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Q&A with Starmobile Digital Marketing Head Ryan Uy

With Filipinos being one of the most active Facebook users in the world, STAR Inc., the company behind Starmobile, the homegrown brand has strategically invested on the social media platform to educate its customer base about its devices such as smartphones and tablets.

However, Starmobile is not just focused on gaining followers, but also on actively engaging with these fans, working hard to respond to queries and concerns within minutes during regular office hours.

Marketing Magazine talked to STAR Inc. head for digital marketing head Ryan Uy on the company’s social media strategy and phenomenal growth on Facebook.

The global brands obviously get most of the buzz, especially when they launch their latest models. How does Starmobile compete for attention and mindshare?

In a market like the Philippines, the competition to become a user’s smartphone of choice is a daily one. Being present at all consumer touchpoints is essential to keep that share of mind. It’s a shared duty of both the marketing and the digital marketing teams to always keep ourselves present, whether it’s effective trade and merchandising executions, or with a constant but healthy stream of relevant posts on digital with specific target audiences.

According to Social Bakers, Starmobile, at over 5 million, has the most number of Facebook fans among not just mobile brands in the Philippines but even among consumer electronics brands in general. What has led to this growth?

For the last few years, a lot of our efforts on Facebook have been to be more than just posts about marketing devices. Relevant posts to our users go beyond tech bits, but also adding a healthy mix of highly engaging posts of the big news of the day or the season. This, mixed with a healthy ad strategy, has propelled Starmobile to the top in terms of Facebook fans across all brands in the country.

Do you see your Facebook primarily as a marketing channel or a customer service channel?

Facebook for us is neither primarily a marketing nor customer service channel. Rather, we see it as the next best thing to an experience center, with millions of people in it at any given time. The platform gives us the opportunity to share and interact with our users just like one would in a store. If you’ve got a question about your device, we’re more than happy to help. If you’ve got something service related you need tackled, we’re also here to help out. If you want to know what are the latest releases or tips and tricks about our devices, that’s also definitely available on the page.

It’s interesting how most of the comments and questions posted on your Facebook page are sales-oriented — people asking for specs, prices, where to buy, etc. What kind of contribution does digital marketing, particularly Facebook marketing, have in driving sales for Starmobile?

The digital marketing team as a whole treats itself partly as a nationwide control center of relevant information for our users and potential customers. Responding to their queries is a key part of that equation, with the other part being the consistency of that response. We attribute the large volume of queries we get in not just having devices to match their needs, but also being visibly responsive, making them more confident in posting their queries. Our sales team is always assured that if a targeted campaign is required to support them, it is provided quickly and effectively to drive the additional traffic to certain stores or promos.

You have partnerships with Lazada and Smart Communications, and you also use Facebook’s shop function to sell products. How much does e-commerce contribute, percentage-wise, to overall sales?

The contribution of e-commerce has been steadily growing since the initial introduction of our Lazada Online Store, and the addition of Facebook’s shop function. The adoption of e-commerce of our market has been steady because users still want to be able to actually try a device out by going to our stores first. We’re in the final stages of an e-commerce expansion which we will be closely monitoring, so that will something quite exciting.

You also have a YouTube channel featuring product videos and tutorials. How is video marketing helping promote your brand? Are you happy with your results?

Video marketing for our brand is present, but admittedly, a large amount of our focus is dedicated to Facebook and Instagram. We will be expanding into more video marketing before or by 2017 as part of a larger and more strategic long-term digital marketing plan.

Are you active in other social media channels? It seems you have largely focused on Facebook. Given that Millennials are moving towards newer platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, given your target demographic, do you think this will have a significant impact on your digital marketing strategy?

Platforms such as Snapchat are wildly popular with the general millennial population, but given some research of our current target market, we do not see the immediate need to get into Snapchat just yet. As mentioned in the previous question, our video marketing plans will come to be more present by 2017, once we finish up our current digital marketing plans.

What do you think are the next hot trends in digital marketing in the coming year?

Mobile data availability has been rapidly expanding, thanks in due part to the various aggressive ways that the carriers have been making the proposition of mobile data (and buying a smartphone) a very tempting and easy one. Augmented reality and virtual reality will be big in the coming year thanks to the huge popularity of games such as Pokemon Go and the rapid expansion of VR on mobile devices. Google has also been making the push for VR content, so it’s only a matter of time that even brands will get in on it as well. For speed-conscious countries like ours, lower-bandwidth video playback and GIFs will continue to be helpful to brands in diversifying their content strategies on mobile.

You’ve been with Starmobile since 2012, working in customer care, product training, marketing support, and now digital marketing. How has working in these previous roles help you with your current role?

Social media platforms have become more than just avenues to advertise. I’ve long believed that these platforms can become the closest thing to interacting with your customers without actually meeting them, so we try our best to integrate a tight-knit customer care system into our social media platforms, particularly with our Facebook page. Right now, we’re rated as being very responsive to all our queries via messages, and we’re working on continuously improving this part on our wall posts as well.

I’ve headed up the product training team as well for the better part of the last four years, and it has been of tremendous help in the way we give support and feedback to our users, because we don’t have to redirect hardware or software related queries to a technical team. We break down each explanation that our users require to give them the best possible answer with the best possible courses of action as well moving forward, and in the simplest manner as well.

Your interests are very eclectic, from Chinese and Philippine history to leadership and coaching. Do you feel these have helped you become a better digital marketer in terms of understanding customers?

Understanding customers is understanding their context. Essentially, understanding history is about understanding the context of the times. My career as both a digital marketer and trainer is heavily influenced by this mix and match of interests that I have.

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