is received via one social media platform such as LinkedIn, as opposed to some other platform such as, say, Facebook.

"Introducing reader views back into the newsroom helps enrich journalism," Day suggested, specifically targeting journalists.

Concurring with her point about focussing on people, Tobaccowala said that the phrase 'social media' is being replaced by the phrase 'people's network' as today, unlike earlier, "opinions expressed online have the capacity to scale -- you can tweet something and reach a million people in 15 minutes!"

Rajan of LinkedIn then declared that the three main global platforms in the digital world today are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (Google Plus was mentioned in this list at a later stage in the discussion). Pointing out differences between all three, he reminded those present that while Facebook is all about sharing personal photographs with loved ones (friends, family), Twitter is more of a syndication platform used to get one's thoughts out there. The professional platform LinkedIn, he said, is being used nowadays to share a lot of professional content and professional insights such that they reflect on the sharer's "professional brand".

Wilkinson of INMA then spoke about the changes social media has seen in the past year. He said, "Sharing content online has become the value-added source for journalism online," adding that marketers have recently started realising that the online space helps create an echo chamber for content, helps curate conversations, and generate trust for online news content. Wilkinson went on to state the four psychological motivators for sharing content online -- emotions, power, identity formation, and information.

"Also, what you say online must have a soul, a human voice," he said, implying that it doesn't help to merely tweet the headline of a news story as it is, without adding some personal analysis to it.

Tobaccowala concluded by warning marketers that there is a big difference between heavy users of a product/brand and heavy influencers of that product. The latter depends on the company's 'network of people' in the digital zone. "These influencers, in turn, are of two types -- advocates and detractors. And, detractors are four times more likely to speak than are advocates, so it is more important to disarm your detractors than it is to arm your advocates," he cautioned.

Overall, the panel convinced the audience that if one is not active online and does not have a strong online presence (on social media more than anywhere else), one is automatically rendered irrelevant. However, "one must never forget that one is marketing to real people and actual consumers out there," was the general word of caution.

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