The Times of India versus Deepika Padukone. That’s what some social media watchers pegged it as. Controversial content posted on the brand’s Twitter handle elicited reactions that the media brand would not have liked. Their initial responses to criticism did not help one bit, but instead stoked the fire. Some social media watchers said there was merit in a comment made against the brand - that one could expect no better when youngsters were helming Twitter handles and the like.
Pratik Gupta, director, FoxyMoron, recalls, “In the first five years of FoxyMoron, by design we did not hire anyone over the age of 25 years. You’re dealing with the digital age where people in this generation who are handling social media have pretty much grown up with computers and technology around them and are not flabbergasted by it”.
With the increasing number of missteps on social media, we are prompted to wonder if brands’ social channels are really safe with youth.
Sabyasachi Mitter, managing director of IBS, says, “As clichйd as it might sound, age is just a number. In all honesty, brands are safe in the hands of people who love and live the brand. I guess the golden rule is to hurry but to not haste on an opportunity that presents itself on social. Exhibit A, a very popular pizza chain in US which decided to use the hashtag #WhyIStayed to bring a product plug-in to the conversation only to realise later that the same hashtag was being used as a channel by people undergoing domestic violence to stand up and speak. Whilst brands got onto social media to humanise the brand, the philosophy of ‘to err is human’ might not be an idle scenario for the brand on the platform”.
Gupta mirrors this feeling and believes that digital and social mediums bring out the human sides of a brand. He explains: “An online campaign is more live and is like a living person. So if you have enough checks in place, enough brand induction and have enough people consistently working on the same kind of brands, they start to live like the brand and that’s more important. Digital brings out the human side of the brand. So I don’t see why it’s wrong that younger people are handling it”.
Sounding a warning on the dual nature of social media, he adds, “It’s a double-edged sword and brands should be aware of this when they come online. They need to be aware of the kind of content they generate and talk about.” Youngsters handling it, included.
Anil S Nair, CEO and managing partner, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, seems to agree with the idea of today’s youth being in charge of social media. He notes, “I believe that social media as a marketing disciple, is very young. So even the best professionals within the space will have a maximum of five years’ experience. By that principle, it is normally only young people who will manage it. Secondly, it is these people who best understand this medium as they live this medium and having grown up with it and starting their careers when this medium came up. They adapt to this medium quicker than people who have already been in the industry”.
Anisha Motwani , director and CMO of Max Life believes that age really shouldn’t be the factor we look at. She reasons, “The problem today is that there is no governance mechanism in place, there is no review mechanism for content. Social is being managed very tactically by agencies or managers on the client’s end. If social is managed strategically, where you clearly have a business objective for each social channel, your content will be derived from there”.
On today’s young professionals, Motwani had this to say: “They know what works and what tone of voice works.” She adds that youth are a very important component of Max Life’s social presence.
Sanjay Tripathy, senior EVP marketing, product, digital and e-commerce, HDFC Life, summarises: “It is true that social media platforms are being handled by the digitally savvy young marketers. But it wouldn’t be right to call them ‘inexperienced’ managers, since they carry the most relevant experience required for their job roles. It may not literally amount to a certain number of years of experience that a senior manager would bring in, but relevance and hands-on experience of handling these platforms is what counts the most. Seniors like us can benefit by learning the nuances of social media from the youth. These learnings, combined with the respective skills sets we carry, will help us churn out better marketing strategies for the new age consumer”.
Anil S Nair, CEO and managing partner, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi
“My analogy is about a baby put into the water at a young age versus someone learning (to swim) after the age of 35. The older person will learn but the comfort and adaptability to play in the water will be far more for the baby. This is a medium in which if you use traditional communication methods, it can backfire on you and therefore it is far safer in the hands of these guys who know the true limit of this medium”.
Sanjay Tripathy, senior EVP marketing, product, digital and e- commerce , HDFC Life
“Social media has evolved as a specialised segment of digital marketing only in the past decade. By virtue of it being a new form of media, the younger generation of marketers have had the opportunity to work on social channels right from the inception stage to the current advanced stages that they are in”.
Anisha Motwani, director, chief marketing and digital officer, Max Life Insurance
“The challenge of frequency, scheduling, planning and content writing has to be seen in its entirety. You need to have a clear content calendar, for which there needs to be a governance and review mechanism in place. Age really shouldn't be a factor we look at.”
Pratik Gupta, director, new business and innovations, FoxyMoron
“Foxymoron was started by four people who were 19. For the first three years the only questions we were asked at any pitch was, 'How are people who have never seen the industry going to handle this account?' We never answered questions about skill sets. People were always apprehensive about our age”.
Sabyasachi Mitter, managing director, IBS
“You don’t need managers on new media. You need community managers. People who live the life of the consumers and speak their language. Again, as mentioned before, age becomes a mere variable and the bigger focus is on the re-alignment of understanding as far as brand communication goes and the equity on which the brand has been built over the years.”