If you’re looking for the benefits using a good social media marketing for your business in the Philippines, then I can tell you up front that you’re in for some disappointment. This isn’t one of those many success stories borne of a well-crafted, well-executed social media marketing plan.
This is the story of a failure, more specifically, how the social media failed to be the kingmaker for the most powerful seat in the country. Here are some thoughts on Gilberto Teodoro’s bid for Malacanang, what he did right, how and why he failed and what we can learn from his experience, at least in relation to social media marketing in the Philippines.
Understanding Social Media Marketing in the Philippines
Between ace consultants and those who (or still are) sweating it in the trenches of playing virtual assistants to small business owners across the globe, there are about as many definitions of social media marketing as there are platforms.
More than anything else, it’s easier to define what it’s not. Marketing via the social media isn’t about putting stuff up on some hastily put together Facebook fan page and chatting a handful of people to “like” it or convincing people to become a fan of your brand. Social media marketing isn’t about uploading a nifty, little logo on Twitter and firing off virtual brain farts across the web at five to seven tweets per second.
The Nuts and Bolts
Successful social media marketing isn’t all too different from the brick and mortar world, where sales are made by walking up to front doors and shoving widgets to people’s faces. It isn’t all too different from making cold calls at the ungodly hours across different time zones. No matter how putrid and disdainful these techniques may seem, these small methods are still about scaling the walls or breaking barriers to connect to people. This game isn’t all too different.
Online marketing and selling a name or a brand over the Internet is all about the numbers game. It’s about taking these tried and tested methods (yes, only the ones that work), and scaling them to seemingly ridiculously large numbers and massive proportions. Don’t think hundreds here daily – we’ve heard of a die-hard door-to-door salesman from the 80’s who’d hawked these weird, “therapeutic” eyeglasses at the whopping rate of fifteen households per hour (but that is a different story altogether). These numbers seem almost silly by today’s standards.
The benefits of social media marketing strategies from the Philippines (or even those from across The Pond) scale exponentially. Picture the following scenario: You are selling a bottle of soda, small leather purse or neon-green running shoes; and you make a ridiculously funny one-line comic strip as a product placement.
You put it up on your Facebook wall where at least 100 of your friends are online and say, 20 people “like” it. Let’s say another 10 people type in a comment or two and another 10 people “share” it on their walls. Let’s further assume that if each of them have 100 friends online, in turn. You’ve effectively reached not just your 100 friends but, as high as 4,000 people.
If I’m honest, the reach equation is certainly a lot more complicated than that. Reach and the math behind it are elastic – the number of people who are online varies by the hour, sometimes by the minute. There’s the coefficient of virality and a host of other variables. Some may feel like sharing or liking your photo a week, or a month after you’ve put it up.
Again, that’s just one social networking platform. There are at least a hundred out there with a commanding following. Even assuming for the sake of argument that the local social media marketing situation in the Philippines upgrades, updates or at least moves forward at an invariably glacial pace, we still think that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the Google+ are the platforms to watch out for.
Now where was I? Ah, yes. Gibo’s epic failure…
Social Media Marketing and the 2010 Philippine Presidential Elections
It’s no secret that the aspiring hopefuls of the 2010 presidential elections spent roughly a billion pesos each over the course of the campaign for the media. This number, according to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism does not account for the money these people (and presumably, their friends) have spent prior to the COMELEC’s starting whistle.
What’s surprising about these numbers is that they’ve allotted next to nothing for social media marketing campaigns. A closer look at the final receipts from the Commission on Election reveals the paltry sums they’ve paid for some blokes to do their work over the web.
We’ve taken great pains to check and see how these six people have managed to figure on making their presence known to the 30 million or so Filipinos on Facebook during the campaign. We’ve seen the season’s biggest spender (the man in orange) garner at least 1.6 Million followers but less than three thousand people were actually talking about him.
For the better part of the election period, we’ve had people staying on top of our dashboards to note which candidates were putting up videos, speeches or campaigns, which of these ads went viral across several platforms. We’d love to point fingers and name names but seeing the results have come and gone, it’s almost moot and academic at this point (or flat-out embarrassing for some) to expound on them.
What we can tell you with (absolute certainty) is who spent the most money, and up to a point, who exerted the most effort to become popular via the Internet. The eventual winner showed that he spent no more than 9% of his ad budget for his social media marketing campaign. What surprised us the most (from a purely analytic standpoint) is the result of the fourth placer, Gilberto Teodoro.
