Social, mobile essential to brand strategy

Increasing use of social media and mobile calls for their integration in corporate branding strategies and leveraging "superfans" who generate value from online engagement.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor on

COMMUNICASIA, SINGAPORE--The increased usage of social media and mobile devices means companies must integrate both elements in their strategy, leveraging especially "superfans" and a mobile strategy which encompasses both a mobile site and mobile app.

Social media and mobile devices have become so proliferated it is necessary for companies to include both elements in their branding strategies, noted Rob Tarkoff, CEO of Lithium Technologies. Citing figures from Ericsson, he said there were 6 billion mobile subscriptions globally at the end of last year. Nielsen also found the majority of consumers' time, at 22.5 percent, had been spent on social media, compared to other technologies, he cited.

This reflects changes in the needs of customers, observed Tarkoff who was speaking at a forum here Thursday at the CommunicAsia 2012 tradeshow. Consumers need to be connected every moment, want authentic conversations and engagement with brands and similar buyers, as well as "instant gratification" in which they have access to information whenever they want, he explained.

To avoid losing out on this opportunity, companies need to tailor their branding strategies to their customers by developing a good social customer experience revolved around mobile, he advised. Businesses have to use the way they communicate with customers on the mobile to revolutionize their business in the social and mobile world, he said.

"Superfans" key to social branding
Superfans have "unbelievable" value to branding on social media platforms, with the ability to help improve a company's rank and reputation, said Tarkoff, who defined these consumers as "loyal ones who keep and using talking about your products".

He cited a Lithium study which revealed that while less than 1 percent of community fans were considered "superfans", they generated 55 percent of online content.

"[Companies] have to keep superfans talking about their brand and keep them engaged because it will inevitably improve [their] rank and reputation," he said.

Companies can start by expanding their brand outreach across different social media sites, because the future of social media is unpredicable and it would not be not wise to "put all your eggs in one basket", he noted. They must recognize who their superfans and advocates are on these sites, and find ways to reward and motivate them such as through Facebook sharing products for discounts, he advised.

"People are inherently motivated to want to be the best at what they love, so rewarding them for loving your brand will make them come back, and generate greater online engagement for you," Tarkoff said.

Apps and sites in mobile strategy
It is also important for a company's mobile strategy to include both mobile sites and mobile apps, noted Joerg Krahnert, managing director of NetBiscuits, who was also a speaker at the forum.

Many companies often assume creating an app will generate and entice more consumers to find out about their brand, but an "app-only strategy" is flawed, Krahnert observed. Most customers do not regularly use apps to find out about a brand, he explained, citing a Pinch Media study which revealed 26 percent of apps--when downloaded--were not used after the first day and 95 percent were not used after the first month.

According to Krahnert, the cost of creating and updating an app is higher than producing and maintaining cross-platform mobile sites. For example, e-Bay had actively diverted millions to download their mobile app, but found out its mobile app business remained the same as its mobile Web revenue, he noted.

However, mobile apps should not be excluded from a company's mobile strategy because it still provides user experience superior to that of a mobile site, he advised. He suggested companies promote their app via their mobile site, instead of proactively urging users to download it.

The app should also be developed on a platform which supports many devices as developing for one platform adopted by few users will not generate brand awareness among consumers, Krahnert added. 

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