Why many Indian companies struggle to leverage Social Media for their businesses
11th June 2018

Everyone agrees that social media can be a powerful source for business and brand development. There is not a single marketing or communications manager who would dispute that. However there is a huge gap between what companies believe and how they execute their social media strategies.

Many Indian companies run social media campaigns that are lackluster and boring. After the initial spurt of connections from employees and well wishers, the campaign rarely goes beyond and does not gain any depth. Engagement, which is a critical factor of any campaign, is missing. The social channels become just another avenue to push company lines.

This could be due to a variety of factors, some of which are specific to the Indian industry culture.

Paying Lip Service to the social media opportunity

Many companies in India talk big about how social media is a game changer but pay only lip service to the actual implementation of a game changing social media strategy. They fail to provide adequate budgets, or appoint good social media agencies or prioritize it in the organization. Social media goes very low on the marketing totem pole and marketing itself is low on the overall company priorities. Ultimately the results reflect the efforts put into it.

A top down command and control setup impinges creativity

Many Indian companies are run as very tight ships i.e. the captain or CEO is the lord and master. Not a leaf moves without his or her consent and subordinates never take risks or express any kind of creativity. What is shared on the social channels are vetted and controlled by the top boss's office. Social media takes on the form of press releases and carefully vetted information. Engagement is zero. Even if creative agencies are appointed, they quickly learn to do as they are told and keep their fancy ideas to themselves.

A subdued and mild working culture without self expression

Social media campaigns tend to always reflect the culture of the company no matter how much an agency tries to artificially pump it up. What we love about the social media campaigns of many International companies is how they bring out the culture and self expression of their people and use it to portray their values and image. Bob loves mountain climbing, Steffy does origami and other such employee facets are used to portray diversity and adventure of the culture.

Comparatively our Indian work culture is too subdued and low key. Employees tend to keep their heads down rather than express themselves. If they are creative in any way, it is reserved for their personal lives. Work is where you work and play is for personal time. Reflecting this, campaigns also tend to be dull and lackluster.

A natural aversion to anything out of the box or risky

In today's cluttered market place, you have to be very original and stand out to be even noticed. If you are not 'out of the box' then you do not get into the target audience heads. Social media has inherent risks, as many companies have bravely found out, and sometimes the backlash can be bad. But the company needs to have the courage to push the boundaries and do something original.

The old quote, 'Man proposes, God disposes' can be amended to 'Agency proposes, company disposes'. Admittedly, this is not only an issue with Social media but an overall marketing issue. But it does impact how the social media campaign plays out.

Sadly, most Indian companies choose a passive risk free approach to their social media and overall marketing approach. They seem to be ok with 'ok' results. As long as no one rocks the boat, it's fine.

In conclusion, it's the very nature and culture of Indian companies that does not lend itself very well to an exciting social media campaign. Only if self expression and risk taking is in the DNA of the organization will that reflect on the social channels. Till then its humdrum business as usual.

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