With the all pervasiveness of social media, there has never been a better time than now to gain instant product promotion on the internet.
--BY MUNA SUNUWAR
One of the core components for good business is marketing strategy. Businesses experiment with different marketing tools and techniques to achieve the ultimate goals they set. One of the most effective marketing tools presently is the use of social media which has taken both marketers and consumers by storm. Nepal is no exception to this wave as social media has been taking over the traditional tools of marketing and promotion. “Lately, Nepali companies have been promoting products and services through social media sites. Facebook has turned out to be the most effective one among the sites,” observes Rom Kant Pandey, General Secretary of Internet Society Nepal (ISOC).
Social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are accessible, easy to use, and have the capacity to provide a large number of users globally with information related to numerous products and services at once. They have become trustworthy platforms for marketing and promotional activities enabling consumers to directly deal with traders without having to physically visit the brick-and-mortar stores. Experts say this type of digital marketing is considered more authentic even compared to the traditional means of digital promotional activities such as email marketing and web pop-up advertisements by people the world over.
According to them, it is easy for marketers to establish the facts and authenticity about the products and services as social media adds transparency to their marketing activities. Social media users are more likely to check the trustworthiness of the products and services. The personal experiences shared by other social media users about the products as comments on the sites helps companies to gain an insight into changing customer behaviour and move ahead accordingly in the market. Meanwhile, such comments also enable other users to evaluate and compare the products and services. “The overwhelming effectiveness of social media has led to Nepali business people starting to express that a product or service cannot be sustained without digital marketing,” says Pandey.
Nowadays, consumers are more informed which is a strength in itself. There are multiple options available for them to choose from. People can select and order products online at low cost. This feature of social media marketing not only benefits consumers but also keeps companies in profit. As a digital form of marketing, instant feedback on social media is a plus point for the consumers that utilise it to their advantage. Pandey presents an example, “The US smartphone giant Apple recently supplied the newly launched iPhone based on a specific demand. The company basically focused on the preference of the people from different regions regarding the colour of the device. After receiving the feedback, Apple brought out the new iPhonein the fans’ preferred colour in greater quantities.” It shows how social media has shifted the market from local to global, but with a competent approach.
The increasing penetration of the internet and rising use of smartphones are among the factors attributing to the growing number of social media users in Nepal. Recent statistics of Nepal Telecommunications Authority shows that 61.99 percent of the population in Nepal has access to the internet. And this has resulted in the sharp growth of social media users in the country. According to a statistic published by Social Aves, a digital marketing agency, on February 2017, there were 8 million Facebook and 3.2 million Twitter users in Nepal. Similarly, the number of registered Youtube users in Nepal stands at 5.4 million while 2.2 million users visit the video-sharing site on a daily basis here.
Not only has the number of social media users increased over the years, the efficacy of web platforms in terms of marketing and promoting too has vastly expanded. It has become the fastest form of information dissemination with global reach creating a very wide range of probable consumers for the companies. Social media marketing has deconstructed the stereotypical concept of traditional marketing as planning and execution of promotional strategies on social media is not time consuming. “The user review and rating systems in social media have helped us transform constructive comments into action to improvise and rectify,” says Anu Parajuli, assistant manager at Hotel Yak and Yeti.
Globally, Facebook reigns as the first choice for companies and marketers to promote their business. According to data published by the social media giant recently, there are more than 65 million Facebook business pages that businesses have been using to connect with their customers across the world and one billion users visit such pages on a monthly basis.
In Nepal, social media marketing has also become a categorized business. According to Ravi Singhal, CEO of Social Aves, there are at least 20,000 online brands spending around Rs 20 million monthly on digital marketing in the country. “The brands have grown with the penetration of smartphones. Currently, digital marketing expenditure of a Nepali company averages Rs 100,000 per month,” mentions Singhal. According to him, businesses from different sectors deploy different strategies in this regard.“Hospitality companies, for example, mostly promote their business using pictures and videos showcasing ambience and services while BFIs focus on creating customer support systems through the feedback they receive from the social media users. Meanwhile, trading companies are more into brand building and use sales-oriented promotion,” he adds. All these techniques assure visibility of the brands enabling companies to engage more with their customers.
“Social media marketing has assured us that customers are very much aware about our brand. The feedback we receive is very positive. We compile the data about the level of our social media engagement and reach of the contents to targeted customers every week,” shares Jivan Tamang, social media coordinator at Vatsal Impex, the authorised distributor of Xiaomi smartphones in Nepal.
“We invest at least Rs one million per month in social media marketing,” he informs.“We have plans to expand our brand using short videos and Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) images through the social media platform,” he adds.
Similarly, Hotel Yak and Yeti’s has a separate unit in its marketing department that takes care of social media promotions. “The members of the team are instructed to come up with creative ideas to entertain the digital viewers,” says Parajuli, adding, “They also receive standard operating procedures(SOPs) for the marketing action plans and conduct meetings to discuss and execute them.”
Social media enables customers to engage in the communication process irrespective of their locations. The mobile service provider Ncell claims to be the number one brand in the country in terms of likes and comments on Facebook. Ncell’s Chief Commercial Officer Kok Leong Yap observes that Nepali customers have been using social media to their advantage. “They readily enquire and get information about products, services, availability of network, pricing of products, make queries on how they can take any service, provide feedback and interact with the company,” he says.
As part of their social media marketing techniques, Nepali companies are seen organising competitions on Facebook so as to grab the attention of customers. Tamang of Vatsal Impex says that his company has been organising Facebook-based competitions where a large number of prospective customers of Xiaomi participate. KTM Sports motorcycle Nepal, the authorised dealer of KTM motorbikes in Nepal, is another company doing this. “We have been using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube as platforms to advertise our products. We also organise competitions for our existing and prospective customers,” says Amit Raj Chalise, marketing manager of KTM Sports motorcycle Nepal.
It is the interactive features of social media that have created the different scopes for extensive marketing. Companies strive to become as interactive and participative as possible. “We have a team of designer, creative consultant and social media coordinators deployed for social media marketing which is assigned to design the contents and respond to queries,” mentions Lama of Vatsal Impex. The company also receives suggestions from Xiaomi in China regarding the appropriateness of the contents posted on the social media site.
Most companies prefer posting their contents in suitable time intervals believing it is a systematic way of drawing attention and establishing brands among the targeted customers to create desired impacts.
While social media marketing offers a wide range of benefits to both marketers and customers fitting well with the current global trend, there are some factors such as lack of authentication, among others, in Nepal holding back development in this field, experts say. According to them, companies do not go for authorised agencies if they are offered the service at cheaper prices. “This practice is one of the reasons for the bad experience of companies in digital marketing. Due to this, trust issues among digital marketing agencies exist,” explains Singhal.
Experts point out that Nepali companies still have a long way to go in terms of successful proper utilisation of the opportunities in social media. “The developers of social networking sites have equipped their platforms with important features useful for marketing,” says ISOC general secretary Pandey. But he questions whether Nepali companies are utilising such features optimally. Despite this, the social media trend has grown exponentially in Nepal over the last few years and one can expect the field of marketing and promotion will change significantly in the foreseeable future. “Hopefully, the growth of social media marketing will catch up with the linear pattern in the next three years,” says Singhal.