Not many people would argue that Hong Kong is becoming a 'social media city' – with our social circles and business lives increasingly revolving around online engagements. This is opening new doors and creating incredible opportunities, not only for people but also for businesses.
There is no doubt that social media marketing is now a strategy that no company can afford to neglect. However, while the novelty and allure of social media make it a powerful and exciting marketing tool, is it possible that some businesses are becoming too reliant on it and neglecting other 'real life' channels and strategies?
For most companies, there is only so much marketing budget to go around and concentrating resources into one area necessarily means cutting budget in others. This makes perfect sense when a company is moving away from older advertising mediums like print or radio ads towards more technology-based strategies.
However, when it means abandoning real world engagement for new and untested media, then perhaps it's time to take a second look at the wisdom of these decisions.
Some of the results from social media marketing campaigns in Hong Kong have been nothing short of incredible – take the Huggies 'Baby-Bus' loyalty campaign for example, which gave the brand's Facebook site 115,000 new fans in just three weeks.
But for every success, there are numerous social media campaigns that do not work out: this is why it's important to treat this platform with caution and ensure you do your research first.
There are numerous reasons why some campaigns fail, but they can usually be distilled into two main groups: the wrong timing and the wrong approach.
In terms of timing, businesses are notoriously risk-averse and take a while to embrace new platforms. By the time businesses are ready to 'put something out there' on MySpace (remember that?) or Facebook, many users may have moved onto another platform and the business has 'lost the moment'.
The wrong approach is more difficult to quantify, but here is one example: it's generally not appropriate to use social media for mass marketing endeavours. Social media is an organic, evolving space where dialogue occurs – where mass market 'mail shots' are not welcome and mostly not appreciated.
There are other examples of misusing social media platforms too, but this is a common one.
What social media does do is allow a brand to 'talk' to a customer or fan directly, discover their preferences and their likes and dislikes. This data is more valuable than gold and any campaign needs to be geared around getting as much of this information as possible from as many people as possible and then – crucially – putting this information to good use.
So what makes a successful campaign? The Huggies' campaign cleverly blended advertising with engagement and interaction – people submitted their baby's photo online, with the most popular babies transitioning to the real world – with their portraits appearing on buses and billboards across the city, and with the winners invited to a party and ceremony.
This is where the true brand engagement took place – Huggies executives congratulating and shaking hands with the proud parents of beautiful babies. This is where every social media campaign needs to end: with real customers enjoying engaging, real-life, real-world experiences.
At the end of the day, social media marketing is a new tool in the marketer’s workshop. With Hong Kong’s enviable social media penetration rates and high spending power, it is undoubtedly a powerful tool, but one that needs to be used as part of a broad-spectrum, integrated strategy with deep engagement as the ultimate goal.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
Do you know more about this story? Contact us anonymously through this link.
Lawrence Chia is the Chairman and CEO of the Hong Kong-listed Pico Far East Holdings (Pico Group) (SEHK: 752).