Can your brand hold a conversation on social media?

A great example of social media conversation as talk-worthy content, by Dunzo. Most brands aim for creating original content in multiple formats as their social media assets, but very few brands invest in time, training and people in nurturing conversations.

Dunzo’s conversation is both purposeful (solves an actual problem for a user through its services) and entertaining (full of puns relevant to the particular user). They have also selected a power user to indulge in this conversation and that is smart.

My first-ever social media mandate that I took upon myself at Text 100 was for Lenovo India (my largest client at Text 100), way back in 2009 (if I recall correctly). At that time, I noticed a few queries on Twitter and Facebook (and on certain online discussion boards) about what computers to buy, for specific needs/purposes. They were being responded to other people, but I felt a brand like Lenovo could also join that conversation. So, I started responding on behalf of Lenovo India. The tone was polite, helpful and precise. So, when someone asks, “Would this Dell XYZ model be good for gaming?”, Lenovo India’s response was not to dissuade the user from considering Dell, but also to consider Lenovo’s gaming-specific models (and not a generic, look at our range).

On Twitter’s archives, the conversational connections are missing (since Twitter created the conversation thread much later), but I found a few responses by Lenovo using an archive search.

And I found one self-indulgent tweet too 🙂

This was literally my first social media/digital engagement mandate for a client (who was inquisitive enough to pay for this service, to a PR firm, at that!). Now, in hindsight, this may seem like everyday work, but back in 2009, after just 3 years of Twitter’s existence, and in the early days of Twitter in India, this was possibly new.

Also, most importantly, most of these conversations started because Lenovo India found a need to enter them. Lenovo was not tagged in most of these conversations in the first place. This is a hugely untapped source of leads for certain categories. People ask questions to no one in particular (to their followers) online, and relevant brands could jump into them to convert, ONLY if they are listening to the industry and category-centric keywords, beyond just branded keywords.

I moved out of Text 100 after 6 odd months of starting this, but not before we got a few wins in terms of sales, and quite a bit of goodwill in terms of decent and purposeful conversations held on Twitter (and on discussion boards)!

I tried this with Harley-Davidson India as soon as I joined Edelman India as their first head of digital in India. But it didn’t work as well as did with Lenovo. The reason is simple: the price points and frequency of purchase of a laptop, vs. the prices of a Harley-Davidson 🙂 There are far fewer people to opine online on something like a Harley, compared to gadgets/devices like laptops, on which everyone has an opinion because of wider usage experience.

Conversations are content too. And very brands have realized the power of social conversations. Remember – these conversations are happening in public view and how a brand holds a conversation makes people form perceptions about the brand.

But, unlike ‘original content’, conversations may not give brands immediate results. Conversations aid in producing long-term goodwill, when done well, consistently. Conversations are also difficult to manage from the brands’ side because social media platform management is left to agencies or 3rd party vendors. And of those agencies have not evolved a brand voice, tone and conversation guideline, the kinds of conversations that a brand has could vary wildly, jeopardizing the overall character of the brand.

Also, most brands dump ‘social customer care’ into one bucket and let it be managed by external agencies that do it using a flowchart method – if this query, respond that. There is rarely any character or life in those responses and for most parts, there need not be either, as long as the resolutions is useful.

But using conversations as a content strategy is also about choice. A brand, with a few great people managing its social media handles, cannot have winning conversations with every single person online. Brands need to choose where they could really make a difference, in terms of being helpful (closure) or showcase their character as a way to create buzz.

Brands like Swiggy have recently tried regional language conversations as a way to win mindshare. This is a great idea, but needs a lot of people with multiple language skills to scale, else they speak only a few languages while the other language folks get annoyed for ‘ignoring’ their language!

And things can go wrong too, like this one, from Swiggy!

The salutation is perhaps ‘Hey’ in English, but in Tamil, they have transliterated it to ‘Aye’, which is the Tamil equivalent of the Hindi, ‘Abey O’. And the language is all wrong, indicating the use of Google Translate.

Zomato has had quite a few hits with regard to conversations on its chat, away from Twitter! Like this one. (click on the pic below to see the larger version)

I have also written earlier about a Canadian brand called dbrand that uses abrasive conversations almost like an art form!

The key to all this is not to do them as a one-off exercise. It is to find ways to do them consistently, over a period of time so that people form perceptions about your brand as being responsible, funny, sincere and useful, depending on your tone and response.