Friday Notes: Zalo & A deep dive into the use of social media for business

In this episode (FN.009): The discussion about Zalo, the homegrown messaging app that dominates the Vietnam market, and a deep dive into the use of social media for business.

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Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability.

Listen to the full episode at links below.

Granger: Happy Friday from The Lotus Talks! This is Granger Whitelaw and Cameron Lynch. 

Cameron: This is so strange, we’re on opposite sides of the table right now. 

Granger: I know. How do you like our new microphones?

Cameron: Well, it’s still a working progress, but I think it’s definitely a lot more comfortable. 

Granger: It definitely is. We’re comfortable, we’re chilling and sitting back. I think they sound much better.

Cameron: Hopefully the listeners think the same. Anyway, we were talking on Monday about how to use social media in Vietnam to promote your business, get new clients, help with branding… So, that will be our topic today and I also want to talk a little bit about Zalo, which is the Vietnamese app for social networking as opposed to Facebook.

Overview of Zalo

Cameron: They have 100 million users. 80% of smart phones in Vietnam have Zalo. So, it’s pretty crazy,

Granger: Have you used Zalo? 

Cameron: I have Zalo and probably, I’ve messaged one person on it because they wanted to communicate via Zalo. It’s not my preferred platform of choice. 

Granger: When I have friends visit here and I can tell who are the real social media guys and who are not. I had a friend, Mark Anthony, who’s in town for the last couple of days. He’s here, he’s visiting Vietnam, we’re doing some stuff together and all of a sudden he pops up on Zalo. If you want to be in Vietnam, you need to be on it to communicate with the Vietnamese people because that’s how they communicate outside of Facebook. 

Cameron: It’s really interesting. As soon as you add a contact to your phone and the other contact adds you to their phone, so you’re instantly linked on Zalo. It’s interesting. 

Granger: It got me at first. I was like: ‘Wait a second, I have a new friend in Zalo!’ I didn’t accept the friend, but they automatically friend you by your phone number, which is kind of cool. 

Cameron: I guess, but it’s kind of invasive.

Granger: But you can turn people off. You can not accept or whatever. 

Cameron: With WhatsApp, Viber, and Line, you don’t get the constant notification.

Granger: Do you have Line? I was just introduced to Line. 600 million users are on Line and I had no idea there was an app called Line.

How can you know your audience on social media?

Granger: If you are going to market on social media, the first thing you need to do is choose the primary social media platforms you’re going to focus on. There are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube for video, LinkedIn… And then there’s Tik Tok which is exploding right now. All the companies are looking at Tik Tok. Ralph Lauren just did one with the U.S open and got 5 million followers over the hashtag #usopen on Tik Tok in a very short amount of time. 

Cameron: What an interesting platform to advertise for the U.S Open! 

Granger: It is, right? We’ll get into it later but I don’t want to give away all our secret sauce at The Lotus Talks, which is part of The Vietnam Group. We have a digital marketing platform and company and we do a lot of business in digital marketing. We’re happy to help our customers with that. But we’ll give them some of our experience, that’s why we’re here. 

Cameron: The best part is the majority of work comes from learning how to navigate all the different platforms and learning how the UI works and learning how to optimize specifically for your market. So those are the big barriers. And then it goes really deep once you’re trying to do remarketing, retargeting, lookalike campaigns… It’s definitely a complex field. 

Granger: I find that everyone thinks they can drive a car so they can drive a race car. With digital marketing, they think they can do it because they have Facebook or Instagram. But you can’t. And even when you start to learn the platforms, to become an expert is a whole different ball game. You were talking about setting up the proper audience is the key but once you have your audience, you have to figure out where they spend their time; where they play in social media; how they interact with brands and businesses; what sites influenced them to purchase and who are the big influencers in those spaces and what platforms do they use… And it’s a kind of cross-pollination, if you will, how to blend that, how to become an expert in all those places to be able to understand how to use your dollars effectively to maximize the return. 

Cameron: Yeah, I mean I’ve never been on Pinterest, but there are still 250 million users on Pinterest… So, there is much to be said about understanding your demographic. One of the most interesting things I’ve seen is people do not understand what a Facebook pixel is, which is basically an API that links accounts and you can link it to your website so you can specifically understand the traffic that’s coming from Facebook.

Granger: API is the way that you can write code to track different software platforms or integrate different platforms. And a pixel on Facebook is a way that you can use code to track traffic. 

Cameron: Exactly! So, you can track which users that engaged on your Facebook ad went on to make a conversion under your website. It also tracks events, facts, purchases… You can do a lot with it and you can greatly improve your ad campaign, so you can understand what caused people to convert, what caused people to purchase your product, what specific ads are you running that you split tested that performed the best… I mean every platform that you make an ad for has very different content requirements. What is the image, the GIF, the video that is attracting people to convert? 

Granger: We had a meeting about that this morning, in our own company. We’ve launched a new event called The Green Trail, which is an environmental race. It’s an electric motorcycle race from Ha Noi to Ho Chi Minh City. And we were looking at different testing of ads and we went through that this morning, which ads were performing well, which were not performing as well. We have to understand it’s not just the ad and the picture, but the words associated with it, and the demographic, the audience that we were targeting, the variant in age or gender… All of that can make a big difference. There’s a real science to this, it’s just not data. Data’s really important, but it’s also those audience profiles, those personas, understanding your audience and building them correctly, testing them, and then being able to go back out and then maximize them. Is that correct?

