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Are brands succumbing to social media uproar in the age of rampant digitization?




Rampant digitisation and social media uproar has lately been successful in changing narratives. A trending hashtag has the potential of either make it or break it. The power of the virtual tool is so prudent now that every individual and organization craves for sound reputation and validation online. From a small brand to an established one has once in a while faced social media scrutiny. Has the power of social media become so invincible and if brands have started to succumb to it, let’s explore.

Social media has become a quagmire for companies or marketers seeking consumer attention. Being alive on the social network, which once was a fancy feeling, has now become a marshland for companies. Currently, almost everything is on digital media and even traditional forms of media eventually look at a digital push. Lately, brands have been victims of the online backlash, virtual conversations turning into a bruising spot, and in worst-case scenarios brands being dragged in the clash between people’s political affiliations, religious beliefs, and personal biases. The recent one to join the bandwagon was Myntra’s logo change. Fortune Rice Bran cooking oil from the house of Adani Wilmar, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Tanishq, Swiggy and numerous other names can be added to the list of brands who faced trolling and social media aggression. So, is responding or ignoring the online tension the perfect solution for the backlash?

Experts feel that companies need to relax on pushing out content on social media. It is more important to gather insights by listening to customers on social media. Companies’ objective is to serve consumers. Consumers should be attracted by brands. Brands should not get distracted by others.

Power of social media and its growing impact on reputation and validation

Atul Sharma, Managing Director, Ruder Finn India exclaimed, “There is no doubt that the attention brands pay to social and digital media has radically changed as opposed to even five years ago. This is ensuring that brands are constantly on alert, on the edge even because who knows when the next trend will go viral. Explaining further, he added, “Just like individuals, corporates and brands are not particularly fond of getting trolled, therefore being vigilant and seeing it coming is far better than getting caught in the crossfire. As for validation, the answer simply lies in the numbers. The mammoth outreach of social media gives enough and more validation. This is why you will notice that almost all PR activities are now complemented with bespoke social campaigns. Integrated Comms has comfortably upstaged traditional PR and comms. And why not! I think it’s time to evolve with the trend. “

Aman Gupta, Co-founder and Managing Partner, D Yellow Elephant, feels that a certain amount of authenticity that brands need to represent when putting out any content online. “However, social media is a very fast-paced environment and if you’re not quick on the move you might miss the bus. So, while you put content out you need to have some robust strategies in place to manage any fallout of your content – it’s just about your preparedness. The power of social media in damaging your reputation is directly linked to your ability to actively maintain it”, he added.

Brand ideology and taking stand for their brand ethos and values

Tushar Bajaj, MD – Organic by MSL remarked, “Social media penetration has led to a polarisation of narratives and brands tread a fine line between upholding their own values and staying on the right side of their customers.”  Pointed out about social activism, he said, “Social media activism is also trending up and brand actions do lead to strong reactions, both positive and negative. Brands that do communicate their ideology regularly and back it with actions in their business are appreciated and preferred with those aligned with such messages.”

“The polarised nature of social media however puts brands in a situation where they are forced to choose between being neutral and boring or opinionated and therefore controversial with one set or another inevitably”, noted Bajaj.

Contributing his thoughts, Atul Sharma intervened, “Through the pandemic, 2020 cemented a fact that I’ve believed for decades. That technology will play a fundamental role in not only the way we work and do business but also radically change our personal environment as well. That’s where social and digital mediums came through bringing together people from all corners of the globe. In fact, we at Ruder Finn especially workshopped Ruder Finn’s five fundamental values—Entrepreneurship, Non-hierarchy, Independence, Meritocracy, and Empathy.”

Is it feasible to say that social media has got immense power now to change the narrative of anything and everything? 

Bajaj strongly feels that social media narratives have a short lifecycle and typically get fuelled by coinciding or contradictory news cycles, new social media perspectives, or events on-ground. According to him, “Social media does have immense power to shift narratives but as a standalone, social media has limited long term impact. That said, actions arising out of social media negativity can have a lasting impact on brand perceptions, reviews and ratings as we have seen in the last few years – this means brands have to be extra careful in their messaging leading to more and more neutral or mass aligned messaging. “

“Social media can be misleading, yes. That is why one has to be quick-thinking, on their feet at all times when navigating the space. There is a kind of agility in your communications strategy that one needs. As a digital agency, we consistently factor that in while crafting our campaigns. We, at D Yellow Elephant, move forward with an approach of new age, digital-first integrated communications and this takes into account everything from data analytics and insights to multi-channel storytelling for enhanced business impact,” asserted Aman Gupta.

