Community spirit over the mobile

Updated: Nov 27 2012, 07:38am hrs
The intersection of social networking, location-based marketing and mobile technologies is something that is proving to be a marketing sweet spot. What is convenient is typically used more frequently, and when it is mobile, in a variety of different contexts. One of the cardinal rules of marketing is you have to meet your customers where they are, and customers today are increasingly mobile.

Hence, the new playground for marketers is social, local and mobile, and is proving to be a successful mobile marketing strategy. Facebook, Twitter and mobile social media have become the new quintessential communication tools for marketing managers. The old school approach for marketers who had adequate budgets was to use traditional print and media advertising and augment that with online marketing. More recently, with the advent of social media, consumers feel a heightened need to participate in sharing common interests and experiences with communities and larger groups. More brands, businesses and governments are waking up to the fact that the old school approach of creating a brand and expecting consumers to be loyal to it doesnt work anymore. Interactivity and shared participation in creating brands, communities, governments and user experiences is here to stay.

Consumers have embraced the mobile for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is convenience. Mobile marketing is something that interests every small business that wants to reach out and interact with consumers when and where they are most receptive, and in ways that they expect.

Mobile marketing took off a few years ago globally as the anytime, anywhere nature of mobile devices created new possibilities for marketers to stay more connected with the consumer. Location based mobile advertising using GPS information and other such innovative means spawned new channels for marketers to connect with the consumers. Given the local context, creating mobile communities with participants who willingly join them to communicate, share interests and experiences will truly enable social media to reach the masses in India. Using mobile communities to engage consumers anytime, anywhere with contextual SMS and voice messages presents an opportunity for brands to acquire and retain their next billion customers.

Using mobile marketing as a tool, communities are put to use by individuals (to communicate or coordinate amongst their friends), small groups (for education, sharing common interests and day-to-day coordination) and large groups (to enable shared participation and community mobilisation by creating their own content and sharing it with the world). For instance, Anna Hazares volunteers used such a platform to extensively reach out to the masses and co-ordinate the mass protests. The new-age Indian consumer has found a medium that provides something more intelligent than what they can foresee to tease their minds and their fingertips anytime, anywhere.

Brands and businesses are integrating mobile communities into their marketing mix for stickiness and a rich database of consumers who are hungry for a conversation with the brand. They are now using this efficient, cost-effective tool to stay connected for a much longer period with consumers in a more relevant manner thereby eliminating the need for the short-term cycle of expensive marketing campaigns.

The simplicity of these mobile communities makes them location, phone and campaign agnostic. A personalised non-intrusive message, in the form of relevant tips, new product launches, new features, announcing contests, regional expansion of services, etc., from the brand replaces expensive, high decibel marketing campaigns to drive brand recall or brand trial. The reply feature and engagement tools facilitate a two-way conversation in real time. The messages with relevant content have a lot of value for the consumer which converts him/ her into a brand loyalist.

Once the consumer opts for a community, there are multiple ways to engage him or her. There is poll (for consumer satisfaction), quiz (instant gratification for consumer), raffle (contests), feedback (two-way dialogue) and more. Finally, to serve, there are alerts/ reminders, mobile couponing (for trials) and commerce, the ultimate culmination of any marketing campaign by driving these engaged consumers to a website or a toll-free number to transact.

Brands, businesses and governments have the platform, reach and tools to engage consumers. But innovation now lies in usage of these new-age tools in the most intelligent way that makes consumers fall in line and become brand loyalists. Top brands from all industries as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from all corners of India today are using various platforms to connect with sports enthusiasts, young parents, professionals, students and, in short, every Indian buyer with some interest and a phone.

The author is vice president - marketing and sales, GupShup