The actual number has varied from source to source but we’ve pegged that about 23.8% of his ad spending went to making his presence known online. From a cost-to-result perspective, it’s a huge return given his social media marketing plan. He placed well – he had a solid run on the television debates and shot a few videos strictly for the Internet. He made about 4,100,000 people shade the dot next to his name, or almost a quarter of what the big winner had.
Political analysts from both camps will give you about a million reasons why he did not win but not all of them will give you the reason why nearly six of every seven of his votes came from voters between 19 to 27 years old. These same thinkers and writers will tell you he’d outclassed every single candidate on the television debates and face-offs. However, he’d come from a decidedly unpopular background, given the pro-change, pro-accountability clime that dominated our country at that time – Tita Cory had just died and millions of people had screamed for the former president’s head.
The Anatomy of a Haphazard Social Media Marketing Plan
To his credit, Gibo did many things correctly, at least in terms of his plan to do online campaigning via the social media, specifically:
- Leveraging the twentysomething-and-below
- Understanding his Demographics
- Using the Internet for his Presidential Campaign
I think it was Palma Hall stalwart and former Roddic’s junkie Alaex Magno who once wrote about the shifting demographics in the Philippine electorate. He’d identified that voters are growing younger with each passing election. This, volatile, almost mercurial section of our population has become the new titans. He’d written that in the coming national and local elections, those between 18 and 32 years old will outnumber the rest of the electorate, seven to five.
Turning Heads and Touring the U-Belt
Armed with this knowledge, he had capitalized on these numbers and he’d sought these warm bodies where he could find them. He toured the University Belt months before the campaign. He’d had several speaking engagements from Vito Cruz to Sta. Mesa and ending with some conferences near Kalayaan.
He understood these people and he knew what made them move, what got them off their beds in the morning (shaking bad hangovers or dysmenorrhea in the process). He held these same people enthralled for the brief windows of attentions they were able to muster from time to time.
For his presidential campaign, he’d had a fairly young team working for the production. Replete with color grading, color washing and the hallmarks of the indie film sub-culture that was making the waves in the short films abroad. He’d even had embattled nationalist-rock band, Rivermaya to score his ad.
A Sore Shoulder and Terrible Aim
For all the things Gibo had gotten right, he’d had at least as many things wrong:
- Not leveraging the numbers within the Philippine Social Media
- Linear Understanding of his Demographics
- Not Maximizing the Internet for his Presidential Campaign
Looking at the spreadsheets of data, it’s hard for me to accept, that in this day and age, Gibo had only 12,000 views on his official YouTube clip for his presidential campaign. On the other hand, this young woman putting on some make-up (mind you, she’s not even THAT pretty) has had over 33 million views.
Second, although he took Magno’s advice seriously, he failed to appreciate the Facebook generation’s psyche. These people absolutely love to share new and fresh content. Granted, they’d even share old content provided it speaks to the very fibers of their consciousness. Gibo knew what was hot, he just did not know how to generate and sustain interest over a period of time.
Cashing in on Rivermaya
Rivermaya, at that time, enjoyed a relatively renewed following after the departure of lead singer and composer, Rico Blanco. Although the social media had become fractured at this point (as many claimed that the man was the band’s heart and soul), the rest of the group still had plenty of clout to move their weight around. They’ve even chosen a new lead singer via a popular reality show.
Getting Rivermaya was a sure-fire way to get the twentysomething-and-below talking about a brand or event. ABS-CBN signed them in to do “You’ll Be Safe Here” for their young adult thriller, “Spirits” a few years back. They’ve commissioned them to do “Bandila” for their late-night news program, targeted again to the young adults who stay up late or have just come in from work or school.
Elsewhere, the band has done “Posible,” the SEA Games soundtrack which aroused so much interest for the country’s bid for sporting gold. Rico Blanco wrote “Tayo-Tayo Rin,” that anthemic, all-star rendition of hope for a better country through the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals or MDG.
Gibo failed to cash in on Rivermaya’s fame. Had he planned well for his social media marketing strategy, he would’ve found that this band had hundreds of thousands of active fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter alone. If he’d had them promote the single (mind you, not the ad), he would’ve been seen by at least two million people. If he’d had them make a simple post on their fan page, his ad would’ve been viewed by at least 100,000 people (which is almost ten times what he has right now).
Granted, the past year has seen so many changes in the landscape of the Philippine Social Media. Gibo and his team might have almost no rhyme or reason for their methods. Again, he might have gone all gung-ho, simply raging on in the dead of the night. Still, he deserves a standing ovation (just a quick one) for his efforts.
On balance, he did something that none of us in the industry could try out for ourselves – prove the benefits of social media marketing in the Philippines on a national scale and tell the story of how the Internet gave us a new president, well almost. With what he’s done (or rather, what he hasn’t done) social media marketing in the Philippines has improved by leaps and bounds.