Spinning the conversation towards optimism, Sharma added, “Look at some of the positive campaigns that have dominated last year, especially those that came with a socio-environmental message attached to them. The UN created the #SafeHands Challenge to propagate a preventive message against Covid-19. For a developing country like India, I am certain it changed the narrative and added value to the fight against Covid-19.

Similarly, take the #IsolatedNotAlone campaign that raised awareness against domestic violence thick in the middle of the lockdown when it was the easiest to feel trapped in a precarious situation. I believe that even if one person mustered the courage to act against this, that to me is a successful campaign! Then there were others, where people simply came together to feel a part of something tangible despite being isolated in their homes, like #Sareechallenge, #Dalgonacoffee, #MeAt20, etc. Being an eternal optimist, I would like to believe that social media has changed the narrative for the better –far more than it has for the worst.”

Why do brands need to be more firm with their ideologies now?

“When ideologies are built into business models then brands have to be firm and re-emphasise the ideology time and again but brands leveraging national or current events or challenging social stigmas/situations have to be even more prepared to tackle potential fallout arising from polarised social media groups”, asserted Bajaj.

Sharma agrees that in the near future, there will be issues, where businesses will be put in a position where they have to choose to take a stand or watch from the stands. “As we speak, CEO activism has become a regular occurrence on social media with the likes of Elon Musk making a point simply by using emojis. Closer to home, leaders like Anand Mahindra (who I consider a popular social influencer too) and Rahul Bajaj are examples where leadership isn’t shying away from putting their ideologies out there. At the end of the day, to each their own.”

“If you are not confident of your ideology, defending it in a space that has an information load is very difficult. That is a 101 approach to any communications strategy. Brands need clarity of thought and vision, else it is easy to deviate from your messaging”, concluded Aman Gupta.

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Pinterest Now up to 450 Million Active Users, Posts Solid Numbers in Latest Performance Report



Pinterest Now up to 450 Million Active Users, Posts Solid Numbers in Latest Performance Report

Pinterest has posted its Q4 and full-year earnings for 2022, showing steady increases in both users and revenue, as it continues to build out its various offerings.

First off, on users, Pinterest added five million more active users – most of them coming from Europe – within the final measurement period of last year.

That’s a good sign for Pinterest, which actually lost users in early 2021, after the COVID-induced boom in eCommerce activity of the previous year, which saw the platform post record high usage numbers.

Many analysts and businesses seemed convinced that the COVID boost to online shopping would hold, even after the pandemic ended. That lead to companies like Meta, Google, Amazon and Twitter investing big into commerce solutions – but many of the staff they put on were eventually culled in the most recent round of lay-offs, because once physical stores re-opened, people actually did go back to shopping as normal, as opposed to continuing to rely on online options.

Pinterest felt that the most, but now, it’s steadily building back up again, as it continues to refine its solutions around evolving shopping behaviors. Which includes video content.

Pinterest’s big winner on this front has been Idea Pins, its Stories-like option which presents uploaded video in a swipeable, full-screen display.

Pinterest Ideas Festival updates

The emphasis on this format has helped boost the platform’s appeal with younger audiences, with Pinterest reporting that Gen Z was the fastest-growing demographic on the platform, increasing double digits year over year.

“Gen Z sessions grew much faster year over year than sessions from older demographics, while nearly half of all new videos pinned in Q4 were from Gen Z users.”

Pinterest also says that sessions continued to grow faster than MAUs, an indicator that it’s driving better engagement overall, while it also increased its overall video supply by 30%, another marker of the popularity of Idea Pins.

Because you can’t post video as a native pin anymore, only in Idea Pins (or paid ads), underlining the focus on the format, and Pinterest’s evolving usage.  

On the revenue front, Pinterest posted a 4% year-over-year increase, after bringing in $877 million Q4.

Pinterest Q4 2022

As you can see in this chart, Pinterest’s revenue is climbing steadily, though its revenue splits remain concerning:

Pinterest Q4 2022

Or maybe you see this as an opportunity, with Pinterest still able to potentially eek out a lot more revenue from regions outside of the North American market. Definitely, it’s got some work to do in that ‘Rest of World’ bracket.

But Pinterest is still developing, and is still expanding its ad and business offerings into new regions. So there is, indeed, potential there – yet the size of the gap here is a concern.

Still, there is growth, slowly but surely, and maybe, if you’re a believer, you can see more ways for Pinterest to generate much bigger revenues moving forward.

Pinterest remains focused on shopping, and highlighting relevant products to users, with its ever-evolving recommendation engine providing better content matches to more users every day. It’s also investing in live-stream shopping, a trend that all platforms hope will catch on in western markets, while it’s developing more presentation tools for Idea Pins to capitalize on that engagement.

In combination, these approaches are working – but at the same time, usage growth in your local market may have stalled, going on these charts.

