People today want an authentic experience from brands: Preetha Athrey

Adgully is back with a new edition of its annual feature – TRENDING NOW – where we present the strategies and views of a cross-section of industry leaders as they go about reclaiming lost time and market opportunities and build for a stronger future, armed with the lessons of the pandemic period.

Over the last few weeks, Trending Now has been bringing insights from industry leaders on how their organisations are geared to seize the opportunities in 2022, break through the Covid disruptions and find growth and remain resilient.

In conversation with Adgully, Preetha Athrey, Director - Global Business Marketing, APAC, Twitter, speaks at length about the social audio space, vernacular content and conversations, community-based communication and rise in digital consumption.

What are the trends that you expect to dominate in your sector in 2022?

Brands are constantly evolving and adapting to changing consumer behaviour, and services like Twitter are the best reflectors of this change. Twitter is what’s happening in the world right now! Our unique position as the real-time, conversational layer of the internet, means that our audience is often the first to talk about things, so when topics or trends start to pop up on Twitter, they provide a window into the culture and what’s going to be important in the future. We’ve learned that content, especially in the social audio space, has been attracting an increasing number of audiences, and that’s a trend that I believe will continue to grow. We recently launched Twitter Spaces that has opened up newer avenues for brands, creators, and consumers to stay connected, and that makes it an exciting space to watch out for. Talking of content, we’ve also seen an increase in vernacular content and conversations, and people are engaging a lot more with culturally relevant content in their language of choice. Marketers are increasingly responding to this pattern with regionally and culturally targetted communication. Consumption of video content should continue to soar. At Twitter as well, we are seeing this at scale.

What are the challenges and new opportunities that you see emerging in the year ahead?

One of the foremost challenges that marketers are faced with is the ever-changing needs of today’s consumers. The world is changing more rapidly than ever, and especially in the past couple of years, we’ve seen people’s expectations shift dramatically. Marketers need to constantly rethink and realign their strategies to stay relevant amongst their audience.

The second screen is now a reality. Content consumption is no longer just restricted to TV, rather people are consuming content on the go, and they’re always talking about these experiences on Twitter. This diversification of how people engage and respond to content has prompted the need for marketers to adopt omni-channel outreach strategies, and to stay top-of-mind, they must reach out to the consumer wherever the consumer is at a given point in time.

Lastly, today’s fast-moving consumers come with lower attention spans. Our world is evolving at a very rapid pace. And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. People are constantly being served new information and content with every click, which makes it even more imperative for brands to grab their audience’s attention from the get-go and sustain that throughout their communication. Being seen as current and connected to what your customers care about is more important than ever. We’ve also learnt that consumers look for reassurance from the brands they look up to. Thus, communicating in a way that is sensitive to consumer needs is crucial for brands to strengthen relationships and build loyalty. In short, be relevant for your consumer!

As for opportunities emerging in the year ahead, community-based communication holds promise for brands. Brands must understand the preferred styles of communication and the unique needs of their diverse customers, identify relevant communities and engage with them according to their interests and passion points. We’ve seen interest-based conversations gain precedence on Twitter, and people are becoming increasingly inclined to engage with others who care about similar things. We have in fact introduced Twitter Communities for people to find and connect with others who want to talk about the same things. By leaning into communities and appealing to their passions, brands can not only establish relevance but also nurture successful relationships with their audience.

Secondly, with consumer centricity gaining increasing precedence, brands have an opportunity to make their audience a part of what they’re doing by simply designing communication that is driven by audience participation. On Twitter, the service’s conversational and real-time nature offers immense scope for brands to engage audiences in interactive experiences. Especially with communication diverging on digital channels, events, launches, musical festivals going virtual, brands have a huge opportunity to magnify their impact by encouraging participation.

How is this year’s turnout expected to be in this sector as compared to the last two years? How strong will the recovery be? What are the changes that have happened in this sector in the last two years?

It is through conversations that people share what’s happening, swap ideas, and stay connected, and we’ve seen these conversations on social media have a greater influence on the world. Twitter is the largest forum of public human thought; which means there isn’t a more relevant media environment to connect with your audience through the events, occasions, and trends they’re talking about. So when something happens in the world, it immediately finds its way on Twitter. Inevitably, conversations trigger a ripple effect and with diverse audiences coming together on the service, these conversations provide a window into how culture unravels in the world around us and what is going to matter most in the future. What brands can do to stay ahead of the curve is to lean into these cultural trends and craft communication that aligns with what audiences are talking about, in the moment. People today want an authentic experience from a brand and brands need to be smarter on how they interact. It’s important for brands to be a partner, an ally and build trust with their consumers and the best way to do that is by participating in the public conversation.

The years 2020 and 2021 were all about change and adoption, and with an increased focus on caring for people’s holistic wellness, 2022 is likely to witness increasingly more conversations about sustainability, diversity, and inclusion. Consumers are no longer just consuming, they’re engaging and demanding proof of a more inclusive and equitable approach from brands that they are associated with. It is critical that brands and marketers approach audiences with humility, care and sensitivity. Brands need to act upon what they say they are and reflect their commitment in everything they do.

How strong will this sector’s growth be in 2022, compared to the last two years as well as the pre-Covid period?

The rise in digital consumption continues to grow and we have seen consumer behavioral shifts that are here to stay. People constantly want easy access to information in real-time and there’s no better place for that than Twitter.

As the digitalisation wave in India continues to engulf millions of new users, all eyes will be on how brands and marketers understand, identify, engage with these mobile-first non-urban consumers. What’s also interesting to watch with this accelerated digital penetration, is the rise of a new set of mobile-led innovations.

We’ve seen more and more artists, experts and everyday creators leverage the social space to channel their creative instincts – so creator content, especially in the social audio space, is an exciting area to look forward to. We continue to see an increase in regional conversations. People are engaging more with culturally relevant content in their preferred language, and this trend is only going to continue to track upwards in 2022.

As marketers and brands, we should lead by example and show the brands’ human side. We need to read the room and really understand where our consumer is coming from.


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