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August 18th, 2011 by Mythreyi Krishnan under Commentary

Healthcare sector jumping on the social media bandwagon

“If you don’t have a social presence, you will be left behind”. This seems to be the magic mantra in 2011 where even companies that did not traditionally engage with consumers online are doing so with gusto. For instance, the healthcare industry  has started to use social media to both engage and inform. They seem to be on the right path as studies reveal that a growing number of consumers look to online sources for information and suggestions in regards to health related services and products. In fact, 57 percent of consumers thought that social media connections would have a strong impact on their likelihood to seek treatment at the hospital. Other key findings reveal that:

- 25% of consumers said that they are likely to connect with hospitals via social media in the future.

- Those most likely to connect with hospitals are women between the ages 36-64.

- Eighty-one percent of consumers believe that if a hospital has a strong social media presence, they are likely to be more “cutting edge.”

This is not limited to western countries alone as hospitals in developing nations such as India are proactively reaching out to the public via social media. For instance, Fortis Hospital , the largest healthcare chain in India with a global presence including in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore has over 1200 followers on twitter. They share information on new techniques, patient success stories and also engage their followers in campaigns such as the movement to kill smoking.

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Other tracks in healthcare such as the pharmaceutical industry are also treading on social media turf for marketing purposes. Pharma companies use channels like Youtube, facebook, twitter as well as forums. However, for pharma companies,it gets a little tricky because of strict laws governing how drugs can be advertised in public space.

Some brands have gotten around this by bypassing the hard sell, instead creating online platforms for patients such as support communities for cancer survivors, people living with cystic fibroris and children with diabities. One of these is a cystic fibrosis support community called CF Voice. It is sponsored by Novartis, which markets a range of drugs and medicines. The website allows patients and their parents to learn more about treatment options, track their treatments online and connect with others going through the same journey.

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They’ve even produced films about children who have overcome their limitations to become independent and healthy.

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However, healthcare chains and pharma companies are required to follow strict guidelines when marketing their products. In 2010, the FDA(Food and Drug administration) in America sent a warning letter to a company based out of Utah which was selling drugs that could supposedly prevent catching the H1N1 virus. As these drugs were not approved by the authorities, marketing them was strictly disallowed. Other prominent brands such as Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline were also warned for “misleading” marketing messages on social media.

July 18th, 2011 by Mythreyi Krishnan under Commentary

Social commerce revolutionizing online shopping

We already share information, debate politics, discuss our favorite celebrity’s latest antics and even make plans for dinners and birthdays on our social networks. They have become highly integrated in our daily lives to the point where many of us have become addicted to the F5 key, constantly hungry for updates. So it seems like a natural progression as shopping too enters the social world.

Online shopping is not a new concept , but integrating social elements into the experience is a new twist that is being embraced worldwide. Social shopping services are tech heavy relying on the prevalence of social media and technologies like smart phones and tablets. Another factor spurring social commerce is the fact that we are highly influenced by opinions originating in our social networks. Word of mouth buzz online can make or break a brand! For instance, a 2010 study conducted in the US revealed that 17% of respondents had used a social shopping site to buy something and more than 60% of all respondents had heard of or registered at these sites. 17% might not seem that big but this trend is sure to catch on with internet penetration increasing rapidly in developing countries and more such services springing up every day.

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In terms of demographics, it’s the 18-34 age group that is most actively buying socially whilst those earning over $100,000 annually spending the most.

Group buying

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past couple of months, you might have heard of Groupon, arguably the most successful daily deal provider. Services like Groupon and LivingSocial provide cheap deals everyday and receive a lot of air time on twitter and facebook as users have shown a penchant for sharing these deals with their friends on social platforms.

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Integration

Users are able to connect their facebook accounts to their amazon accounts to get access to product recommendations, based on their own data, as well as friends’ profiles and preferences. This feature could come in handy when you are trying to buy gifts for friends. In addition, you can also get information on birthdays and access their friends’ wish lists.

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Real time shopping

Labels like French connection have been quick to adapt social commerce. They’ve cleverly turned their YouTube channel into Youtique, an online boutique where customers can browse through videos showcasing their latest collections.

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From the comfort of their homes, customers simply need to click the “Buy” pop up buttons which will then lead them to the website page with details about the product, where they can make the purchase.

With Social commerce catching on quickly, it is important for brands to integrate their customer’s shopping experience with the social networks they use. Not only will this bring more traffic but also pull in new customers via recommendations and the like.

June 1st, 2011 by Mythreyi Krishnan under Commentary

Social media across Asia : China

In countries across Asia, young people have made similar number friends offline as they have made online. But, in China, youngsters actually have made a larger pool of friends online as a combination of socio-economic factors coupled with higher rate of internet penetration has led to a union of online and offline lives. Due to rural-urban migration many youngsters are separated from their families and find social networking a convenient way to keep in touch with those back home. Another reason often cited is the one child policy which has resulted in most young people growing up in single child homes. Social media has given them a chance to connect to people and share information on a daily basis.

Note that compared to internationally popular sites like facebook, myspace, YouTube and twitter, home-grown social networking sites are used heavily by the Chinese population. After the government disabled these platforms, numerous home-grown clone sites sprung up catering to various segments of the market. Some sites are more popular among 1st tier cities while others cater to 2nd and lower tiered cities. Accordingly, preference varies according to age as well. Techrice used their data to come up with the distribution across segments shown below.

China segmented

Qzone : Launched in 2005, this is the biggest site in terms of number of users which ranges anywhere between 300-480 million registered users according to various reports. Users are able to write blogs, keep an online diary and listen to music. This site is most popular among 2nd tier and 3rd tier cities in China.

Pengyou : Launched by the same company as Qzone, Pengyou meaning “friend” caters to both students and white collar workers. Pengyou is a networking platform for friends in real life whereas Qzone is mostly a network for instant messaging friends on QQ, the most popular IM platform in China.

Renren : this site has around 160 million registered users and is still growing. It is very popular among young people in 1st and 2nd tier cities, especially university students. It started off as Xiaonei.com, and was considered a carbon coby of Facebook with similar layout and the trademark shade of blue. Now, Renren has gained its own place in the social media space in China with 31 million active users monthly. In April 2011, it filed for an IPO in the US offering shares on the NYSE raising over US$743 million dollars.

Kaixin001: Another facebook clone that became one of the fastest growing sites in China by launching apps and games that is available on facebook. Kaixin, unlike Renren is targeted at the white collar worker who spends upto 9 hours in front of the computer each day. Accordingly the user interface is simpler and designed to be more intuitive to use.

Some unique usage patterns

  • Chinese netizens are the most likely to share a negative product review online. 62% of them attested to this compared to the global average of 41%
  • Personal: 1. Staying in touch is the most frequent use of social media 2.Read content 3.Make new friend
  • Business use: 1. Highlight personal expertise 2. Build network contacts  3. Identify lead
  • Chinese state-owned companies have been a late and slow adopter of social media compared to Chinese private firms and foreign subsidiaries in China.

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According to a report last year, China has close to 460 million internet users with 34.3% internet penetration. This is up 19.1% from 2009 and still growing. With such a massive pool of potential consumers, the scope for monitoring is boundless. Web analytics is still shaky in China but monitoring what this community says about your brand is essential for any company.  According to a Nielson poll, Chinese netizens are the most likely to share a negative product review online, 62% of them attested to this compared to the global average of 41%. With stats like these, it would be prudent to have a constant eye on one of the most lucrative online communities in the world.

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