For any business to survive, gaining new customers is one of the very important areas. With the advent of Social Media, more brands want to be visible in this space and engage with their current & potential customers. SocialTwist, founded by Vijay Pullur is a customer acquisition and retention platform that generates viral referrals for businesses, using the social connections of their customers. SocialTwist has been growing at a healthy rate, and has added new Financial, membership and Product companies to their Clientele. Vijay Sundaram, CMO has offered us deep insights into what Social Media marketing is about and useful tips for Startups who want to incorporate social media into their marketing strategy.
Tell us what SocialTwist is about. How different it is from the daily deals and coupons websites around?
SocialTwist is not about daily deals. Usually with deals websites, businesses are forced to offer their products at very high discounted rates. SocialTwist is about enabling consumer to consumer channel for business. With the explosion of social media, people trust friends & family for making decisions more than ever. We use these channels to help businesses expand their reach and sales, while rewarding their existing customers along with way.We do not impose ourselves between Client & the consumer. Our cloud based platform helps businesses to create campaigns for gaining new customers and understanding and growing their influencers.
The company is running from close to 5 years now. What are the lessons learnt along the way?
Our parent company is Pramati Technologies. It is one of the successful product companies originated out of India. All the technology for Social Twist is supported by Pramati Technologies, whereas the sales & other support functions are carried out in USA. Very clearly understand what value you bring to your client. And know how to communicate to the right people.In a startup, you are always in a place where you have to take decisions. Sometimes, the decisions might not work as expected. In our case, we did hire people when we were not yet ready for partnership channels. We took things in our stride and made changes as required along the way.
How has Social Media changed in the past few years? Why is it so important for brands to engage in social referral marketing?
Social Media Marketing is very important for brands as it helps them to deal with rapidly changing customer behavior. I would say that social media has evolved over time. In the first phase, social media was just personal connections – people adding their friends & family and sharing things among themselves. Slowly, businesses understood that people had opinions on their brand and converted social media into one of their “listening channels”. In the second phase, businesses have started two-way interaction on social media. They used it mainly for product support and providing updates about their latest products/services. The current & third phase is where Businesses use Social Media for user activation. It is now possible to reach potential customers by using your customers as the channel. In a typical marketing funnel, Social Media used to be at the top of the funnel, but today it has also reached the bottom of the funnel by enabling purchases and driving conversion. It is due to this reason that brands have the dire need to incorporate Social Media into their marketing strategy.
For a startup, what kind of social media marketing would you suggest to do? Is it better to do in-house marketing or good to hire a marketing firm to do the same?
It depends on the kinds of options available for a given startup. For a start, Company blog is a great way to communicate with your customers and industry in general. I would like to suggest to startups to stop looking at Facebook/ Twitter as another tool to be visible. Social Media must be part of overall Marketing strategy for any business. When devising marketing strategy, online presence has to be handled as one of the areas. So, when we have a new social media tool tomorrow, it would automatically come under the radar. I’d lean in a bit toward having an internal marketing team, as they will understand the product offering better.
For entrepreneurs entering the Social Media Marketing space, what is the suggestion you would like to give?
Social Media is a relatively new space and there is lot of opportunity. However, copying an existing successful venture will do more harm then good. Look for gaps in the market – do people need more products, services or consulting? Once you find the gap, try to fill it with your offering. Always know the landscape you are operating in. Two most important things for any startup are not to lose sight of the value you are providing to the economy, and ability to drive towards measurable outcome. The value provided must be visible through metrics.
Photo Source: Thomas Hendele