While companies rack their brains on how to build trust through social media, a trust gap still remains between brands themselves and the medium TBWA\ Hong Kong creative director Ken Hui (pictured) says.
Hui has been handling integrated creative accounts of some tier 1 companies in Hong Kong such as Apple, AIA, Wyeth and adidas over the past three years, and has won a slew of creative awards including Effie Awards, Kam Fan Advertising Awards and W3 Awards.
In today's much-hype social media realm, he notices a dilemma marketers in Hong Kong are facing – even though the brave new world of social media is what most marketers are venturing into, for many companies, it is still very much an experiment.
"Most of them remain skeptical to the effectiveness of social media marketing, so they remain wary to spend on social media platforms. They rarely invest in social media marketing the same amount as they pump into traditional marketing, which restrains the development of our strategic plans on social media," said Hui.
It seems that the fear does not come out of nowhere, as benchmark of social media campaigns used to be relatively ambiguous, especially when recent studies revealed a decidedly mixed picture on the issue.
A recent survey conducted by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), for instance, shows only 10% of respondents reported significant business improvement from social media efforts such as promotion, selling, after-sale customer service, developing new products and improving their current offerings. More importantly, up to 44% companies do not have measurement mechanisms in place to benchmark their social media activities.
But the negative numbers don’t seem to concern Hui as he believes statistics may sometimes be inherently unreliable.
"There are always ways to measure if the efforts put into social media are paying off, and it all begins with the campaign's objective," he said.
"It (the objective) can be some tangible benchmark ranging from click rate, viewership, fans base, participation to rankings on search engines etc. As long as a measurable outcome has been put in place, the direction formed for a campaign would become clearer."
There are admittedly many cases where large companies don't measure social media ROI, he explained, it is when a media campaign aims to build or to maintain brand awareness, which is somehow immeasurable.
Undoubtedly, social media is a powerful medium to deliver messages and to achieve business goals, if executed correctly. As a creative veteran, Hui notices a rather unique behaviour among social network users in Hong Kong - their reluctance contribute their own content to media campaigns.
"Driving social media users to 'chip in' to media campaigns is the most difficult task," he said. "AIA's 'Real Life Never Stops' campaign, for instance, which has wrapped up with around 7,000 submissions (from users) sharing their 'real life' images on Instagram," he says was surprise to him, in a good way.
"In most cases, interactive media campaigns which encourage users to share their assets online usually end up with a far lower response of not more than a thousand submissions," he added.
Privacy and trust issues are holding back the full potential of social networks for brands and the winners will be the ones brave enough to venture into this brave new world of social media.