--By Dwaipayan Regmi
An American knew that his American Airlines flight was delayed for hours. He didn’t have any problem with that, but he was worried about his return flight, which was moved to an earlier time, when he would be in a meeting. He did not call their number to resolve the issue, nor did he send an email to delay his return flight. He simply tweeted to American Airlines, and his flight back was shifted to a more convenient time.
After 2004, the phenomenon called social media hit the Internet. Nepal could not stay closed off from it for long, and people gradually began opening their accounts on social media sites. The massive rate of progress in social media can be traced back to data from three years ago, when there were about 0.85 million Facebook users in Nepal, which has now grown to four million. People can access the internet from anywhere and at any time. People no longer have to think about an advert before making a purchase, they can simply google it. People don't even notice online promotions unless they are really interested. No one peruses the newspapers anymore to find out where a bank’s branch is; they simply check the web page and locate the nearest branch of the bank.
A survey shows radio took 38 years to reach and audience of 50 million people, TV took 13 years, and the Internet took four years to reach the same number of people. And, social media can do this task with just a click of a mouse.
There are 10,689,842 people between the ages of 16-40 in Nepal, making up 40 percent of the total population. The largest age group in Nepal using Facebook is between the ages of 18-24, or 49 percent of the country’s total Facebook users. Again, the next largest is the 25–34 age group, making up 28 percent. This data, provided by Facebook ad statistics, shows the popularity of social media among young people in Nepal. Social media marketing, after all, is a systematic and stepwise approach to find interested people, deliver quality content, capture information and finally to stay in touch.
This is the age of word to word advertising, where people purchase more through recommendations. So, if there is a promotional advert of some restaurant on TV, and someone checks in posting pictures of another restaurant on Facebook, the latter one would be more influential.
Sir Tim Lee, founder of the World Wide Web, once said, “I designed it for a social effect - to help people work together- and not as a technical toy.” This shows that the purpose of the Internet was basically for social contact. If one aspires to make money from social media that is a wrong aim. Rather, social media creates the trust, value and helps in easy recognition. Furthermore, these factors need to be taken into consideration in order to profit from it. Making it the means not the end.
Social media marketing is done generally for two basic reasons. Branding happens to be the first one, because social media helps to put any product or service inside the mind of consumers. Every time you upload a photo of your product and service, and every time you gain insight, a number of people will recognise your brand. Next is traffic on your information source. Social media again helps to create traffic for your websites, pages and other links. The website mashable.com says the reason for the box office success of the movie Avatar was because of its social media campaign. Also, the relationship building strategy done by Starbucks and McDonald's twitter photo contest worked massively to successfully promote the brand.
Nepal’s big business houses like the Chaudhary Group, Surya Nepal, Golchha seem to lag behind when maneuvering in social media. Although the Chaudhary Group has Facebook and twitter accounts, it is instead used for promoting the founder rather than the products and services offered. Bajeko Sekuwa has a Facebook account, but not one umbrella account, and that even is hardly updated. Sipradi Tradings has a Facebook account which is operated, although its twitter account seems to be idle.
Many of our sectors have failed to open up accounts on social media. While Coca Cola owns Youtube, Nepal’s business houses seem to be way back even with their Facebook accounts. The best example of using social media can be seen on NCell’s page. They own both Facebook and twitter accounts; promotional campaigns are updated in a timely manner and are made interactive as well. Other examples can be seen in those coffee houses which have been welcoming customers from their social media surface itself. Again, colleges in Nepal have been able to make the best use of social media to attract students. Consultancies have been using it well also. So have newspapers in circulating news. Lahana and Honacha, too, have their Facebook page, but these pages are not updated in a regular manner. In general, a Facebook page, if updated regularly, can only add to the popularity of a place.
Also, current social media account holders seem to be lagging way behind. Social media marketing can only be done by being interactive. Basically, if they have adopted social media as a means to hear the customer’s voice, they should also respond back. Communication should be a two-way street. Quality content is necessary while posting content on social media, too. Those on social media must also learn to be patient. They must learn the law of value and accessibility. Unless they create product/service value and become available, they will not fulfill the needs of their audience. For example, I may want to know if Himalayan Java is open after a series of earthquake aftershocks. The only way I can put my question through would be on Facebook or twitter. I might not go there, if I don't get a reply back.
It would be a stupid move if the intention is solely to build followers instead of a community. It is important to be liked by the community who are of your firm's concern rather than collecting unwanted likes and followers. Experimenting with Facebook advertising with nominal fees may not be a bad idea for Nepali companies. Sharing the trending content which could interest your audience, would further interest them. Hosting or participating in twitter chats about any key contemporary issue would be a way to gain promotion.
Social media marketing could be an inexpensive measure, but it's not free. It is important to at least invest a certain amount. Handing out quiz prizes would itself work as a form of promotion. It is equally important to analyse how a competitor is fairing with social media. It then becomes important to create a plan, deciding on how many posts per day are to be made and what content is to be posted. Treating each channel differently is the next important step, as is staying distinctly ahead in customer service. Using the right combination is important. A Facebook post has to be treated differently than a tweet. Account holders must know the clear reason why someone likes the page. It's then important to understand that posts on Facebook or instagram, or a tweet is merely advertising, not selling!
Every week, I get a notification inviting me to like some business page. I like them, but the page fails to maintain its consistency level. They lack in editorial decisions, about what message is to be delivered, who is to be targeted, how often to keep the post updated. Some fail in keeping things simple, they keep on posting in such a way as to irritate the one who liked their page. There are ways of checking the status of the post, identifying which one is actually working better. This factor seems to be completely ignored.
It’s not necessary to go beyond one's means in social media marketing. Only if a restaurant provides free WiFi will a bunch of people celebrating a birthday party upload pictures and posts, logging in with the restaurant’s name. That itself is a promotion. So, if my friend logs onto Facebook stating he is at Alina's Bakery Cafe, isn’t that a form of promotion? Creating a page with timely promotional campaigns can be beneficial and it would not cost anything. Social media should focus on the ‘Message’- the content has to be able to attract customers.
We are lagging behind in the online market, while India has made rapid progress. Nepal seems way behind. But, things are changing. It’s amazing to see where we were five years ago, and where we are now. We can be certain that the next five years, too, will also be amazing. Times are certainly changing.
The author is a freelance writer, blogger, youth activist. He is currently studying for an MBA in India.