Using Social Media Marketing Strategies towards Social Change
Behind every successful political campaign lies a fundamental understanding of the need to connect to people. One of the few people to use this on almost a global scale is Barack Obama. The idea really, isn’t original. Franklin Roosevelt used the power of the radio and a few decades later, an entire generation of Americans had JFK pasted all over their television sets. Obama for his part has taken social media and made it his own.
The Road to the White House
While his bid for the presidency had been pockmarked by doubts and snickers from both camps of Congress, he definitely benefited by playing the skin tone and race card. Above many things, he used Web 2.0 to its fullest extent by being visible – he was an avid blogger, a powerful writer and a certified social media junkie. (He even clung on to his Blackberry long after he’d been sworn into office.)
His numbers for Facebook and MySpace still remain to be unmatched, toe-to-toe by any politician in the United States. On the race towards ten million fans, he’d been beaten by Lady Gaga by three days. His wife alone has over 8,000,000 fans on Facebook and his Twitter followers are about 18 million.
Obama’s a sucker for details and he’s gone the extra mile not only to make his speeches look good on the evening newscasts but shareable also on YouTube. He’s playing the social media marketing campaigns by the numbers and by the looks of it; he’s winning by light years.
Introducing Politics 2.0
Again, analysts even from the United States have pointed out that the youth are a particularly volatile bunch. They’re easily stoked by great content or stirring speeches but they’re not one for turnout. This trend seems to change as more and more people are trooping to his own social networking site – My.BarackObama.com – yes, he has one just to manage and mobilize the millions who back him up on issues like federal wiretapping bills or his stance on the war on terrorism.
This is the new face of politics and this is how people are moving even on a global scale. Social media marketing campaigns have become more and more important and as in the case of Obama, it’s a winning formula that’s difficult to match for the more traditional of his rivals.
Should he run again for 2012, is an open question. If he does, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll deviate from his winning ways. However, those who refuse to adapt to the online ecosystem will find that they’re treading the way of dinosaurs, paper maps and encyclopedias.
Analyzing the Cost-Benefits of Social Media Marketing in the Philippines
We’ve seen a consistent pattern over the past decade of how soon the Philippines moves towards the social media trends on the global scale. Filipinos trooped to that ill-fated, social networking site called Friendster (don’t be embarrassed, we’ve all had an account there at some point) just about the time it started declining in the US. YouTube, on the other hand, was well past its puberty when it landed on our shores – and landed it did.
MySpace never really caught traction in the Philippines because of Friendster’s staying power, coupled by the wave of blogging that followed the mid-2000s. To fill in the void of the increasingly tactless and tasteless “testis” (or the ancient equivalent of wall posts, to those born after 1995) that flooded our profiles, Facebook made it to the mainstream and the country has never looked back since.
Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ are showing quite a bit of promise as well but it might take a year or two until they become household names in our country. Still, it’s something worth pondering: How can an aspiring politician use the social media?
First, any decent consultant will tell you that the benefits of social media marketing are best understood as a numbers game. Not every one of a thousand, a hundred thousand or a million people who see your tree-planting shindig will vote for you. From our experience, the actual number is somewhere between 3-5% but we’ve seen it come up as high as 12%.
Corollary to that, a small fraction, even a percentage is better than nothing at all. Hence, we think that half of social media marketing campaigns is about being present. If people can’t find you, or don’t know what you’re up to – there’s a good chance that they won’t vote for you.
Showing up is easy; anybody can do it – however, there’s a catch. When you show up without a social media marketing plan, there’s a good chance you’re running with your pants down. What has happened to Gibo was sad; so please don’t let that happen to you. Do your research and show up with a strategy, not just some half-baked sketch.
Finally, the advantages of social media marketing are best seen with shareable content. In this day and age, it’s not enough that you show up with videos, music or speeches (not unlike Gibo did). That content must be good; actually, it should be great. When you have great photos, witty tweets or something too irresistible NOT to share, people will talk about you.
In sum, here are some of the things we can learn from the experiences of Gibo and how Barack Obama’s killing the ratings:
- Understand that social media marketing is all about the numbers game. Play the percentages and you’re in business.
- Half of making social media work for your advantage is showing up.
- When you make your social media marketing strategy, roll up your sleeves and have a plan. Remember that damage control is just way too expensive nowadays.
- Create great, shareable content – be it a photo, a one-liner or a video that speaks to the very core of your demographics. Know these people and keep them engaged.
Have I missed anything? Do you have some reflections in mind? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below.