|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2013|
|Topic:||Social media – no longer stranger than fiction|
|Author:||Mohd Hisham Saleh|
|Title:||Head of Social Media & Innovations|
Mohd Hisham Saleh is the Head of Social Media & Innovations at Malaysia Airlines, where he has global responsibility for the strategy and execution of social media and mobile initiatives. Mr Saleh is an experienced IT professional; he has held various positions in eBusiness, with prime focus on Digital Marketing, as well as new technology and business intelligence. Prior to joining Malaysia Airlines, Mohd Hisham was Associate Director for Service Innovation in the local property marketing company. For his use of social media in the world of aviation, he was recognized as the SimpliFlying Hero of February 2012 by SimpliFlying.com.
Mohd Hisham Saleh has a degree in Computer Science.
Social media links people to friends, family, colleagues, and artists… to everyone. Social networks are today’s version of word-of-mouth; they links people to trends, to what is now, to what is ‘in’. Perceptive marketers, brand managers and such are acutely need to harness social media, because it is there – not in the traditional media – that the lives of so many play out. Social media is an inescapable fact and marketers need it since traditional marketing is fast becoming extinct.
“While Harold Crick was standing in front of the mirror brushing his teeth, he begins to hear a voice in his head – a voice narrating every action and his thought. To Harold it is strange, why would someone narrate the visual actions he is experiencing? Not in advance, but as it’s happens. Little did he know that’s how Kay Eiffel fictionalizes the life of Harold Crick in her next novel.”
The scenario described comes from the movie Stranger than Fiction, but in truth the world’s people are becoming more and more like Will Ferrell’s character, Harold Crick, but with one huge difference – instead of having their lives narrated by someone else, they are narrating it themselves through social media.
Why is this so? I believe it is because we are now more aware of the big story – an account of how we view our interactions with the things around us. It affects the way we see ourselves and our moral frustrations and actions. This big story is what many sociologist call a meta-narrative – a social perspective of life.
Generally in this age of social media, we all have our own meta-narratives. We differ in the meta-narratives to which we subscribe.
With social media taking centre stage in this new, social, fourth dimension, we’re always looking at how best we tell our own thoughts, desires and actions, and to see what others are up to. The social media sphere has become an extension of us, which I like to call the wailing wall of our thoughts, memories, pictorial moments, the struggles, and friendships that straddle many dimensions.
It is our nature as human beings to be curious about others and to wish to appear superior – to be the one who has the most followers, Facebook ‘likes’ or comments. Both the good and bad in us are on display on the social networks. We brag about exactly where we are on the map and about what we are doing. It’s about how we share the story, where it happens and how can we relate that with other people, concepts or brand, which some mobile apps can facilitate – think Shazam or Viddy – that carries the desired message to others.
In the end, the narration is personalised, for each individual, by the immediacy of the message. The narration does not end at once because, it comes with an implied invitation for each recipient to become a narrator on their own and add to the story.
It’s no wonder we spend such a huge amount of time using social media – one minute of every five we are online – according to comScore!
The immediacy, the urgency, of sharing your life in real-time on a variety of platforms, we’re always planning new stories, new narrations, just to keep our life stories fresh and the audience engaged.
Even a photo of two airplanes kissing each other – parking at a hangar – for example, can garner many likes if you can narrate it well – check out instagram #planeporn. The key is to humanize the digital presence of anything when sharing stories on social media.
You have to know what the current ‘in thing’ is because linking it to your information will make your message much more appealing. The best part is, any person can easily tag your service or product and become your silent advocate.
The way we transmit information has shaped the history of communication. Be it the fire beacons on the towers of the Great Wall of China or war messages sent by the homing pigeons of the British Army – immediacy, speed, has always been at the heart of communications systems.
Now, for certain types of information, the fires and pigeons of yesterday have been exchanged for Facebook with its ‘likes’ or the RT of the Twitter.
So how do marketers exploit this new and uncharted territory?
Social media is the 21st century version of word-of-mouth, slightly stronger and definitely much faster, so the marketers simply need to become part of the storyline to fully exploit the vast potential afforded by the media. Marketers must understand what current trends are important to the consumer and relate the brand – make the brand something that seamlessly blends into the trend storyline.
This is something that a traditional marketing medium such as advertising can’t achieve.
Social media has another advantage, it can greatly amplify a brand’s through repetition on a variety of channels. Still, this can only happen once you have a good story to share to the world. Brands, even the oldest with an incredible story to tell, often stumble on this part, which is why one must clearly define the storyline you will share to support the brand’s goals. A good storyline can affect people and compel them to share the story. Vivid mediums such as videos and images amplify the impact of the story line and move it to a higher level. The adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, still holds true; in the realm of social media images are king!
To achieve the above, timing is everything. With social media, marketers have to be smart enough to know the perfect timing to share and amplify their content for maximum impact. There’s no point launching social media in the morning if your story is for night dwellers or tweeting at midnight when those you want to reach are fast asleep.
In addition, one must know how to geo-target and ‘localize’ content, always remembering the axiom that you need to turn a brand into something that your target audience can relate to. It is human nature People feel closer to things they are related to – hence it is important that your brand combines well with them.
It is essential to engage with and build trust with your consumer. Do not think of them in terms of demographics, but instead treat them as you would friends and family. Once you humanize your brand it will make it easier for the consumer to relate to your brand, to incorporate the brand in their storyline, so your interactions is no longer one between a brand and a demographic, but between friends and family, between partners.
Every story has its antagonists, and social media is no different. Too often a brand’s managers, exasperated by the antagonists, choose to ignore them, but the best brand managers engage them and, in the end, transform antagonists into protagonists. These protagonists contribute to the storyline, without which the story will fall flat.
In the end, it all boils down to this – a brand can contribute a lot to the storyline, but the ending of the story is up to the narrators – the marketers, consumers and users. Everyone has the freedom to create their own story and tell it to the audience anyway they wish. You have work your way in to ensure that your brand becomes the hero of the story. With social media, a brand that successfully becomes the hero of the story, that best manages to relate itself to the customer, will get the most exposure.
It is important to remember that all these things, the likes, the re-tweets and the check-ins, which we tend to dismiss as details, are in fact, part of a much larger and significant phenomenon than we imagine; they are dynamic elements – the protagonists and antagonists – of the narratives which turn social media into a part of our lives. It seems strange, but because of our own involvement, we can no longer escape the call of social media.
Social media is an inescapable fact and marketers are wise to heed its call, as traditional marketing is fast becoming extinct.