I haven’t blogged for a while and I feel bad about it, so I thought I would share my 2 fils about this topic since I have been doing this spiel a lot recently anyway.
It seems that marketers in the region have suddenly decided to adopt Social Networking in their plans, however the way they are approaching it is not what you can exactly call ideal, especially when they use the word “optimization” to describe it.
Social Networking in the Middle East is a complete different animal, and the way you approach it from a corporate point view is radically different from the global trends.
First things first though and in order not to be misunderstood, I completely encourage the notion and YES you need to consider Social Networking in your plans, especially that people are talking already and most probably your brand is in their conversation; however, you need to understand what you are walking into. It is a serious and ongoing commitment.
Utilizing social networking does not mean “existing on Facebook and Twitter”, especially in the Middle East, it is being on other spots too, and it is about what you’re saying and doing there. Lets take a look at the global darlings of Social Networks (as my boss likes to call them) and their status in the Middle East:
Having seen that, you should immediately deduct that the social networking environment here is different, and that you cannot apply global trends as is and expect them to work.
Your audience is online and they are talking about your brand – but on other social networking platforms. Look at Egypt and Saudi Arabia for example, the largest two markets in the region, these guys are mad about forums. They have their own online forums, specialized to a good extent which makes targeting easier, and have hundreds of thousands of registered users and millions of ongoing conversations. They are all talking and that’s where you need to be.
You either need to do the right research to find them; or, engage the correct expert who would ideally be from the region and in it.
Having that covered and assuming you’re on the right track, great, you are there, now what?
You cannot expect just POSITIVE talk from people about your brand, there will be complaints and NEGATIVE talk as well. You need to identify how to handle that, and you need to have an action plan too because yes you might need to change things and how they work to leave a good impression and connect with your audience.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that because you are there, then it makes you look cool enough for people to like you which gives you permission to start spamming them with your latest offers and news and telling them how great you are – they will hate you for it.You need to listen to what they are saying about you, respond, and take action when needed.
The listening / monitoring part is the key. You need to monitor and listen and find out where people are talking about you, this is the best way to define channels you need to be at and at the same time a good point of entry because open conversation is the base of social networking. Once you are there, you address the issues (respond), and then make amendments (take action), that’s how the relationship is built and how a good impression is achieved.
This is how social media is ideally optimized, and that’s how you transform your brand into the cool, people’s brand. Keep in mind that you have to keep acting on it, it’s not a one off.
If you open that direct channel with your audience, you will either win them big time, or disappoint them over and over.
It’s funny how many corporates have Facebook pages and groups and they have no clue what to do with them, or have twitter accounts which automatically feed their news from their websites, come on…
If somebody writes something about your brand in the newspaper, you will take it so seriously that you will escalate and act upon it immediately; it is that level of seriousness you need to take what people say about you on social networks in order to succeed.
The subject is huge anyway and we’ve been doing long workshops about it, this post is not meant to be your next SMO strategy, it is just an enlightenment.
And that’s…where my 2 fils end.