Cameron: Yeah, people are complex. If you’re trying to run an ad and you’re trying to get 100,000 impressions, even if you have a demographic from the ages of 24 to 36, you’re still going to get massive variances of people who interact with it. It takes time. 

Granger: The layout of an ad on a landing page; the position of the form of the page; how many inputs do you have for it; are you asking for an age demographic, gender, zip code… Those every little thing can make a big difference in conversion. 

Cameron: On Facebook, you specify what your campaign is meant to do. So you could have lead generation, you can have reach, you can have website traffic, you can have a long-form sales landing page… You can specify where you’re trying to go or if you want page likes or messages.

Granger: That is a big thing now. There’s a lot of bots now. Bots are great and they serve a purpose, but people like authenticity. That was another thing we talked about this morning. Having people responding to messages as opposed to bots is very important. I personally think it’s the only way to go for me, for our company. But we’re very specialized, right? But for a mass product, bots can be very effective.


What can you do to optimize your social media profiles?

Granger: Optimizing your social media profiles is another key in doing all of this. I know my audience but does my audience know me? So, you need to optimize your own social media profile and make sure that you do good SEO. When you’re putting out your photos, “About” sections, links to your websites, links to your other social media platforms, your SEO needs to be spot on to let people know who you are as a business. That’s very important and people forget doing those little things. I mean I often go into businesses and go to Google Search to see if they’re even on Google Maps. If you’re not on Google Maps with your office address, with a picture of your business, that’s ridiculous. I think it seems so silly, it’s like you’re not buttoning your shirt in the morning. It’s a basic thing. If you don’t have it, how can someone find you? 

Cameron: The big thing is that modern-day consumers will look at many different sources for information. So, there’s a whole thing about ad ecosystems. Facebook, for example, they have Instagram, another part of their ecosystem that they can control and manage. Zalo has Zing News and other platforms that they can also run ads on. And, of course, Google is the best example. You can partner with Google and they can run their display ads on any one of your sites. So, trying to track your consumers and seeing where they navigate can be very complicated. Running a standard ad campaign is not difficult, doing it to the point where you maximize your cost per click and your sales are. 

Granger: There’s certainly a lot of data out there. We use data box a lot for being able to pull in data from many sources and being able to go through that. There’s a lot of tools out there you can use, but if you don’t know how to use them, it’s not going to give you the proper data. It’s something to think about too.


What else can you do to run your social media campaign successfully?

Granger: Content is King. We always say Content is King, but choosing the right content to post, knowing when to rotate that content, knowing that what kind of content your audience is really going to respond to or learning that over behavior and testing over time is important. 

Granger: Everyone talks about video content being incredibly important. I would say for most cases, video is phenomenal, but not for all. You really need to understand your content plan, what kind of content you’re using, what kind of formats you’re going to use, what kind of fonts, what kind of texts you’re going to use. And you have to stay current, right? 

Cameron: Typography is one of the biggest things that dictate your brand. I was watching this Netflix show on the weekend and it’s all about this New York marketing agency, but they focus on making typesets. That’s all they do, they make typesets. They made Tiffany and it’s one of the most iconic typesets in the world now. So, it means that your brand needs to have a unified approach. Pick what you got, nothing is too simple when it comes down to building your brand. 

Granger: Well, there’s nothing to be overlooked. My friend runs Red Design Group. They’re phenomenal designers. They do Uniqlo, Pharmacity, Co.op, they do local brands and worldwide brands. They are really good at details. And even making a small change in a logo can make a massive difference. The consumer doesn’t always realize what’s happening, but subconsciously, it does make a big difference. So, understanding design and design integration with font, color and placement is another key. It’s not just posting and boosting on Facebook. If that’s all you’re doing, if that’s what your team is telling you in digital marketing, they’re not telling you the right thing. Make sure that you look deeply into this stuff and put your profiles together in the proper way. Otherwise, you’re going to waste money.

Granger: Engage with your audience. Ask them questions, run contests, get feedback from your audience. That’s a big thing. If you are not getting feedback from your audience, if you’re just pushing out all the time, you’re not going to be effective. You have to somehow engage with the audience and get communication back from them. 

Granger: Certainly, integrating your social media into all your PR and marketing campaigns, both online and offline, is important. Doing different types of activation and bringing that back into your online is important. 

Granger: And if you do not understand all of this, pay for help. Hire someone to help you. Hire an outside consultant for 30 days to do a review. Hire someone to work with your internal team to teach them, educate them and put together a plan. They will bring you into the current digital age. Certainly, we’ll help you do that. There are a lot of firms out there that can help you do that. Just make sure they know what they’re doing, make sure they fit with your culture and give you the help that you need. 

Cameron: It’s cheaper to get outside consulting than to have six marketing staffs that aren’t producing anything. 

Granger: Yeah, that’s for sure. But that would never happen here. The technology and education here are certainly increasing all the time. The experiences are broadening. But even in the U.S, there are big groups like Digital Marketer and other groups that do massive training… But again, you need to know how to do that and how it affects your business. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and money. I think it’s a lot to digest for a Friday afternoon. Have a great weekend!

The Lotus Talks is produced by The Vietnam Group. This episode was produced by Granger Whitelaw, Cameron Lynch and Toan Tang.

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