And of course, while overall growth is interesting, what marketers want to know is whether their customers are there.

For this, you can use Pinterest Trends, which enables you to search for the most popular Pin trends by region.

Pinterest Trends

Tap into these with Idea Pins and you’ll likely be on the right path, based on these latest insights from the app.

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These Guys Are Stupid, And I'm Being Charitable



These Guys Are Stupid, And I'm Being Charitable

Why do some organizations still solicit funds the way they did in the 1960s? You need to take a smarter marketing approach, or you’ll waste money like they do. I’m still getting about two bucks a month in cash from stupid, misguided charities that insist on sending me actual money in the mail. I get …

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Internal Documents Reveal That the New Twitter Blue Has Fewer Than 300k Subscribers at Present



Internal Documents Reveal That the New Twitter Blue Has Fewer Than 300k Subscribers at Present

Look, I know people have strong opinions about Elon Musk, and I realize that any criticism is going to be viewed as political commentary, even if it’s not (because I’m not American, I can’t vote, I don’t care about Hunter Biden, etc.). But Elon’s paid verification program is dumb, the dumbest move that he’s made at Twitter to date.

And I understand the logic – Elon says that when he came on, the company was losing $4 million per day, which lead to mass lay-offs, and a scramble for revenue generation options.

Paid verification, then, makes sense, while Elon also extrapolated the need for immediate cash into a pathway to combat bots, by using verification as a means to ‘verify all the real humans’ – i.e. bots won’t pay, and bot peddlers won’t be able to afford such at scale.

I get all the moving parts, and optimistically, they may sense.

But realistically, which is the more important ‘ally’ of the two, it just doesn’t.

Because most people won’t pay, especially when you’re offering nothing much in return, other than a graphic of a tick next to their username, while the very act of selling verification ticks erases their only perceptual value, that being exclusivity.

Now, everyone can buy one, so the tick is meaningless, at least as a status marker of some form.

My perspective on this been vindicated, at this early stage at least, by a new report from The Information, which says that, according to internal documents:

Around 180,000 people in the US were paying for subscriptions to Twitter, including Twitter Blue, as of mid-January, or less than 0.2% of monthly active users […] The U.S. number is about 62% of Twitter’s global subscriber total, the document says, which implies Twitter has 290,000 global subscribers.”

That’s consistent with the findings of researcher Travis Brown, who’s been posting regular updates on Twitter Blue subscriber numbers, based on searches of users that show up as ‘blue_verified’ in the back-end.

At present, based on Brown’s figures, the new Twitter Blue program looks to have around 300,000 subscribers, very close to the data The Information has seen.

That would mean that Twitter’s currently bringing in an extra $2.4 million per month via the program, or $7.2 million per quarter. Which is pretty good, that’s extra income at a time when Twitter desperately needs it. But it’s still way, way off from where Twitter wants its subscription revenue intake to be.

To reiterate, when initially outlining his Twitter 2.0 reformation plans, Elon said that he wants to make subscription revenue around 50% of Twitter’s overall intake. That would align somewhat with the aforementioned revenue and bot-battling potential – but in order to do this, Twitter needs to increase Twitter Blue take-up 81x its current state.

300k sign-ups is also only 0.12% of Twitter’s active user base – so to reiterate, revenue-wise, it’s not close to meeting goals, and as a bot disincentive, it’s nowhere near meeting its aims. And while Twitter has just this weekend rolled out Twitter Blue to more regions, there’s just no way that it’s ever going to reach the levels required to make it a viable consideration in either respect.

Which means that all the mucking around, all the impersonation issues, all the gold checks and gray ticks and square profile images and brand logos. All of this has, on balance, been a waste of time.

It’s not nothing – again, Twitter needs all the extra money it can get right now, and a $29 million annual boost in intake will help. But functionally, it’s been a series of blunders and missteps, one after the other.

And now, Twitter wants brands to pay $1,000 a month for a gold tick?

Yeah, safe to say that’s not going to be a roaring success either. And while Twitter will likely get a few more Twitter Blue sign-ups when it removes legacy blue checks sometime in future, that’s still only 420k extra subscribers, max.

The churn rate will also be high – because again, a blue tick isn’t valuable anymore if everyone can buy one – and unless Elon and Co. have some magic updates to build into Twitter Blue in future, beyond Blue-only polls or paying to qualify for monetization, I don’t see how this becomes a significant element of Twitter’s overall intake or process.

But maybe I’m missing something. Maybe, because it’s Elon Musk, we’ve missed the point, or the process, and there is actually another pathway to winning on this front that’s not been revealed as yet.

I don’t see it, but I can’t imagine the logistics of flying to Mars either, so maybe there’s more to come.

But I doubt it.

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