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The rise of social: From communities to commerce

With Narendra Modi declared as ‘The Social Media Politician’ by the New York Times and ‘selfie’, ‘hashtag’ and ‘tweep’ added to the dictionary, 2014 was clearly a game changing year for social.

2014 saw social manifest itself in multiple forms and showed its potential in becoming the preferred platform of choice in terms of driving strong brand awareness as well as hyper-targeted reach and engagement.

With a majority portion of all media interactions being screen-based, consumers are now moving across screens simultaneously to get things done. With users wanting to keep up with friends and discussing what is being watched via social media, brands started using social in conjunction with TV to leverage multi-screen behaviours of consumers.

2015 will see brands move away from the mindset of creating content on social media platforms for content sake to owning the conversation around planned and unplanned moments in time. Social will be seen in the light of real-time marketing where brands are able to personalise content or creative when responding to consumers. This will drive structural changes within organisations where brand, creative, media and analytics teams will be expected to come together in real time and respond to trends and specific cultural events in social media. With Facebook pushing for greater quality content and reducing organic reach, brands will now be forced to adopt a balanced paid-owned-earned media approach in 2015.

2014 saw a move to a more visually dominated form of communication online, that is evident with Instagram now crossing Twitter’s user base. Pinterest and Instagram in India have paved the way for visual communications – be it in the form of images or emoticons. With an increasing focus on the image powered web, brands need to think hard about how they create, distribute and allow consumers to discover their content. Most significantly for brands, it’s evolving what we think of as content and advertising with native advertising starting to take off. Instead of display banners, this is about promoted posts on Facebook, videos on the Vine, and photos on Pinterest and Instagram.

The need for brands to create likeable, shareable and useful content is imperative in today’s age of digital consumerism. In order to hold the attention of their customers, brands need to curate, publish and distribute content that not only engages and attracts consumers but also enables their lifestyles. It is lifestyle-centric rather than product-centric. In 2015, brands will need to step up and demonstrate why anyone should take the time to invest in their community and the people within it. And that can only happen with content marketing. While increasing ad spends on established platforms such as Facebook and Twitter makes sense from a reach perspective, investing in native content creation and discovery platforms, such as ScoopWhoop and Outbrain, is fast becoming the new normal for brands.

With the overwhelming amount of content and information we now have access to, consumers have an ongoing need to have bite-sized and engaging content. We are seeing an unprecedented rise in consumption of micro-video & short form content driven by smartphones and tablets. In 2014, brands leveraged video to get their point across to viewers, with how-to videos and branded content stories. Brands will continue to provide consumers with content that they can adapt, improve and share amongst their networks on their smartphones.

Also social manifests itself in the form of social networks as well as instant messaging apps. In 2015, the potential of mobile messaging apps to displace social networks is very high. As messaging apps open up their platforms for advertisers, the opportunity for brands to reach and engage with location based targeting becomes an exciting opportunity.
With close to 90 per cent of social media being consumed on mobile devices in 2014, the Click-to-Call and Missed call ad formats became very enticing for advertisers. With the rising access of social media platforms using feature phones, the need to innovate for lower income groups will become an imperative in 2015.

The needle of business value from social is rapidly moving from engagement to sales metrics. With ecommerce sites adding the share button on each product and social networking platforms adding the click-to-buy link next to an offer, the rise of social commerce is transforming the way we shop on the internet.

In 2015 brands will see the full potential of social with its convergence with mobile, content and consumer data for greater business benefit.

Avinash Jhangiani

Avinash Jhangiani is Managing Director - Digital & Mobility at Omnicom Media Group and heads the Digital business in India. Jhangiani is on the IMPACT Digital Power 100 list of most influential icons in India’s digital ecosystem. He is a senior digital strategist and new media evangelist with more than 15 years of digital strategy and technology consulting experience in India and USA. Under Jhangiani’s leadership, OMG’s Digital agencies won more than 85 awards (local, regional and international) in 2014, along with 2 Gold Lions in Mobile at the prestigious CANNES festival this year. Also PHD, agency under OMG, was honoured with Digital Agency of the Year – Bronze at 2014 Campaign Asia Awards. Jhangiani loves to counsel gen Y on their careers and enjoys watching the world through the eyes of his 6-year old gen Z digital native. He tweets at @goodthing and shares his point of views on digital for brands, media and marketing on his personal blog (Digital Déjà Vu) - http://youarenew.blogspot.com
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