Of People and a website; Pakistan’s Social Media scene

Social media needs to introduction; it is so intrinsically sewed into today’s marketing and technology DNA as furniture is to a home. For something so infant, it has grown rather rapidly. To say it has matured would perhaps be incorrect, as the innovation and evolution is still underway.

Perhaps we can all agree that while internet provided the world with a connected global village, social media further enhanced it by making those connections easier, more engaging and perhaps even taking down barriers that so exist in the traditional world. The one thing we  cannot deny is that social media empowers! From the recent revolutions in the Arab world, to the London’s riots in the recent past, to forcing larger organizations to pay attention to individuals; social media  has played a pivotal role in shaping the world as we know it today (compared to 6-7 years ago!) and engage. It is a world where everyone is a consumer and producer of information, and the monopoly of the rich and powerful no longer dictate the consumer information ecosystems.

Let’s take Dell for example; a leading product manufacturer and a global brand, whose complete marketing strategy focuses around how social it can be. Or Pepsi, who chose to forego sponsoring NFL finals (the largest event in US calender!) for a social campaign, or that one of World’s leading Venture firms chose to invest in a localization social app (in millions!)

Can we expect such things in Pakistan? Are the brands and companies in Pakistan receptive of this global phenomena? Has the marketing in Pakistan morphed itself? For a country that has produced some envious technology solutions, leading western blogs, outsourcing portfolios and tremendous talent in the technology sector, my answer should be yes! ofcourse! However, the reality is stark and far from our expectations.

The advent (and perhaps extent) of Social Media in Pakistan, however, can be summarized in two phrases; Facebook and Blogs.

While the hypothesis of Social Media Marketing is to try and capture as much time of a user that they spend online to engage with the brand and its assets / messages, it would only be natural, you would say, to concentrate on Facebook. It does seem that it is the only social channel popular enough in Pakistan; which a source estimating 5.5 Million facebook users from Pakistan with an average time of over twenty mins per user per visit*. Hence, it can be argued that investments in and limited to Facebook are justified. I would mostly agree with the argument, however what I disagree with is the general way in which it is being harnessed; using it is only as an information dissemination system (or in simpler words; just updating the status and pushing information to your followers!). Save a few, most examples of Pakistani brands using Facebook are limited to status updates and announcements or collecting loads of fans on a page with no consequence of engagement or even fake accounts.

But let’s not blame the brands shall we; most ‘digital marketing’ teams or agencies revolve around the ethos of providing a ‘facebook-updating’ service and perhaps some pretty graphics to go with it as well. The recent number of ‘companies’ that have sprung up in the cities around Pakistan that specialize in social media and employ ‘social media experts’ is amazing to say the least.

Pick up any book written on Social Media Marketing by a half decent person, or any online resource regarding the subject, and perhaps one word that frequents more than any other would be ENGAGEMENT. People don’t want loads of needless information pushed through to them; they only want to see, read and have their say on things that matter to them, interest them or provide them a personal benefit. Perhaps this is the reason why all the recent changes on Facebook revolve around YOU; with the way Top Story, Subscribe, and changes to the news feed have been introduced.  It’s all about what I want… as Seth Godin said while speaking at a conference “it’s all about me; me me me”. Doesn’t matter if you have a million fans on Facebook; as long as they do not engage with you, your hourly updates will probably never display on their wall!

It is an information highway; and information goes both ways. The sooner our marketing tactics appreciate this fact, the easier it will become for consumers and brands to co-exist in the social media ecosystem. Social Media needs to be about the people, what they appreciate, what they like and for brands to find innovative ways to capture their interest. And the Pakistani marketing needs to catch up to that … fast!

* Disclaimer: please note, stats quoted are only estimates from various sources and the accuracy of information is not guaranteed.

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